The last time you headed to a trade show, conference, or other event, did you come back with a stack of leads to follow-up with and a way to track ROI?  Or did you come back wondering what you actually spent money on?

Trade shows, conferences, and other events can be valuable tools for lead generation. However, without a well-thought-out strategy, the time and money you invest will not result in quality leads. Here are a few last-minute marketing strategies you can employ to capture leads at your next tradeshow, conference or event:

Traditional Sign-Ups

Generating event-based leads can be pretty simple. As you network and make connections with new people, you can gather contact details like their name, their phone number, and their email address. Merely leaving a form within eyeshot is not enough, however. Leads are best captured after you’ve made a real connection with a person – a connection like having a great conversation, giving away a fun door prize, or offering to email a valuable ebook post-event.

Tablet-Based Sign-Ups

If you are setting up a booth at a conference or trade show geared at a younger, more tech-savvy audience, your brand will feel more relevant if you opt for tablet-based sign-ups. More importantly, tablet-based sign-ups are very efficient, taking away the need for later data entry work, and allowing you to automatically follow up with hot leads, making sure nothing slips through the cracks. This advanced take on the sign-up process can extend beyond mere email collection to include valuable customer feedback regarding your products and services, or the quality of your booth or presentation. Additionally, tablets can be used to provide your audience with interactive content, like videos, surveys and polls. Have event attendees provide their contact information in exchange for survey results, for instance, to create a fun and interactive experience and keep the conversation going well after the event.

Harnessing Social Media

Whether you opt for tablet-based sign-ups or standard paper-based forms, you can harness the energy and reach of an event by having a strong presence on social media in addition to your booth or table. Dedicate one person on your team to be in charge of the conversation on social. Follow influencers, connect with event attendees and monitor event hashtags to add your brand’s voice to the conversation. Sharing photos of the event on social can help your audience feel like they’re there, while encouraging people at your booth to share photos can help to amplify your brand on new networks that you didn’t have access to before. Social media can also drive attendees to your booth by helping you spread the word about a giveaway or free resource.  Finally, a tradeshow or conference is a great way to get your brand in front of a highly-targeted audience of quality leads.  Use the opportunity to offer a lead magnet on social to cast an even wider lead capture net.

Using Tradeshow Goals to Generate Leads

Immediately after signing up for a conference or tradeshow, it is essential to establish specific goals for that event. Are you hoping to change the community’s perception of your brand? Or is your goal to expand your reach within the professional community? Clear goals will ensure that you adequately prepare for the event and make the most of any opportunities that arise while you’re there. Additionally, goals can guide the details of your tradeshow exhibit, ensuring that it appeals to your target audience. Don’t be afraid to quantify your goals — set a realistic number of leads and customers that you can strive to capture during each event.

Join Expert Panels

You’ll find it far easier to generate leads if event attendees think of you as an industry authority and not just a source of free food or trinkets. One of the easiest ways to gain that authority is to join a panel held during the event. Other means of improving credibility in the lead-up to your event include highlighting business accomplishments in press releases or publishing white papers.

Nurture Tradeshow Leads

An event is just the beginning of your relationship with leads. Especially for B2B companies, it takes time to build trust and educate leads about the value you bring to the table. You could ask for the sale right away, but you’d likely be met with mostly “nos.” Instead, use marketing automation to put new, cold leads on a drip campaign post-event to warm them up, increasing conversions and overall ROI of the event.  

Lead generation is a numbers game, but the quality of your leads can make a big difference between an event that ultimately generates new customers or a money pit that does little to elevate your brand. A combination of the strategies detailed above will help you connect with the right people and meet your tradeshow goals.