With your exhibit rendezvous complete and hundreds of new leads generated by your perfectly trained exhibit staff, the most critical aspect of trade show marketing is about to begin… the FOLLOW-UP.

According to CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) nearly 80% of of trade show leads are never followed up on by the trade show exhibitor.  If your team falls into this category, your trade show investment was a waste of both time and money. The key to managing that mountain of trade show leads you have when you get back to the office is to institute an organized plan for lead gathering and the all-important follow-up process. As Sun Tzu taught us, ‘every battle is won before it is fought’. We’ve compiled tips from our most successful partners who exhibit at multiple trade shows every year.

trade show planning1 – Create Follow-up Plan

This plan should be created long before the show and should be direct and easy to follow. Successful exhibitors will make trade show follow-ups a priority upon returning from the trade show. Who is responsible for what type of follow-up? Are the staffers that met with the lead responsible for managing the follow-up or are they to distribute leads to a sales team back at the office? Make it mandatory that show lead follow-up is your team’s #1 priority on the first day back in the office.


2 – Actionable Lead Categoriestrade show planning

“HOT!” may be too vague a term- it is not actionable. However, “Sales Calls & Appointments” is a category that you can see immediately what needs to happen next. Here are some more examples of “actionable” categories that you might segment your leads into:

  • Customer Service Calls: give to Customer Service Manager
  • Poposals & Presentations: give to pre-assigned Project Manager
  • Product Samples: give to Warehouse/Operations Manager
  • Interested, Follow-up Needed: assign to Sales Team
  • Sales Calls & Appointments: assign to Sales Team

Of course these are just a few examples and you should adjust them to your business needs, but make sure that the categories are actionable!

trade show lead capturing3 – Develop Your Lead Card

Whether you are creating your own paper lead retrieval card or personalizing an electronic lead capture tool, make sure that all of the pertinent lead information is captured and that your Actionable Lead Categories are easily recognized. Who is this prospect? What solutions did you discuss? What were they most interested in discussing further? What specific follow-up did you promise them? Get 6-8 pieces of information that will clearly identify the next steps you need to take to convert this lead into a customer.

4 – Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)trade show tools

If your company doesn’t yet use a CRM, get one! This tool is not only great for managing your trade show leads but will help you manage year-round sales and marketing goals as well. Specific to trade shows, it is a great idea to enter your lead cards into your CRM at the end of each show day- this way your team can follow-up with show leads more quickly and efficiently. If your team already has a CRM, it may be worth exploring creating a post-show follow-up campaign before the trade show even begins. This can help streamline your follow-up process and decrease the time you spend on post-show communications.

Popular CRM software include Infusionsoft, HubSpot and Marketo. If you’re familiar with CRM, this is old news. If you’re new to CRM, however, it’s important to note that pricing structures vary greatly, with Infusionsoft being a more affordable CRM and Marketo being on the more costly end.

trade show management5 – Assign a Lead Manager

Make one person on your staff the lead manager; an organized person that will track all of the new leads your exhibit staff gets, verify that they are tagged properly in your CRM and follow-up with the individuals responsible for each lead. This person can act as your wrangler to make sure leads do not fall through the cracks. This lead manager will likely be that same individual that will create an ROI report showcasing the success of your trade show rendezvous.

If you follow these best practices, you will be able to make the most out of your trade show experience and stand out among the 80% of companies that never follow-up with their trade show leads.

At Trade Show Supply, our turn-key exhibit packages will save you valuable time, so you can focus on other things that matter, like your post-show lead follow-up strategy. Click here to contact us today.