In our last two blog posts, we covered how to make the most of an exhibit hall presence and what essential items you’ll need for your next show. In this last post of the series, we’ll cover the most essential ingredient to trade show success: securing contact info and following up to bring in new customers or clients.

To us, generating sales is the most important element of a successful trade show experience. Even if your organization wants to raise awareness, it’s all about driving leads and converting those into sales in the long run, right?

Set Yourself Up For Success

Bottom line, write it down. Tradeshows are busy. Even if you think you have a great memory, you’ll (hopefully) meet a lot of people and by the time you’re done with day 2 of the trade show, the conversations from day 1 are likely clouded by the many you’ve had since then. Whether you jot a few notes on the back of someone’s card, in a notebook or in your contact management system, give yourself the info you need to remember who someone was, what they were interested in and how you’ll follow up. And it’s not rude to do it right in front of someone. They’ll appreciate that you care enough to make the effort.

Get Organized to Sell

Once you’re back in the office, organize your leads. All too often we see businesses do nothing more than dump their list of new email addresses into their ongoing marketing list and not do any dedicated follow-up. You’ve worked so hard to connect with attendees and engage them. To do nothing with these new relationships would be a complete waste.  

Go through your leads and notes and get the details into your organization’s CRM or contact database. Even a simple Excel spreadsheet works. Look through your notes – do you remember anything additional you should note for follow-up? Add this in. As you import leads, if your system allows for it, tag each lead as coming from the event so you remember where you met them down the road.

Next, ensure whoever is handling follow up has all of the information they need to connect with the contacts. This might mean a quick email or a meeting to go through the notes and provide additional detail that isn’t necessarily captured in the notes.

Follow Up Strategy

Time is of the essence! Exactly when you follow up will depend on your business and sales cycle, or if folks had to travel to return home after an event. While we wouldn’t suggest putting a hard press on leads the same day you meet them, you do want to follow up in relatively short order – definitely within a week. This way, your interaction will be fresh and the contact relevant.

Prioritize your hot leads and send them each a personalized email. Even if your company uses marketing automation (which we’re huge fans of), personalize the first note – almost all systems have custom fields which allow for this. Don’t hear back? Follow up again in a week to 10 days. And reach out to connect with the person on LinkedIn. Be sure to include a note reminding the person where you met and that you’d love to continue the conversation. This significantly increases the likelihood of them accepting your LinkedIn request.  

For everyone else (even the swag takers), you never know when these seemingly mediocre or even lousy leads can convert into real opportunities. These folks are great for your automated, less personalized campaigns. Send them a mass email that thanks them for coming by and invite them to engage more deeply with you and follow along with your new products and services.

Ongoing follow up is where we see most small businesses fall off in their quest to make the most out of trade show connections. The first sales call or email is easy to send. The ongoing follow up is what often closes deals but is also often overlooked or gets lost in the day-to-day shuffle of running the business. If you have a CRM, use it to remind you. Or set reminders for yourself in your email calendar. Bottom line is to find ways to continue to follow up with leads to convert them into sales over time. Often it takes more than one post-event touch.

Need help with your tradeshow strategy? Drop us a line. We’d love to help.