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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Jan 28, 2020 16 min read

10 Killer Tips For Using Marketing Automation To Generate Trade Show Leads

Outbound Marketing Tactics Like Trade Shows Require Automation To Optimize Your Event ROI

Trade Show MarketingToday there are more conferences, trade shows and live events than ever before. People are flocking to events, and more marketers are using events in their orchestrated demand generation and lead generation programs.

If your live events are designed to generate leads (not all are), you’re going to be working on a host of marketing tactics designed to drive people to your booth or session, to have attendees aware of your presence and to optimize any sponsorship or exhibit expenses.

But did you know that you can leverage your marketing automation software to improve the ROI on any event or conference you’re participating in this year?

Here are the top 10 ways to use marketing automation to make your events big-payoff activities.

1. Use Dedicated Landing Pages On Devices To Capture Leads At The Event

Everyone knows you need to capture leads at the event to drive ROI. But did you know you don’t necessarily need fancy badge-scanning technology to generate leads at an event?

First, renting these tools from events can be costly, and second, the quality of the information and the qualification of the actual people can be suspect. People scan their badges in exchange for a giveaway, not the highest qualification criteria. People also share credentials, making it challenging to know who you’re talking to.

Instead (or even in addition to), consider setting up a page on your website and leverage your marketing automation to collect lead information at the show or event, immediately entering it into your database and immediately triggering any nurture campaigns you set up before the show.

Now you eliminated any download, any data entry and any post-show data work by thinking creatively.

One important tip: Select “private” mode and build your HubSpot form, then go “incognito” on your web browser to input lead data.

This mode allows you to surf the web in a way that the browser does not record any history of where you go. When doing this you might also want to think about adding a hidden field for a campaign that you populate with some sort of data. 

For example, with a trade show, you might want to name the trade show so you can remember what all of the input is for.  

NOTE: One BIG point on this is that you still need to restart your browser after every submission, because even “incognito” modes keep track of session cookies

2. Speaking? Use In-Session Messaging To Capture Contact Info

You already know that getting a booth isn’t the only way to leverage conferences, trade shows and events. One of the best ways is to get a speaking session.

But what if you have that coveted speaking session and no booth? How do you capture leads?

No booth, no problem. One of the best ways to do this is to offer your session attendees a chance to engage with you and your company.

You can offer them a chance to get the slides. People are constantly taking pictures of presentations at events, and most people would jump at the chance to get the slides.

Another option is to offer them a piece of content at the end of the session that’s only available for attendees. For example: “Get our newest research, How To Generate All The Leads You Need For The Year In Just 30 Days.”

There are a variety of ways to do this.

You could share a link to a landing page, but that is going to look something like this:

Even if you go with the TinyURL, it would look like this:  

Both of these are going to be hard to remember, hard to capture in a speaking session and hard to share with other attendees. All of this is going to limit the success of the conversion and lead generation effort. You want this experience to be as easy and quick as possible.

Instead, consider a few more innovative options. You can do a QR code, meaning people take a picture and instantly are sent to your page, where they can get the content in exchange for their contact info. But not everyone has a QR code reader, or it might take time for someone to find their reader. Again, we want to remove as much friction as possible.

We’ve used atEvent in the past to have attendees text contact information directly into our marketing automation software. This might be one of the most efficient ways to interact with your audience, reduce friction and drive leads.

3. Create An “Event-Only” Conference Offer

This might seem crazy, but instead of spending money on swag (event giveaways and promotional products), invest in creating, promoting and offering a piece of exclusive content available only at the conference or event.

If the content is designed around the value for attendees, this might do at least as good a job as the hats, stress balls and Zip drives without the waste associated with having to give these products out to everyone and anyone who stops by the booth.

You might have fewer leads, but you will know that anyone who comes by to get your exclusive event-only content will be highly qualified. You can use your marketing automation event-specific pages to collect contact information at the event and trigger the nurtures automatically.

4. Use Follow-Up Email Nurtures Before You Leave For The Event

I know I’ve been to tons of trade shows and events where we collect leads and then get back to the office and forget all about following up. This is usually worse if you’re handing leads to reps and telling them to follow up. All of the best intentions rarely produce solid, structured follow-up.

Instead, set up the follow-up emails and outreach in advance, before you even leave for the show. Brief the sales team on what the follow-up looks like and get their buy-in. The best way to do this is to build a nurture with automated emails and have the rep follow up. Make sure the emails mention the rep follow-up and that the reps are included in the emails. This ensures they make the calls.

Now you can attend without worrying about the follow-up and ensure you get full ROI for the leads you do end up generating.

5. Qualify Prospects “Live” At The Event

One of the biggest challenges at events is knowing who’s a qualified prospect or legitimate sales opportunity and who is simply looking for swag.

If you give reps the names of people who aren’t interested, never will be interested and probably shouldn’t have converted at your booth anyway, you’ll have a real credibility issue.

Instead, consider using your marketing automation platform to do live qualification at the event. Give your booth team iPads, arm them with a form from your marketing platform (see above to make sure it’s set up correctly), preload the qualification questions and the lead-scoring model (the next tip, stay tuned), and let them ask questions at the event.

People who don’t want to answer are never going to be good prospects and are certainly not ready to be handled by a rep. Those who do answer are immediately scored, and the nurture can be set up to handle highly qualified sales opportunities differently than good prospects.

6. Build An Event Lead-Scoring Model To Prioritize Follow-Up For Reps

Speaking of lead scoring, this is the perfect time to break out your lead-scoring model to help the reps prioritize who to follow up with first.

If you’re collecting information on the people you meet, and if you’re asking them additional qualification questions, you can build a very robust lead-scoring model to score trade show leads and send only the best opportunities to the reps, while a marketing email nurture handles the rest.

Now you have your reps working directly with their best opportunities, while marketing nurtures other good prospects until they are sales-ready.

You’ve generated leads, filled up the pipeline and you’re a hero to the sales team because you’re only asking them to work those opportunities who are ready to be working with a sales rep. Great work!

7. Email Attendees In Advance To Increase Visibility At The Event

Honestly, this is a tricky one. I’m assuming you have some access to the people planning on attending the event. Not all sponsorships come with this type of access, and it’s becoming less and less of an option.

But if you do, you should consider an email campaign that gives attendees a reason to stop by your booth. It could be your exclusive content, it could be your in-show activities or it could be your speaking session.

Maybe send them a “golden ticket” that can be redeemed at the booth for something of value. There are several ways to ensure targeted prospects and attendees stop by your booth or attend your speaking session. Leaving this to luck is the best way to have a weak show.

8. Promote Your Booth, Attendance, Talk Or Session With Automated Social Posts

If you don’t have access to attendee email lists in advance of your event, no worries. Instead, we’re going to shift gears and move our same campaign promotion to social media.

Post the same value to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Offering exclusive content? Promote it. Offering access to high-profile execs? Promote it. Making a major announcement? Sharing something innovative in your speaking session? Promote it heavily on social media with the associated event information, and anyone attending is likely to notice it.

This is important: Ask your team to share it on their social networks. Make it a requirement. Ask your partners to share it. Ask some of your customers who might be attending to share it. Invite prospects directly and ask them to share it. The more people you get sharing, the better chance you have to drive up your visitors, leads and sales opportunities.

9. Build A Dashboard Or Report To Easily Review ROI

It’s hard to evaluate whether events are worth it or not. It’s easy to say, “We have to be there because our competitors are.” But that’s not always the best business decision.

If you use your marketing automation platform to collect data at the event, you can also easily build a report or dashboard to keep progress on how you did post-show.

One of the ways we help clients with their trade shows and events is to create show goals and go into the show with a plan to hit those goals.

Here’s a quick example.

The show is three days and has four sessions in which attendees are speaking with exhibitors. If the goal is 200 leads, then you need 50 leads in each session. If after the first session you only grab 30 leads, you need to reset the goals for the remainder of the sessions. Pre-session huddles and post-session huddles help keep your team focused on the goal.

The marketing automation platform, landing page and dashboards keep everyone on the same page all through the event.

10. Make The Decision To Return Next Year Easy With Post-Show Data Analysis In Minutes

Almost every event gives you incentives to sign up early. Most give you big incentives to sign up during or right after the event ends, but most of us rarely know how we did at that time. This makes signing up again risky.

Did you get enough leads to justify coming back? Did you do better than last year? How good were the leads? How likely are any to close? When are they expected to close? You need this information to sign the renewal.

If you set up your tracking analytics correctly, this decision should be easy. If you used lead-scoring and qualification techniques, you should be able to quickly see how many sales opportunities, prospects and simple contacts you added from the show and do a quick back-of-napkin ROI.

The more events you do, the more you’ll need marketing automation to execute what we’re suggesting here. But more importantly, as you get smarter about how you spend your marketing budget, where you invest and how you evaluate these marketing tactics, events should come under the same scrutiny as other tactics and require the same commitment to solid, efficient and results-oriented execution.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.