A group of trade show prospects is like an iceberg. The number of attendees at any given trade show who are actively looking for what you offer is (like the tip of the iceberg) dwarfed by the number of attendees who may not be in the market for your goods and services NOW, but have a reasonable chance of needing them in the future.
I’m always amazed at how many companies invest countless hours and thousands of dollars into appearing at trade shows, yet routinely let these potentially lucrative future sales sink into the abyss.
Not collecting contact information from those “bottom of the iceberg” prospects and getting their permission to stay in touch with them is just as wasteful to your company’s long-term sustainability as leaving your windows open to the winter winds.
Well, ok, maybe it won’t change your carbon footprint. But it will hurt your ability to stay in business. And if your company goes belly up, why then all your corporate championing of the environment goes with it. And you’ll be working for the competition.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about how to get those potential future prospects interested enough in your company to give you (at least) their names and email addresses, so you can continue to market to them.
Trade Show Lead Magnets
Here are some proven methods for trade show lead generation:
- Your newsletter – If you are demonstrating the value of what you offer, which you should absolutely be doing at a trade show, many people will happily sign up to your newsletter list IF you have a sign-up form readily available. (You DO have a company newsletter, don’t you?) You can sweeten the deal by offering a coupon or useful information as a reward.
- Drawings for prizes – you’ll likely get a lot of leads for a prize drawing, but they may be lower quality leads (i.e., a lot of people who are really not interested in your product, but who would like to win the prize.) Choose your prize carefully to appeal primarily to your best prospects.
- Offer of useful information in return for their contact information – white paper, book, video, etc. You’ll probably get fewer leads this way than with a prize drawing, but because the information you’re offering is (hopefully) highly targeted, they’ll be of higher quality; i.e. more likely to be real prospects. By the way, nothing wrong with offering multiple info pieces, each targeted towards a different industry problem and/or subset of your customer base.
- Item giveaways – A lot of companies give out promotional items, but most of these are a waste. Try to figure out a promotional item that will actually get used (so your brand gets a bit of exposure) and can result in lead capture. Example: a Frisbee (pen, tote bag, whatever)printed with an invitation to sign up for a monthly prize drawing on your website. (For ideas on finding eco-friendlier promotional items, see my article on the topic here.)
- Surveys – A carefully constructed survey can reveal a lot about your prospects and how to market to them. Many people are curious about the results of the survey they take; ask for their contact information and promise to send them this information once it’s compiled. (Of course you will use this as another opportunity to present the benefts of what you offer. Right?)
- Samples – have people sign up to receive a free or discounted product sample sent to them. This can work especially well when you will be launching a new product soon, as it creates buzz around the product.
- Contests – Run a contest and allow people to enter it right at your trade booth. This has the added advantage of keeping them engaged after the event.
How much contact information is too much to ask for?
The more expensive your product and the longer the sales cycle, the more information you should ask for. Also, the better the “goodies” you’re offering, the more information you should ask for.
If your product is of mass appeal and relatively inexpensive, your best bet is to go for sheer number of contacts. This is especially true if your product is likely to be an impulse buy. In that case, ask for just the name and email (or the minimum amount of information you’ll need to contact them).
If it will cost you a fair amount to contact them (i.e. if you’re offering to mail them a book or free product samples), always ask for their full information, including mailing address, email, phone and fax (if applicable.)
It is a good idea to disclose that you’ll be sending them periodic information. This need not be a turn-off, and you can even position it as a bonus. Just treat them with respect, and make sure they can opt out of any email correspondence, and you’re good to go.
Next time you exhibit, don’t make the mistake of letting the bulk of your leads sink into the cold depths of anonymity. Hook ’em with one of the methods above. (Or one of your own. Got any suggestions? Post ’em below!)
And then – don’t forget to follow up, respectfully but assertively. More on that in a future post!