January 15

9 Tips to Get More ROI from Trade Shows and Event Marketing

Event Marketing


Marketers invest most of their budget on trade shows and event marketing even though it ranks. You can get get a better return on your trade-show investment through lead scoring.

9 Tactics to Getting More Event Marketing ROI

Now I’m going to share nine tactics that will drive those lead scores – and your ROI – even higher:

1. Do thorough research.

Find out which attendees fit your Universal Lead Definition. If you have access to the registration list, analyze it. Look up registrants on LinkedIn.

Develop a list of targets you want to seek out during the event. Research the sponsors, too. They should all be on the event website. There may be ways to join forces with them to reach your audience.

2. Leverage social media before, during and after the event.

Connect with attendees and build your profile before the event through your blog and updates on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Tweet relevant content during the event. Invite customer feedback afterward. There’s so much more than can be addressed in this post, so I advise looking online for more great ideas.

3. Partner with event organizers.

If you’re holding an educational or social event, brainstorm with them to see how they can help you attract more and better attendees. This could be everything from sending pre-event emails to including information in registration packages.

Negotiate support before signing contracts to minimize costs and maximize opportunity.

4. Get involved with the event.

Don’t just be a statue at a booth.

Try to attend a few sessions, switch off with your team members to sit with attendees at lunch and engage on a personal level. It will help you build relationships and you will be able to strike up more relevant conversations if you just sat through the same keynote.

Best of all, the conference will be more fun and you’ll learn a lot more.

5. Provide value, not trinkets and swag

People attend events to gain knowledge and share it with their teams. Time is always tight as they try to take care of work back at the office while absorbing as much information as they can.

That’s why you must always think about what’s in it for them to engage with your brand.

Provide what they really can use: resources to drive their business to the next level – whether that’s a strategic piece of content, a tool or an opportunity to network with their peers.

6. Focus only on those who have expressed genuine interest.

Trade shows often reward people if they visit as many booths as possible.

At too many events, I’ve witnessed sales professionals requiring attendees to sit through a 10-minute presentation to “prove” they’ve visited the booth when the attendees clearly don’t care about their product.

7. Collect level of interest  

At a minimum, jot your name and notes about their issues on their business card, and assign one person to collect and enter information into your database for follow up.

Include the solution they’re interested in, the issue they’re trying to resolve, other contacts they’ve had with your organization, and any qualitative intel that will help the person following up – such as “launching a new website in Q2” or “unhappy with solution X.”

8. Follow up promptly and professionally 

Before the event even begins, be ready to follow up.

Prepare a brief, customizable email template to send out immediately afterward. It can come directly from the sales professional who spoke with the prospect, or it could reference the conversation and any key information you were able to capture.

If the prospect doesn’t respond, follow up with a thoughtfully scripted phone call where you position yourself as a resource they can turn to when they are ready to talk.

Don’t stalk and don’t be pushy, but do be responsive and close the loop. And be absolutely sure that only one person is doing the follow-up. (This is why it’s critical to work from a single database.)

9. Track and measure the results.

After the follow-up emails have been sent and calls have been made, note how many are still in your marketing and sales funnels, and how many deals closed.

Monitor this throughout the year to determine whether the trade show is worth investing in the next time.

Do you have additional ideas on how to make the most of your tradeshow investments? I’d love to hear about them. Share them in the comments below.

You may also like:

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust

Lead Generation That Converts Leads to Sales Opportunities

Lead Testing: 90% of successful lead follow-up occurred within 28 days of the first contact

4-step lead generation analysis to optimize sales conversion

Trade Show Marketing: Tips for increasing prospect engagement

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Before the event even begins, be ready to follow up. Prepare a brief, customizable email template to send out immediately afterward

  2. Great stuff, and there are a few points there that I hadn’t thought of. Personally, I see a lot of booths that broadcast a very general message when they have very specific customer types that they are going after at the show. Determining exactly who your target is and what they want ahead of time helps to drill down your messaging to speak directly to them, eliminating some of the riff-raff.

    The social stuff is particularly interesting to me. How do you see social shaping our pre and post-show follow up?

  3. @Jenni Summers

    Thanks for the comments Jenni!

    It can get really time consuming to research individuals or follow up with personalized emails afterward. I think it’s all about prioritizing those that meet your Universal Lead Definition – and leveraging any available admin resources and automation to help reduce some of the manual work. Depending on the display and execution cost I would say it would be worth the extra time investment.

    You are so right about the wasted event collateral – from both the exhibitors and event organizers. I have been to a few in the last year or two that release custom apps with the agenda, speakers detail, everything built right in – and of course the bar code scanners for lead capture. I think we’re a little ways away from going entirely paperless but I like the progress so far!

  4. LinkedIn is a wonderful networking site to connect with the individuals as well as groups of the same niche. Recently i came to know about a new business networking site referralkey.com it is also a good one to connect with individuals belonging to same field.

  5. Nice piece lots of helpful advice.

    It is worrying still how few people follow up properly on tradeshow leads after an event having spent so much on exhibiting at the show in the first place!

    I like your idea of researching the contact list prior to a show and finding out if they’re on Linkedin so you can strike up a relationship before the event. I guess it’s just a matter of having the time, some of our clients have thousands of contacts pre-populated into our tradeshow app, might be difficult to trudge through these to target individuals.

    Interesting point from Karri re Linkedin ‘invitations to connect’ too, will have to try that one.

    I suppose this is really a money saving tip to avoid squandering precious tradeshow investment rather than an ROI booster, but here goes anyway:

    It’s scary how many paper brochures and leaflets some exhibitors give out to during the course of a show, this is not very green and costs a lot of money in the process. There are various apps and systems that let you send out company literature electronically, saving you a bomb in the process.

  6. Great tips! Better yet, all of these apply to smaller venues, like meetups and networking, as well!

    In particular, we’ve seen following up with event contacts via the LinkedIn “invitation to connect” work very well; much better than the same message delivered via email post-event! Plus, the message size limit requires you to keep it brief, and is a good backstop against trying to roll your whole sales pitch into the follow-up!

    Do you have any specific recommendations for templating the follow-up email and/or phone message? Lots of folks seem to struggle here; would love to get some tips!

    Also, related to Tip #2 – We recently published a free guide to promoting your events using social media with examples of tools and techniques marketers can use to build buzz, engage attendees, and keep the conversation going after the event. You and your audience might find it helpful.. you can download it using the link below.


    1. Hi Karri,

      Thanks for the comment and great LinkedIn invitation suggestion – LinkedIn is so great for establishing and maintaining these connections.

      A quick, straightforward note that connects back to their challenge, your solution and has a direct (but not pushy) call to action is the way to go for follow-up:

      Great to meet you – perhaps something personal (thanks again for lending me your pen/great to meet another Blue Jays fan)
      Really interesting discussion about your challenge Y
      Would love to talk further about solution X
      Please let me know when might be a good time to discuss how Z might be able help

      Short and personal – no one wants to read marketing copy email from a person. I think the extra time it takes to tweak a note makes all the difference.

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