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Poll: How Do You Manage Your Trade Show Leads?

updated on April 25, 2017

Skyline polled 635 webinar participants in 2017 asking them how they collect their trade show leads. 37% said they collect attendees’ business cards, while 26% said they rented a lead machine at the show. 10% said they use an iPad, tablet or laptop to manage their leads, and 18% said they bring their own paper lead card and write down the information. Only 8% of participants said they use direct database entry as a method to collect their leads.

In this post we will analyze each one of these main lead management tools and also profile some of the best lead management apps on the market.

Collecting Business Cards
Although the most popular option in our poll, many lead generation professionals see problems with this method. According to Barry Siskind, President of the International Training and Management Company, there are a number of problems with this:

  1. The back of a business card is small and therefore restricts the amount of information you can record. It also means that without a formal recording tool, business card leads are inconsistent from one to the next. This puts your salespeople or dealers and reps at a disadvantage when they follow up because they know very little about the contact before they make the call.
  2. Many companies print on both sides of their business card. If you had planned to write information on the business card, you are now stuck.
  3. Many companies use electronic business cards. Now you are really stuck.
  4. Many cultures take great pride in their business cards and it might be a personal offence to write on the back.

Rent a Lead Machine
Lead machine rental was the tool of choice for 26% of those that responded to our poll. There are several types of lead machines available to rent from desktop models, PC-based, mobile devices (not cell phones), and mobile phone apps. Each one has its own advantages:

  1. Desktop Lead Machines have a simple drop and record design and a 100% badge read rate. They are small in size and very lightweight. Exporting data can be done with a simple USB download.
  2. PC-Based Lead Machines automatically transfer the data to the exhibitor’s laptop, where you can automatically qualify leads with any lead management software (as well as edit the information). You can also create extensive lists and add unlimited notes to each record.
  3. Mobile devices are lightweight, handheld devices that are similar to a cell phone. No electricity is required and you can capture leads from anywhere on the show floor (or outside the show hall if you meet a prospect at dinner or at an event).
  4. Cell phone app’s are very popular today and like a mobile device, you can capture leads anywhere by simply entering a badge number or email address. Most apps also have custom options that allow you to create new fields and do custom exports.

Use an iPad, Tablet or Laptop
10% of trade show lead gatherers are using new technology like iPads, tablets and laptops. As you can imagine, there are several key benefits to using electronics (and the apps that you can download on them):

  • Instant data collection
  • Effortless lead retrieval
  • Create surveys
  • Showcase product videos and photos
  • Interactive games and giveaways
  • Demonstrate new electronic products
  • Provide product and sales information that is relevant

Top iPad, Tablet, Laptop and Cell Phone Apps
Below is a chart of the most popular lead management apps on the market today!
Where to buy: iTunes Store or Google Play Store


Paper Lead Cards
18% of respondents said that they use lead cards at their trade shows. A lead card is pre-printed piece of paper with sections to record contact info, answers to qualifying questions, and a notes section where you can record follow-up items and other relevant comments. They are usually printed on half a sheet to a full sheet of 8 ½” x 11” paper. To see an example lead card, click here.

Direct Database Entry
8% of respondents said that they use a direct database entry method to collect their leads. With this type of solution booth staffers use laptops or iPads and the Internet to enter leads directly into your company’s CRM database in real time. The advantages of using this method are that leads are available instantly to your field sales force and there are no mistakes from bad handwriting. Plus, you can get faster reporting of results. The negatives include training staffers to enter the data correctly and gathering enough information from the attendee (especially data you can get from scanning a badge at the show).


About the Author

Matt has been with the Skyline Exhibits since 2005 working in several departments from lead generation, customer engagement and marketing communications. He manages several campaigns in areas that involve database marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing and website marketing. He is also a certified marketing automation administrator working on several email campaigns for Skyline's live seminars, webinars and product announcements.

2 responses to “Poll: How Do You Manage Your Trade Show Leads?

  1. Interesting article. More interesting would be a poll to see how event managers deal with sales forces who do not follow up on leads making ROI calculations impossible.

    1. Hello Bob,

      We’ve have done a poll that asked event managers what they did to improve lead follow up. They had multiple strategies, including getting help from management to increase accountability, following up on the leads themselves to see which ones were called, and only forwarding the higher quality leads to their sales force, and marketing to the rest.



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