Participating in trade shows is a significant marketing investment. You need to build the perfect exhibit, purchase the right booth space, send your best staff, and manage dozens of charges and fees along the way. Despite the expenses, those ready-to-close leads make it all worthwhile...if you handle them properly.

Could a disjointed lead management process be cutting into your trade show ROI? Here are four steps you can take to align your trade show marketing and sales efforts: 


1. Set Your Standards

An essential step in your trade show planning is to define what makes a good lead. A lead that is likely to become a customer is called a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). A concrete set of MQL criteria will keep your marketing and sales teams on the same page. 

To define your MQLs, interdepartmental meetings are a necessity. Both marketing and sales have some strong opinions on which leads have value and why. Set aside time for a full-scope discussion. The result of this meeting should resemble a service level agreement, with both departments agreeing to deliver what is needed.

For example, marketing could agree to provide contact information and thorough notes including business challenges. Sales might agree to reach out three times before marking a lead “cold.” 

Make sure there’s no confusion surrounding the standards and agreements that come from this meeting, and maintain open communication to assess the effectiveness of your approach.


2. Go With the Flow

After you’ve solidified your lead qualification factors, establishing a lead flow helps marketing and sales understand trade show goals, the full life cycle of each prospect, and what their responsibilities are within that cycle. Your lead flow should include the following:

  • The lead qualification criteria you've established
  • Methods of sales lead generation
  • How/when leads are handed off to sales
  • Expectations for CRM usage
  • Scheduled feedback sessions from sales to marketing on lead quality, etc.
  • How the leads will be nurtured (automated or one-on-one)


3. Use Lead Management Software

Getting your leads from the trade show floor to the sales team can be surprisingly cumbersome. Clipboards and business card boxes are becoming obsolete, but even more advanced methods like spreadsheets or mobile notes can be inefficient. For example, a spreadsheet of contact information will need to be merged into your CRM, and does not offer the ability to arrange for follow-up.

Your best bet is to use lead management software –  available for rent at the show by most trade show venues. It allow your trade show marketing staff to record preferred contact methods, include detailed notes, and schedule appropriate follow-up actions. Additionally, most lead management software can be integrated with your CRM system so that all leads are delivered to your sales team in real-time.


4. Get 'Em While They're Hot

Your sales team should follow up with each lead within 48 hours. Not only will the trade show still be fresh in their minds, you’ll also have a good shot at beating your competitors to the chase. 

Keep follow-up messages relevant and as personalized as possible. Don’t worry, you can still take a personalized approach if you’re using automated emails. Here’s an example:

“Hi [First Name],

I know you’re probably still digging out from the show, but I’d love to continue our conversation. Let me know if you have some time this week, or I’ll follow up next week once you’ve had a chance to catch up”

On an individual level, your sales team’s messages should focus on the details and challenges collected on-site by the marketing team. You can expand on discussions from the show or touch on the solutions your business offers.


5. Engage on ALL Platforms

Social media gives us a chance to establish instant connectivity with our contacts, anytime, anywhere. Your booth staff can connect with leads right from the booth, or shortly after the visitor leaves. This is a foothold to build a greater connection as time goes on.

You can even connect with leads who haven’t yet visited your exhibit by commenting on social media posts related to the show, staying active on trade show pages and accounts, and using hashtags to get extra eyes on your pre-show promotions.

Best of luck syncing your trade show marketing and sales efforts! If you could use some additional trade show tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at Exhibit Options.