The Number One Way to Maximize Trade Show Lead Capture

Trade show marketing is all about capitalizing on the moment. The reason brands attend trade shows is because a large population of potential customers is located in one place. Brands spend big dollars to attend, sponsor, or have a booth at trade shows in order to capitalize on having so many potential leads in that one location. In order to see a return-on-trade-show-investment brand must maximize trade show lead capture.

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Leads to More Effective Trade Show Lead Capture

Essentialism Book Greg McKeownThere’s a great book that a colleague recently shared with me entitled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. In this New York Times Bestseller author Greg McKeown theorizes that we live in a world where we are all in constant pursuit of more. We believe more is better. However, what he’s found in his research is that people, brands, and companies who are in constant pursuit of more, actually are less successful. Those who get hyperfocused on a few things achieve more success.

Here’s a great excerpt from his website:


It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’.

When it comes maximizing trade show lead capture, less is more. If your number one trade show objective is to capture leads, then get hyperfocused on capturing leads at your trade show. Everything else just becomes a distraction.

5 Trade Show Distractions to Avoid

When we talk about getting hyperfocused on trade show lead capture that doesn’t mean you should show up to the event with nothing but a pen and paper. Similarly, sign up form and go around asking all trade show attendees for their contact information. Trade show lead capture needs to stay at the forefront of everything you’re doing. If a suggestion for the trade show is made which doesn’t directly impact your trade show lead capture strategy. Either kill it OR empower someone else to handle it. Whatever you do, avoid the distractions.

Here are our top 5 trade show distractions to avoid when planning your next show:

  1. What food will you serve at your trade show booth? Everyone loves food, and chocolate is the key to a trade show attendees’ heart, but spending your time worrying about what food will be served is a distraction. Let someone else handle it.
  2. Travel plans are a distraction. Yes, you have to physically get to your trade show, but let someone else handle the logistics.
  3. Attire. What are we wearing for the show? Are we suited and booted OR wearing our company swag? Great questions, let someone else decide.
  4. Trade show planning meetings are like tiny vampires that suck your precious focus from you. Trade show planning is critical. We have written about it on this blog many times. That said, don’t overbook meetings. Figure out what your trade show strategy is, develop your tactics, and then schedule a meeting with the team to take them through the plan. Done and done.
  5. Dinner plans. Everyone loves to know what fancy restaurants the team will attend after a long day of working the show. I’m guilty of this as well, but it’s not something that should be on your list to take care of. Outsource dinner planning.

Trade Show Lead Capture Strategy Should Be The Focus

lead capture banner blog post

If the goal is trade show lead capture, then the primary focus should be developing your trade show lead capture strategy as part of the overall trade show marketing plan. When it comes to developing a sound trade show lead capture strategy keep with our theme of less is more approach. Simply answer the question, “how can we capture the most leads at our trade show?”. The strategy is all about answering the “how” question.

You know your audience best. How can you create the engagement required to get them to provide you with their contact information?

Creating an effective trade show lead capture strategy comes down to nailing down the answers to these three questions:

  1. How will we attract attendees to our trade booth or acquire prospective leads (if you don’t have a booth)?
  2. Work out how will we engage prospective leads once we have their attention?
  3. Decide how will we convert prospects into leads in the moment?

Answer these questions and it’s off to the races towards tactical development. For more information on developing a winning trade show strategy, check out this article Entrepreneur.com.

Effective Trade Show Lead Capture Comes Down to Acquisition, Engagement, and Conversion

Once the trade show lead capture strategy has been defined, next up is designing the tactics. By chunking out the tactics into three main buckets, acquisition, engagement, and conversion, you can focus on what you are doing for each.

Trade Show Lead Acquisition Ideas

When it comes to capturing the attention of trade show attendees, it’s all about getting them to step foot in your trade show booth. Many folks who attend trade shows can visualize that imaginary line that exists between your booth and the footpath that attendees travel as they move throughout the exhibit hall. The key to acquiring trade show traffic to your booth is getting attendees to step off the path, crossing the chasm, and entering your trade show booth space.

Here are a few ideas for making it happen:

  • Invite attendees to stop by prior to the trade show starting. Sometimes trade shows will offer a service to brands which gives you the ability to send attendees a message prior to the event. Usually, you don’t get their contact information as the message is sent through the host, but it’s a great opportunity to pre-sell the fun times and unique learning opportunities going down at your trade show booth. Take advantage.
  • Turn employees into concierges. Instruct your staff to stick close to that imaginary line that separates your booth space from the exhibit hall walking path and simply invite everyone who passes your booth to step in. It can be that simple.
  • Use actors. Actors, say what? It’s a bit more expensive, and a lot more inauthentic, but the premise is that empty booths send negative signals and full booths send positive signals. Consider hiring a few folks for the first day of your event to hang out in your booth, engage with your personnel and send the signal that your booth is the place to be. Once real attendees start visiting you can send the actors home.

Trade Show Lead Engagement Ideas

Once you get people to step foot into your trade show environment, engagement becomes your number one priority. You want people to get to know your brand, but in a way that’s fun and memorable. You just spent all of that time and energy in getting attendees to cross the chasm, don’t lose sight of the goal, which is conversion. Design your engagement tactics to be fun, memorable learning opportunities around your brand so that you can prime the pump for converting prospects into leads.

Here are a few engagement ideas you can use for trade show lead capture:

  • Games – People love to play games and if you are offering something fun to do whereby they can learn more about your brand at the same time, it’s a win-win.
  • Contests – Take games to the next level and tie-in a contest aspect to the game. Not only that but use technology to create a real-time leaderboard to appeal to attendees’ ego. Leaderboards can actually double as an acquisition tactic as other attendees pass by your booth and see the leaderboard they might be intrigued to find out how they can get their name up there OR they might know someone who’s on the leaderboard and want to stop by to rib them a bit.
  • Product demonstrations are also great trade show engagement tactics. Whether you do a real demo or use tools like Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality for trade show product demos, it can be extremely effective in helping attendees better understand the value of your offering.

For more engagement ideas, check out the article  5 Ways to Maximize Your Trade Show Booth.

Trade Show Lead Capture Conversion Ideas

When it comes to converting trade show prospects into trade show leads the biggest thing to keep in mind is to make your trade show lead capture process frictionless. From collecting a lead’s contact information to getting that data into your CRM you want to make it as easy and seamless as possible. Using the right combination of technologies can help you achieve this objective.

Here are a few ways to convert prospects into leads at trade shows:

  • Collect only the data that you need in order to make your first follow-up. Again, think frictionless. Trade show attendees want to be on the move. They don’t want to spend minutes sharing everything about themselves, their firstborn, their favorite color, etc. If you plan to email these folks after the trade show, collect their name, company name, and email address, and send them on their way. Keep it simple.
  • Configure your CRM so that it’s ready for new lead data. You may want to create a new list or set up a new tag within an existing list so that you will know that these new leads came from the trade show. This way you can perform ROI calculations in the future once you’ve been able to convert trade show leads into customers.
  • Think mobile first, second, and third when it comes to trade shows. Mobile needs to be a brands’ main tool for lead capture at events and trade shows.

Mobile Is The Number One Way to Maximize Trade Show Lead Capture

Finally… the payoff to the title of this article –> The number one way to maximize lead capture at trade shows, conferences, and events is to use mobile devices to remove the friction from converting booth traffic into leads. Have you attended any trade shows recently whereby brands were still using paper and pen sign-up sheets to capture leads? How about brands using clunky web-based sign-up forms running on a laptop? It’s 2018. Provide your staff working the booth with mobile devices and a lead capture app to make data collection at trade shows super simple.

3 Ways to Use Mobile to Maximize Trade Show Lead Capture

  1. Tablet kiosks – If you plan to have a lot of booth traffic and not as much staff, tablet kiosks are a great way to go. The use of mobiles in your trade show booth will allow booth attendees to engage with your brand on their own terms. Many brands set up tablet kiosks in their trade show booth to collect data and let attendees participate in digital programs.
  2. Mobile data collection – Allow your trade show staff to use their mobile phones or provide them with iPads to allow them to engage attendees and capture leads’ contact information right on their device. As mentioned above, you want to remove the friction from collecting the data, as well as, getting that data into your CRM. If you collect lead data digitally you can export it and upload it into your CRM without someone having to manually enter it in.
  3. Text attendees – More and more brands are turning to text message to cut through the clutter. This is especially the case when trying to deliver digital materials to attendees at the moment while they are engaging with you in your trade show booth. Text is a great way to use mobile to provide attendees with branded digital materials that they can access from their own phone (and refer back to long after they’ve left your booth).

Critical Lead Data to Collect at Trade Shows

Not all data is created equal. Certain data points are absolutely essential to collect as part of your trade show lead capture initiative. As mentioned above, you only want to capture the data that is absolutely critical. For most trade show lead capture, we recommend collecting the following data points:

  • Collect Name from your leads so that  you can personalize messages to them in future communications
  • Collect Email Address at trade shows so that you can use email as a communication channel
  • Mobile number is becoming a critical data point, especially if you plan to use business text messaging to communicate with leads
  • Company name (if you’re a B2B business) is an optional data point as it can be collected at a later date. For B2B companies it is usually one that needs to be captured

If you keep it simple and don’t ask trade show attendees to provide you with too much information you should realize a large conversion rate of trade show prospects into trade show leads.

In Conclusion

Remember, success with trade show lead capture starts with taking a disciplined approach to achieving your objective. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Hone in on your trade show marketing strategy. Develop tactics that support lead acquisition, engagement, and conversion. Always think mobile first. Keep it fun. Make it valuable. Ensure it’s frictionless. Make your next trade show your best trade show.

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