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8 Ways To Get Higher Quality Trade Show Leads

high quality trade show leadsB2B marketers want more than just a big pile of leads.  They also want higher quality leads.  Leads that are more likely to convert into sales.  Leads that their sales force will crow about, not complain about.  Leads that will create far more revenue than it cost to generate them.

If that’s what you want, too, you are not alone.  In a new MarketingSherpa study, a whopping 78% of B2B marketers agreed that “generating high quality leads” was a top challenge, much higher than the 44% who said “generating a high volume of leads.”

Trade show marketers share this need urgently.  “I recently hosted a Lunch and Learn for my veteran exhibiting customers,” said Victoria R. Conti, CTSM, from Skyline TradeTec, “and the main topic everyone wanted to discuss was how to increase the amount of qualified leads from a show.”

Sounds like Job #1.  So without further ado, here are 8 ways to increase the quality of the leads you get from visitors to your trade show booth:

  1. Select Shows with Attendees Who Better Match Your Prospects. Ask shows vying for a spot on your trade show schedule to supply detailed attendee demographics.  Look at their attendees’ job titles, industries, company size, location, and if they have it, average annual budget.  How many of each show’s attendees would make great prospects for you?  And what percent of the show’s attendance do they represent?  Compare show by show, and consider only the shows that bring more of your target audience, or a higher percentage.  That way you can have more time interacting with qualified attendees in your booth, rather than weeding through visitors who will never buy from you.
  1. More Focused Pre-Show and At-Show Promotions.   First, to attract only the part of the show’s attendees that match your target audience, offer giveaways and gifts that appeal only to them (such as a free cost-savings calculation) rather than something that appeals to everyone (such as a free iPad).  Shift your giveaway budget from a lot of lower quality items for the masses, to fewer, but better gifts you only offer to big-time buyers, and only if they visit your booth.  You and your sales team can also put more effort into reaching out to top prospects before the show to invite them to your booth or to a meal with top company execs during the show.
  1. Better Qualify Your Leads During Or After The Show.  Find out from your sales people before the show what information they need about each lead – and then get it!  Put those key 3 to 5 questions on the lead card, and train your booth staffers to ask those questions directly, or to listen for (and write down) those answers during their conversations.  Based on those questions, agree ahead of time what makes a hot lead, a good lead, or an unqualified lead, and then ensure that booth staffers rank leads accordingly (such as A, B, or C).  After the show, your sales people will know which leads are hot, and be more likely to follow-up.  You can also call after the show to qualify your leads before passing them on.
  1. Invest In Your Booth Staff. The higher quality your booth staff, the higher quality your leads.  So no more trade-shows-as-on-the-job-training.  Victoria Conti agreed, saying, “In our Lunch and Learn, we agreed that the most effective way to get more qualified leads is to make sure your staff is trained and armed with great open-ended questions, knowledgeable in recording their answers, and comfortable with the sales process on the trade show floor. Being able to gather information quickly and efficiently is the key skill.”
  1. Be More Persuasive. Create interactions that help attendees imagine how you can solve their problems. Invent a demonstration that gets attendees engaged and involved rather than passive and bored.  Tell stories about your happy clients who faced similar problems. Create an experience that engages multiple senses.  Whatever you do, take advantage of the face-to-face nature of trade shows to move prospects further along the buying cycle.
  1. Design More Specific Trade Show Display Graphics.  Say very directly how you benefit clients and what niche you fill.  For example, instead of “Enterprise Software,” you say “Human Resources Software for Professional Services Companies.”  You might even further define your sweet spot and say, “Human Resources Software for Engineering Companies.”  That way the leads you do get are more likely to be leads you can close.  Choose more specific images, too.
  1. Bring Up Objections Yourself In Your Booth.  Don’t wait for after the show to reveal your shortcomings; raise the most common objections yourself.  If you are more expensive, farther away, less experienced, or less than perfect in some way, be up front about it.  (But be sure to give reasons you can overcome those objections, too!)  The attendees that are still with you after that will be worth giving to your field sales reps.
  1. Don’t Give Every Trade Show Lead to Sales. If you have ranked your leads by how qualified they are, consider only giving those leads that are sales-ready.  You may have leads ranked A, B, and C, but only give the A and B leads to your sales force, and put the C leads into your database for ongoing marketing until they are also ready for sales.  If you do start taking this approach, be sure your sales force knows you’ve made the change.

Trade shows deliver higher quality leads than other marketing mediums.  Visitors to your booth pay their own way there, demonstrating both interest and buying power.  You can demo your product and competitive advantages face-to-face, moving prospects quicker along the buying cycle.

Now, by using one or more of these 8 methods, you can get even higher quality leads from the trade shows you exhibit at.

What have you done to get higher quality trade show leads?  Share your story in the comments box below.

What's Working In Exhibiting White PaperLearn more ways to get higher quality trade show leads with the 32-page white paper, What’s Working In ExhibitingClick here to get your free copy.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

4 responses to “8 Ways To Get Higher Quality Trade Show Leads

  1. Mr. Thimmesch… I am searching for materials to use for our online Exhibitor training (it’s free for our exhibitors.) Can I have permission to use your materials for our exhibitors to read? And reference you book? Please let me know and if you can give me any additional resources, I would be grateful.
    have a GREAT day … BBrath

    1. Hello Becky,

      Yes, you can share our exhibiting tips with your exhibitors. Skyline is happy to let show producers and associations share what we’ve learned about helping exhibitors improve their trade show results. Just give Skyline Exhibits credit, a credit to the author of the blog post, and a link back here to our blog. You can also let them know about our 10 white papers and how to get them by linking here:



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