August 20, 2019
By Madison Layman

When it comes to trade shows and conferences, leads are king. From sponsors to attendees, the goal is to make connections that can result in sales. Networking face-to-face continues to be one of the most effective ways to build connections. And, when it comes to strategy, events are a great tool to expand the reach and target your demographic. Leads are nothing new, but there are some processes to consider when attending events to make the most of your opportunities onsite. Gathering leads takes time and effort. When deciding to attend events to gain leads, what do you need to know?

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What is a Lead?

A lead is someone who is interested in what you’re selling. Your business runs on finding and curating leads to get them to the point that they’re ready to buy what you’re selling. Leads are often specific to sales, but when it comes to events, leads matter. At big trade shows, sponsors will pay for booths to get their product or business to be seen by attendees. Events are a great place to find leads, as they all reach a different demographic. If you provide event marketing software, it would be a great idea to have a booth at a marketing conference. Of course, the cost is often high to be a sponsor at larger events so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons when considering what events to attend.

Quantity vs. Quality Debate

When deciding what events your company should attend, there is a classic debate. Do you attend more events, or do you attend fewer, higher quality events? There are some conferences out there that fit your demographic perfectly. However, they might be high dollar. If there is a higher number of attendees at that event, it might be more beneficial to spend more money sponsoring than to attend multiple smaller events with an audience less interested in what you are selling. Creating a balance is important, as your budget determines what you can do.

Qualifying Leads

The hope from attending an event is to walk away with the potential to make more money off of the leads you captured than you spent on your sponsorship. Often, this is more than possible. Getting eyes on your brand and explaining your product in person ensure that attendees know what you do. And, on the flipside, by meeting attendees face-to-face, you can determine how willing they are to buy. 

event leads

Choose an Event that Helps You Gather Leads

Some events are better at facilitating leads than others. When looking at what events to attend, consider what the event is offering in terms of networking and lead capture tools. Does the event make engaging with attendees a priority? Do they offer lead capture tools to make data gathering easier? If the event enables you to track leads and makes your job easier, that could be a great reason to attend that event.  If the event has limited networking or time for attendees to visit booths, it probably won’t give you as much bang for your buck.

Do Research Ahead of Time

After you’ve decided what events your company will be attending, it’s time to plan. Before the event, you can set up marketing efforts to let attendees know that you’ll be at the event. You can offer appointments and discounts if they stop by your booth. It’s important to drum up excitement ahead of time.

Don't Forget to Set Goals

You should have goals for everything you do. Lead gathering is no different. Determine a few goals from the outset. How many leads do you hope to gather? What is the quality of leads you hope to have? What are the actual dollars you hope to make based on the leads you capture? Setting metrics allows you to discover if the event was or wasn’t a success. An easy goal to set is to make more than you invested in the event. If you paid thousands of dollars to sponsor a booth, what kind of return do you hope to see?

Appointment Setting

Events that offer appointments offer a great opportunity. With appointments, versus standard booth traffic, you’re able to have better conversations with attendees that will inform your understanding of their needs. Appointments can be a first step in making a valuable connection. They offer the perfect chance to accurately score a lead.

Tracking Onsite for Gather Leads

When you’re actually at the event, make sure you have the best tools for the job. How are you capturing leads? If your only strategy is to gather business cards, you might want to rethink it. There are tools out there, some of which are provided by the event you attend, that allow you to track leads better. From simple badge scanning to the ability to rate and score leads digitally, it can make the process more seamless. More than that, it gives you more time to talk to leads and give sales the information they need to follow up. Use event management software to gather leads more effectively.

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Follow-Up After the Event

You should have rated leads onsite. What happens now? It’s time to do a deep dive into the leads you got and figure out where in the buying stage they are. You identified quality onsite, so you have an idea. If they were very interested, those leads should go straight to sales for immediate follow-up. If they were less interested, not at the point where they’re willing to buy, add them to a nurture campaign. The most important thing is not to let the leads die in your database.

Learn and Grow

Perhaps, you chose poorly. You never know how an event will turn out until you go once. Even from year to year, the output of leads can change depending on the quality of the event. It’s important to learn and grow. If an event didn’t yield as many leads as you estimated it would consider attending a different one the next year. It takes time and research to figure out the best mix.

For more, read Booth Bait: How to Attract More Leads at Trade Shows.

Madison Layman

Madison Layman

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents.

When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.

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