How to maximize trade shows for sales leads

Trade shows are the biggest investment from both a time and money perspective in the physical security industry. They are one of the rare opportunities manufacturers have to connect with decision-makers across the country and pitch their product to potential customers.

In our industry, ASIS and ISC West are the most important for physical security professionals, while Black Hat and RSA are the top priorities in the cybersecurity realm. Many of the show attendees specifically attend with the intention of purchasing a solution in the coming year, which means having a good presence could make all the difference in having a strong year financially.

In our decades of experience in attending these shows, there are always a few vendors who stand out from the rest. Most brands, however, fail to make the lasting impression required to convert leads into sales, whether it’s a lack of differentiation, not collecting the right information or the inability to stand out in trade publications.

Even with significant booth traffic or a large number of leads, it’s easy to miss steps that can optimize your trade show presence.

Luckily, inbound marketing can go a long way in closing the loop between trade show efforts and generating sales leads. When an inbound program is combined with good PR, strategic planning and a strong presence at the booth, your brand can get the ROI it needs from trade shows.

Here are seven tips for maximizing sales leads at trade shows:

Set up meetings before the show

Email current customers first, letting them know about a special opportunity in exchange for a meeting. Early access to products or a one-on-one consultation work as great hooks for pulling them in.

You can also do a small campaign to drive booth appointments with qualified leads or blog visitors. These attendees are already interested in your brand, so creating content will help warm them up to hearing a potential sales lead. Create a landing page to capture their information and learn which products they’re interested in, then use paid social to get that content out to your followers.

Demonstrate thought leadership by speaking on a panel

One of the best ways to generate interest in your product is to speak on the customer’s pain point. The Internet of Things panel at ISC West is a great example of how vendors can accomplish this. Experts across a wide variety of industries will speak on the role of IoT for professional security applications and learn best practices on integration.

Speaking on this panel provides an excellent opportunity for providers to show expertise while drumming up interest in their solutions, even though they aren’t promoting themselves directly. If you’re looking for a call-to-action, we recommend a shout-out to the booth number your brand is stationed at, but hold the sales conversation for later.

Track frequently asked questions

A general rule of thumb is if one person asks a question, there are several others who want the same answer. Have someone at the booth jot questions down. This can be used as free market research for future marketing promotions and even product development.

Go to your competitor’s booth to learn about your brand perception and steal ideas

You might think you don’t have the time to check out your competitors or don’t feel the need to, but you absolutely should. Here is where you’ll have the opportunity to get some feedback on your messaging and products.

Is your competition saying something that resonates with customers or are they paying lip service? Are they differentiating themselves or simply saying “me too?” Trade shows provide an excellent opportunity to refine your messaging on the spot. By relaying back the information you hear, sales staff can switch their script to make it more engaging on the fly and give them a better chance at closing customers.

Follow up a week after the trade show with a specific content offer

All leads aren’t equal and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Create certain triggers within your lead capture, such as a form field asking when they’re looking to buy or whether they viewed a product demo. If the prospect says they’re buying in the next three months and viewed a product demo, there’s a pretty good chance they’re ready to buy.

If they haven’t answered that information, don’t sweat. Follow up with a thank you for visiting along with a piece of content, such as a whitepaper, that might help them consider upgrading their products to your offer in the coming year. This strategy works best when part of a series of emails that include blog posts or case studies highlighting that technology, also called lead nurturing. This helps qualify or unqualify the prospect so you can get an even bigger ROI from the show.

Buy snacks and water

Every trade show is notorious for long lines leading to over-priced, mediocre food. The result is a lot of hungry show attendees, which presents a great opportunity: be the hero of the show by buying bulk in some food to attract more people to your booth.

Even simple giveaways like chips and water will likely get you an up-tick in show traffic. As you’re handing out food, you can ask a few questions about why they’re at the show to help start a conversation. They may just be there for the free snack, but it never hurts to ask.

Solicit business cards for a raffle

Finally, everyone loves gimmicks. Raffle off a gift card at the end of the show in exchange for a business card. It will be a bit tedious to go through them after the show, but it’s an easy way to grow your contact list. It also allows you to talk to other potential prospects you might otherwise have missed.

Trade shows are one of the most important opportunities to connect with prospects. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to ensuring a positive experience.

Need help preparing for a successful trade show? Read our guide here or contact us for a free consultation on trade show marketing.

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About the Author: Adam Miller

Adam Miller

Adam is the Social Media Manager at LRG Marketing Communications.