5 Proven Ways to Generate Leads from a Trade Show

It’s October and it’s prime trade show season. If you’re a B2B company exhibiting at a trade show, it’s the perfect time to make hay while the sun shines. But do you have a lead generation strategy that actually works? If the answer is NO, you’re wasting your money. In fact, as a former trade show producer myself, I’ve seen companies fail to generate leads simply because they had no plan to generate, nurture and follow up on leads. That’s why I wrote this blog and created 1-Page Plan to help you kickstart your trade show lead generation process.

Participating in a trade show is expensive, and making sure you’re generating a healthy ROI is key to making it worthwhile. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) 2018 Marketing Spend Report, over 40.7% of B2B companies devote over 40% of their marketing budgets to exhibiting. 2 most important metrics you need to track are:

  • ROI: The formula for which is (Revenue From Trade Show – Investment In Trade Show)/Investment In Trade Show.
  • Cost Per Lead (CPL): The formula for which is (Cost Of Show)/Leads Generated.

5 Ways to Generate Leads and ROI from a Trade Show

#1: Find out Who’s Coming to the Show & Connect

You should start the lead generation process far before the trade show starts. Obtain a registration list of all the attendees from the trade show organizers prior to the event. Based on the attendee list, both sale and marketing should review and pre-determine whom you want to meet and at your booth.

Connect with these attendees prior to the show via LinkedIn, because it’s the number #1 social media platform for B2B professionals. Ensure the connection request comes from a representative of your company who will be at the show booth. Here’s a sample message you can send:

“Hi {XYZ},

I see you’re registered for ABC Trade Show and I wanted to connect. I’ll be at the trade show too, and would love to meet.


{Your Name}

Keeping the message simple, and non-salesy is a great approach as it shows that you’re interested in getting to know these people, and not just making a quick buck. Once you’ve connected with your target attendees, you can even create a list or a LinkedIn Group so you ensure you meet them when you’re there.

This is a great way to take a proactive approach to lead generation, in a non-threatening way. It will also give you some ‘hope’ of who you’re going to meet at the trade show, so you can look forward to the actual event.

#2: Get Your Best Client to Attend the Show

Nothing works better than a ‘live client testimonial’ of your company or repeat business. And the best way to do that is to invite your best clients to attend the show with you. Give your client a free ticket to attend the show if you can, and sell them the benefits of attending the event. Your client should see value in attending the show. It’s also a great way to let your client know what you’re up to, and showcase any new products or services you may be offering. You’ll also end up strengthening the bond with your existing clients by letting them know you care for them through this gesture. Stress to them the value of putting in a good word for you at the show, and how this may create connections for their business. Word-of-mouth is priceless and nothing is better than a happy client doing your ‘selling’ for you!

#3: Drive Traffic To Your Booth

High booth traffic attracts attendees to stop and check-out what you do! If you have a “no brainer” offer that’s absolutely awesome and one that your prospects and clients would love to try, use this opportunity to promote it. Your “special offer” could take the form of a valuable content asset, a discounted offer on your products, or a trial service. Also, you can offer cool giveaways or experiences that connect to shared interests and passions (i.e. surfing, gaming, or alcohol tastings). Use your imagination!

This “special offer” is the hook you use to attract prospects to your booth at the trade show. That’s why it’s useful for attendees to know about it prior to the event. This can also be a great way to get prospects to schedule meetings with you at the booth.

A perfect example of this kind of “booth lead generator” is an internet marketing services company offering to create a Google+ profile for just $20. Prospects who are interested will book appointments to come visit you, which gives you the perfect reason/opportunity to interact and engage with them, and allows you to discuss what other services you can provide.

Another example is inviting key prospects to your booth prior to the show to come for a one-on-one survey/interview where you can ask them some “lead-qualifying questions”, in exchange for a $200 Visa gift card. Through the survey, you’ll uncover their key pain points, and learn about various avenues for creating value for them.

#4: Look For Opportunities To Share Leads

One of the best, and most effective trade show lead generation tactics is via shared leads with other exhibitors with a common target market. Such exhibitors are complementary to your business, so building a relationship with them to cross-refer leads can add fuel to your lead generation efforts.

For instance, if you’re a website hosting services provider, sharing leads with an internet marketing agency that builds websites for clients can be a win-win.

Just ensure you’re not sharing leads with a competitor, or stepping on anyone’s toes with this approach. Your intention should be to build authentic and complementary “trade show partnerships” which are mutually rewarding.

#5: Figure Out Who Is Going To Follow-up And How

Before you step onto the trade show floor, it’s important you have a lead follow-up strategy in place. One person can’t do it all, so delegate duties ahead of time, so you’re prepared to create the best impression during the show.

You should have a detailed plan in place to generate, process, and nurture the leads. Your process could look like:

  • Generate leads via scanning badges, collecting business cards, or by asking prospects to fill out an iPad form.
  • Immediately sort all lead into three piles; Hot – Warm – Tire Kickers (no interest). Hot and Warm leads require immediate follow-up via email and phone to schedule meetings.
  •  Connect to Hot and Warm prospects ASAP on LinkedIn, add to CRM.
  • Add prospects email address into an automated email drip campaign.
  •  Don’t waste your time on Tire Kickers! These are people only out for the free giveaways and not interested in doing business.

Ensure you have a dedicated member of your team executing on your follow-up strategy at and after the event. Follow-ups make a world of a difference to your ROI.

To wrap it up, as you can see, you’ll need to do a majority of your lead generation work prior to the event. This takes planning, and the sooner you start doing the ‘pre-work’, the higher your ROI will be. The higher the number of leads you generate, the lower your CPL will be.

Once you’ve gathered all the leads you can, it’s a matter of following up promptly, within a week (or earlier) of the show ending. Your follow-ups will make or break your conversion rates so ensure you do them well!