For exhibit and event professionals  

Want to Get Ahead in the Lead Generation Game?

October 1, 2012 By Editor

Don’t wait until you hit the show floor
by Joyce McKee, CEO of Let’s Talk Trade Shows

The lifeblood of any company is new leads that turn into new business. Traditionally, creating a pipeline of leads falls on the shoulders of a marketing campaign or campaigns. One proven source of leads is participation in a trade show.

A recent CEIR research study, The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit Into the Overall Marketing Budget, found 95 percent of the survey sample ranked exhibiting at business-to-business exhibitions to identify new leads as the top objective. Another critical objective for 94 percent of the respondents was meeting with existing customers.

This ties in perfectly with the expectations of trade show attendees who value the face-to-face interactions with exhibitors. In fact, another research report by CEIR, shows “approximately eight out of 10 attendees rate face-to-face interaction with current vendors, 77 percent, and potential vendors, 81 percent, as very or extremely important in performing their jobs.” The intersection of companies looking for leads and attendees evaluating solutions is the show floor.

But just as there are a variety of exhibitors at an event, a number of lead types can be walking the floor simultaneously. For an exhibitor, a lead could be a current customer, an identified prospect or an unknown prospect/suspect.

Let’s review each lead type to determine which pre-show marketing activities should be used for you to gain maximum value.

Current customers

Special invitations should be either hand-delivered or specially sent to your current customers inviting them to a customer-only event. This could be an event on the show floor at a special time (before or after show hours), a cocktail reception, dinner or a gathering in a private suite for conversations (at the show site or in a hotel).

Think about the possibility of conducting a hybrid event just for customers from the show floor. You could show advanced features of your product/service to the group and then a wider customer gathering worldwide. Leveraging the show’s gathering of your elite team and special demos can give the show experience the feel of an executive briefing.

Or consider reversing the hybrid event and having a live webcast for those who can’t be there in person. With the webcast, you can provide a valuable service to executives, engineers, etc., who can’t travel to the show site but are essential to your maintaining relationships with their companies. This special group requires the utmost attention. You don’t want the competition to gain any type of foothold in your established account.

Current prospects

You’ve identified this group of potential customers by either inbound or outbound marketing efforts. They’re a part of your current customer relationship management (CRM) database. Segment this group into two buckets: those who are within a 200-mile radius of the show and those who are farther out.

Then develop a special direct mail piece, either a postcard or a letter, to send to those who are in proximity to the show. Include an enticing or clever call to action for them to come see you at the event.

Since you never know your prospects’ travel schedules, also email invitations to members of the other group. If they’re in the area, they may make a point of visiting with you at the show. With this two-pronged approach, you can leverage your marketing message developed for your booth to communicate to all your current prospects.

Future prospects/suspects

A certain percentage of attendees will fall into this category. Depending on your marketing efforts, this segment could range from a very small percentage to one that is sizable. Use the preregistration list from the show and send an invitation to visit your booth to each person you identify as a possible prospect. Start with the piece you sent to your current prospects, modify it for this group and use email to deliver it.

Use invitations and augment them with phone calls to deliver destination-bound prospects to your booth. Also use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Once the current and future prospects arrive at your booth, your staff will need to qualify them, so they can be guided through the sales cycle. But that’s an article all by itself.


The trade show floor brings buyers and sellers together. However, the buyers are in various stages of the purchase cycle. Each step in the sales process has its own unique requirements in moving a prospect along. The smart marketers gain an advantage by being proactive prior to the show and creating the audience at the event.

Joyce McKee is the CEO of Let’s Talk Trade Shows. She has broad experience in the trade show and event industry, starting as an exhibitor 28-plus years ago. With her marketing expertise, she has advised associations, for-profit shows, suppliers and corporate exhibitors in a variety of consulting assignments. The emphasis of her research assignments has been “actionable” information that can be used in either a strategic plan or a tactical effort.

Her philosophy is to “be brilliant at the marketing basics!” This means you need to know and understand the basics of marketing and how your company or association can heighten them to outshine your competition and win business.

Besides her own blog, McKee facilitates two of IAEE’s blogs — The Center for Exhibition Industry Research [CEIR] and The International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing.


  • Thank you for your message about Joyce McKee- she would have loved that you Re-printed her article in her memory. She was an important force in our industry in helping us to focus on education and getting results. She will be missed.

  • Write a Reply or Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

    The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. Review Privacy Policy here