Tradeshow Tonic

Are You Letting Qualified Trade Show Leads Slip Through Your Fingers?

Published on Jul 15, 2013 4:23:00 PM


tradeshow leadsSo, before I really get into the gist of this blog I have to come clean and admit that, for some very specific trade shows, I am nothing more than a bag stuffer.  Yes, that dreaded passer-by who cannot increase your ROI, will not distribute your product to end users and cannot, in any way, help you achieve your sales goals.  I am there for the free stuff and that’s it.

Let’s face it, there are things we need that simply cost a lot of money, like moisturizer, natural, dye-free soaps and skin toner.  The fact that I get it all at a trade show, and that some of the labels specifically state, “For Experimental Use Only” doesn’t sway me from the fact that I just saved a TON of money.  I haven’t grown a full beard (I mean nothing more than any other Italian woman my age) and my eye lids are still the same color as the rest of my skin.  It’s all good!

But then I go home and dump the loot out of the free 10 gallon bag I got at the door of the exhibit hall and, while admiring my take, I start to wonder why no one, not a single person, scanned my badge?  Scratch that, one person did and I never received any follow up for it.

My free sample collecting doesn’t consist of drive-by grabbing.  I stop, ask questions (because I am genuinely interested in some of what the exhibitors do) make small talk and, in almost EVERY instance, ask if the booth staffer wants to scan my badge.  I am willing to give that much for the 6 months’ worth of free skin care I just received.  Yet at the most recent show I attended I couldn’t give my information away.

What is going on?  Does no one gather leads anymore?

When a potential client comes to me for a trade show exhibit, part of my discovery with them is to find out how they gather leads.  Do they have a paper lead card?  Are they gathering the information electronically?  Perhaps their visitors are by invitation only so they know who shows up and who does not.  There are so many ways to collect attendee information in your booth and so many reasons to do so.  If my potential client has not considered lead gathering, we dedicate some time during our meeting to the merits of doing so, how to implement it, and where it belongs in their exhibit space.  It’s that important.

In light of our recent economic woes, there is more pressure on marketing employees to prove a return on their investment in trade shows.  Their bosses want to see the data, perhaps a year-to-year comparison of expenses and returns.  They want to be assured that the thousands of dollars they spend on their annual trade show programs are worth the investment.  And marketing employees want to keep their jobs, prove their worth and keep the marketing budgets growing.  So, what happened at the SCC Supplier’s Day show last month?

This is a show that has exhibitors from all over the world.  I spoke with people from China, South Africa, France and the Caribbean.  We discussed dye free soaps and skin care products not only for me, but for my kids, who are on the Feingold Program ( and do not ingest or practice personal hygiene with anything containing artificial dyes or additives.  I am their target audience, willing to pay big bucks for their products (when not collecting them for free) and still, no one scanned my badge.

At this point, I started to feel like there was something wrong with me.  What was it about me that they didn’t want to get to know me better?  Was I not inquisitive enough?  Did I not prove my need for their products?  Ok, I get that most of them only sell to distributors and not the end users, but most of the people I spoke with were unwilling to tell me who they sell to so that I could buy their products in stores or online.  I even told the soap guy about the tens of thousands of people on the Feingold program and how he can get his products on the ‘approved’ list.  He was interested, I gave him the name and contact information for the National Director, but still, he didn’t scan my badge.  It was like chasing a boy who only wants to date my Chemistry lab partner.

The Benefits of Lead Gathering

So what can lead gathering do for a company?  Well, here are just a few things:

  • If your lead gathering mechanism gathers the right information, and is not just a business card dropped in a fish bowl, your chances of gathering qualified leads, for quick follow up by your sales staff, increase exponentially.
  • Lead collecting helps you keep on top of who is doing the purchasing from year to year at the companies you currently do business with, and helps you build new relationships where you’re already a familiar face.
  • It helps you identify immediate needs and those that are 6 months, a year or farther out in your sales cycle.  It helps you build your cache of potential sales for several months.
  • Lead gathering can help you decide if you’re exhibiting at the right shows.  If you are collecting leads from people who cannot possibly become potential partners, clients or end users of the products and services you sell, then you’re at the wrong show.  Give me a call so we can redirect your efforts.
  • The cost of generating a qualified lead at a show: $212; the cost of generating a qualified lead in the field: $308.*
  • The cost of closing a qualified lead at a show: $705; the cost of closing a qualified lead from the field: $1,140.*

Trade shows are a $70 Billion per year industry.  Big bucks are being poured into trade show booth space, material handling, travel, lodging and entertainment annually.  What are you getting in return?  If you are not getting the payday you expect out of your trade shows, then it’s time to revise your strategy.  Take a look at how (or in this case, IF) you’re gathering leads and make adjustments.  Don’t forget to look at your booth staffers too.  They have to put themselves out there, nothing between them and the aisle, scanner in hand and mint on their breath.  85% of your trade-show success is in the hands of your staff.  Set goals for them, make it fun and provide incentives for the most qualified leads gathered.  Then put those samples out and clear a path because my stash of Shea Butter is dangerously low!

(*CEIR Study on Economics of Exhibiting)

An exceptional resource for the best practices in 7 key areas of exhibit marketing is the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper.

Exhibit Design: What is Working


About the Author: Lisa Maniaci has been an Exhibit Marketing Consultant with Skyline Exhibits New Jersey for the past 8 years. Aside from offering education, providing custom-modular exhibit designs and creating large format, high impact graphics, her expertise in the field is backed by continuous education in the tradeshow marketing industry. Lisa has been recognized by her company for sales excellence and by her New Jersey trade show display clients for outstanding customer service.

Topics: Trade show booth, Trade Show Booth Design, Trade Show, Lead generation

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