Few marketers would argue against the benefits of exhibiting at a tradeshow. Businesses of any size can easily gain exposure to hundreds, if not thousands, of high-quality leads in a single space.

But many marketers focus so much on lead capture that they forget a critical component to their tradeshow strategy: the follow-up plan.

Following up with leads while they're still interested in your company is the key to getting the best return on investment from tradeshows. With the right follow-up campaign, you can ensure that the time, money, and effort you've invested into a tradeshow don't go to waste.

Here are six tips that will help you nurture new leads into valuable customers.

Tip No. 1: Have a system for collecting and distributing leads

Tradeshows are bustling with activity. If you aren't organized from the start, it's all too easy to lose your prospect's information or miss important details that could later help your sales team.

Before the event, gather your team and establish a system for collecting and distributing leads. Everyone should be on the same page regarding how information will be collected from attendees, who will be collecting it, and where the collected information will go until it's time to follow up.

Whether you decide to use lead-capture software is up to you, of course. Technology can make the lead capture process easier, but you may want to have a backup strategy in case your technology fails.

Tip No. 2: Be prepared to take notes

The best marketers are always thinking of ways to improve their performance. By bringing a notebook or iPad to the tradeshow, you can easily take notes that will help you with your post-show evaluation (we'll get to that later).

Write down your entire tradeshow experience—pre-show to post-show. Those notes will be extremely valuable when it comes time to analyze the results of the tradeshow.

For example, writing a few notes on the performance of each member of your booth staff will help you with their post-show training. By documenting the details of their performance, you can provide them with personalized recommendations on how they can improve for future shows.

Tip No. 3: Analyze new leads

Your tradeshow booth was a hit with attendees, and it seems that all the money you invested into lighting, booth design, marketing materials, and cool tech giveaways paid off. But the work isn't done.

Before you send leads to your sales team, go through your list and clean up duplicate data, identify leads with missing information, and categorize leads as cold, warm, or hot.

If you've managed to capture additional data that allows you to segment in various other ways, more power to you! But for most marketers, simply categorizing leads as cold, warm, and hot gives the sales team at least an idea of which follow-up method they should use first.

Tip No. 4: Follow up with warm and hot leads quickly

Keep in mind that you aren't the only exhibitor who made an impression on your new leads. With potentially hundreds of exhibitors competing for the attention of the same attendees, it's important that you contact them while your company is still fresh on their mind.

A prompt response time (within 24 hours) can give you an edge over your competitors. Half of buyers will choose the vendors who follow-up with them first, according to InsideSales.

If your lead didn't indicate a preferred method of communication, don't be afraid to use multiple mediums, such as a personal email, automated email, and a phone call. By using multiple methods of communication, you can nearly triple your chances of engaging in a conversation.

Tip No. 5: Prep your email campaigns

Let's discuss the importance of lead-nurturing campaigns in your post-tradeshow plan. Although tradeshows are packed with qualified leads, that doesn't mean those leads will convert immediately.

In fact, up to half of the qualified leads you acquire won't be ready to purchase yet. To convince these leads to eventually take the desired action, building a relationship with them via email marketing can be extremely effective.

Because creating an effective lead-nurturing campaign takes time, you'll want to start planning your campaign a few months in advance of the tradeshow. Doig so will give you time to test your campaign and make adjustments as needed.

Tip No. 6: Evaluate the results

As with any marketing medium, analyzing data and optimizing the performance of your campaign is key to getting the best ROI. A post-tradeshow evaluation will tell you what you did right this time around, as well as which areas need improvement.

Find a tradeshow evaluation template online or create one yourself by asking important questions such as these:

  • Was this show right for our business?
  • Did we meet our goal for the tradeshow?
  • Were we in a good location? Could we have chosen a better location?
  • Did we attract quality leads?
  • Were our marketing materials and promotional products effective?
  • Was the staff well prepared? How could we improve?
  • Is this show worth doing again?

Those are just a few of the questions you can ask your team to get everyone's opinion on your overall tradeshow performance. Just be sure to distribute them within two weeks of the show so the event is fresh in their minds.

* * *

The work isn't over when your tradeshow ends. The follow-up campaign is one of the most important parts of any tradeshow strategy, and it should be carefully planned to maximize your return on investment.

As exhausting as it may sound, post-tradeshow planning's importance can't be overstated. Hopefully, these tips will help you make the most out of your next tradeshow.

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What's Your Post-Tradeshow Plan? Six Tips for a Successful Follow-Up Campaign

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image of Kelsey Stage

Kelsey Stage is the marketing manager at PROMOrx, provider of customer promotional products. She can be reached at kelsey@PROMOrx.com.