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The B2B Sales Enablement Guide For Your Next Tech Trade Show

The B2B Sales Enablement Guide for Your Next Tech Trade Show

Trade Shows: The Unexpected #1 Source of Leads for Tech Companies

Software and technology companies have embraced inbound marketing, using innovative digital tactics to attract and nurture leads. But human-to-human interaction isn't dead quite yet—according to our research, old-school trade shows remain a tech company's best source of leads!

Perhaps that's why most tech companies attend 3-5+ trade shows per year, with a whopping 24% of survey respondents saying they go to over 15 events per year! That means thousands of tech companies are overcrowding exhibit hall floors with crazy giveaways, flashy booth designs and loud sales reps.

Sound familiar?

That, of course, leaves one big question for marketing and sales folks: 

With all of this competition for guest’s attention, how can you make sure your company stands out at trade shows?

The answer?

  1. Promote before the event.
  2. Stand out during the event.
  3. Follow up after the event.

Part #1 — Promoting Before the Event

It’s rare that companies send sales and marketing teams to trade shows on a whim. Chances are your company participates in certain shows regularly and plans accordingly for the year with strategy and budget in mind. After all, attending a trade show without proven ROI is bad practice for any business.

This prior planning allows marketing teams to create a pre-game strategy for upcoming shows months in advance. Even though you might not know exactly where your designated spot will be in the exhibition hall, you can start raising interest well before the attendees arrive. 

Here are our three favorite digital media tactics to get the word out about your trade show appearances before the event.

personalized emails#1: Personalized Emails/Messages

Forbes suggests to start preparing emails for the trade show at least four to six weeks before the event.

Are the contacts in your CRM tagged by region? Have you checked which of your LinkedIn contacts live in the area? Segment these lists and send out a marketing message to everyone within driving distance of the trade show venue.

Did you make friends last year with any of the previous attendees? Better check with them to see if they're attending again…and if they'd like to grab lunch to catch up.

Want to connect with new people before the event? Check out the list of exhibitors and companies attending the event. Then, use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to figure out your ideal point-of-contact within each organization. Enable the sales team to send out personalized InMail messages to these people on LinkedIn asking if they'll be attending the event…and if not, asking who from their company will be there.


bonus tip badge with a starSponsorship Bonus: If you sponsor a trade show or event, the hosting organization may offer up the registration list, complete with email information. You can capitalize on this by sending a “book a time” email for a consultation or a simple “look forward to meeting you” icebreaker.

social media icons
#2: Social Media Posts

In the weeks before the event, you can bulk schedule posts leading up to the conference date to build hype around your booth.

Is the event using a specific hashtag? Or do they have an official @handle for the event? Be sure to tag both of those in all of your posts so that conference organizers will be notified of your activity and can re-share your content for maximum amplification.

Beyond posting promotional messages about yourself, be sure to add value to the conversation, too—follow the event's hashtag yourself and respond to others who are discussing the trade show! Answer a newbie's question about the best hotel to stay at. Like a speaker's post about their keynote address. Retweet a promotional giveaway for another (non-competing!) vendor. After all, isn't that the inbound philosophy…adding value to the potential buyer?


bonus tip badge with a starSponsorship Bonus: Ask the hosting group if they’re willing to highlight your company in a social media post, blog or podcast. It may not be in the list of sponsorship features now, but as events grow and require more collateral, the more these features will evolve. 


Want to keep the conversation going? Our free guide will help you incorporate content that truly speaks to your audience.

B2B Tech Marketer's Guide to Inbound


#3: Paid Ads

The great thing about paid ads is that you can reach contacts not in your database and do super cool things like target attendees through geofencing and retargeting. You can create a contact segment using your personas, update info based on the specific event and invest some advertising budget into creating an annual events campaign. By creating an ad per event, this year-long campaign can be especially beneficial if you’re attending multiple trade shows or conferences. If a lead was interested but unable to attend one event, they’ll be excited to know where you’ll be next.


Sponsorship Bonus: bonus tip badge with a star Event planners are looking to promote their events as much as possible. If they find a partner who wants to help out in this department, they will relish the enthusiasm and may help out with event discounts to offset your ad spend.


The goal of all of these pre-event promotions?

Pique interest BEFORE guests arrive at the trade show…because once they’re there, it’s going to be difficult to attract attention no matter how many promotional stress balls you throw out. By interacting with potential attendees in a personalized way, you’re creating memorable connections and increasing excitement for your brand before they even meet you in person.


connecting with small, medium and large groups graphic

Part #2 — Standing Out During the Event

Now that we’ve discussed how to promote excitement around your trade show appearance prior to the event date, let’s dive into the day-of frenzy. This is the time for your B2B tech company to really shine and create an experience your leads won’t soon forget.

Let’s talk promo items. Ha! Kidding…we’ll get there.

1st place ribbonStart by showing your company's value

Anyone can hand out fancy light-up pens. Anyone can hold a raffle to win an iPad. What can you offer a visitor to your booth that no one else can? What is your B2B tech company’s value proposition and how does it separate you from your competitors? What problems do you solve for your customers? That’s what you highlight. That’s the signage you blow up 50x and let fly high. Because in the end, the pen is getting thrown in the trash, but a qualified lead will remember why they became interested in your company.

There are 3 reasons people attend trade shows: 

  1. Discovery 
  2. Networking
  3. Education 

Trade show attendees are most likely coming to either discover solutions to challenges they don’t fully understand or compare solutions to a known problem they want to solve. This is the opportunity to show off how partnering with your company is an experience, not just a product.


trade show team graphicUse a genuine team to guarantee a connection

It costs a lot of money to present at trade shows. Flights, hotels, meals and shipping supplies all add up. No matter how much you pre-promote your booth, none of it will matter if you don’t send your A-team. 

Make sure you are sending a diverse group of professionals who are engaging across the board. While your sales reps are champions for your company, you may find that each has their own flair that may appeal to different individuals. Sometimes it's intimidating to approach a booth if everyone looks exactly the same. Showcasing your company's diversity will guarantee there is someone to connect with each personality type within your persona. 

Have an overly engaging programmer, designer or customer service rep? Bring them along! When customers purchase tech products or services, they may have deeper questions regarding integration, prior issues, or even what your product support team is like. 

And a one-page quick sheet of talking points will keep everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively!


don't waste time graphicDon’t waste time with hide and seek

1,000+ booths in a convention hall and you have to find the one 10x10 space you’re interested in. What do you do? Sure there’s a colorful map with lists of innovative exhibitors, but there’s got to be a better way to navigate this craziness. That’s when your tech company comes to the rescue. 

Let social media be your guide. Post a short video highlighting your booth, team and a quick value proposition reminder along with directions of how to get there. Facebook stories, LinkedIn and Twitter are all great. “Ballroom B, southwest corner by the virtual reality testing station! Look for the green balloons!” 

If the event you're at is utilizing a trade show app such as Eventbase or CrowdCompass, you'll want to leverage it as much as possible. Attendees organize their day through these well-developed apps counting on updates, schedules, location notifications, etc. to see them through the day with minimal hassle. You're a tech company! Use the tech provided!

Have their cell number? Send a text alert from a messaging system, such as EZ Texting, pinpointing your location and a “hope to see you soon” personalized touch. Presenting? TextMarks suggests scheduling “texts to go out 5-10 minutes before an event is about to start so that attendees have time to get there and grab a seat.”

Look at you—already solving your potential customer's problems!


handshake graphicFirst impressions are everything

Practice your firm handshake! According to the Trade Show News Network (TSNN), “81% of trade show attendees have buying authority, representing four out of five people walking the floor”—yet another reason why the team you send to represent your company is so important. But it’s also a reason to refresh your branding. Unless your branding is truly outdated, just a tweak could make all the difference.  Ask yourself the following questions to see if your branding needs an update.

Does your branding reflect who you are as a company quote

The two main reasons to review your company branding in between shows:

  1. Outdated branding
  2. New competitors entering the market
Keeping an eye out to make sure your visuals are standing out in the industry is the best practice. If there are five SaaS companies with the same color branding, a spin of the color wheel could make all the difference.

Obviously, you don't want confusion, inaccuracy or inefficiency be part of your branding. Ditch outdated lead tracking methods. HubSpot's Business Card Scanner App will seamlessly upload your new contacts' information into your CRM, making follow up quick and easy. Not using HubSpot (yet)? A free app such as BadgerScan can save you time during that meet-and-greet phase.


promo item iconDon’t stress the giveaways

Alright. Promo items and trade shows go hand-in-hand and there are plenty of options out there. Some cheesy, some ingenious, others practical. While it’s fun to receive free swag, unfortunately, it’s forgettable. (Like, "some people might leave it behind in their hotel room" or "hand it to their kids when they get home" forgettable.) Ultimately, you want people to remember your value proposition, your people and your brand. If they remember the pop socket with your logo on it, even better.

When choosing your tech company swag, it helps to think about your business as a person. Who are you? Are you enterprise, suit and tie kind of company? Maybe a high-end traveler tech set is the way to go! Are you a scrappy start up? An eco-friendly reusable straw set could be your best bet!

Still not sure which swag to bring? Check out our blog Lose the Stress Ball to get more ideas on what to take with you and leave behind. 

Whew! It’s over! You’re packing up the booth and the cleaning crew is sweeping the floors. But we’re not done yet…

People lining up at your trade show booth graphic

Part #3 — Following Up After the Event

We understand. Trade shows can be draining. All the people. All the lights. All the talking. But while you’re tired and ready for a break, your new leads are excited and ready to go! Don’t lose that energy! 

Segment and contact everyone in some way or another

If you’re not currently using segmented lists in your CRM, start now. Lists are a necessary step in sending personalized, relevant messaging to your prospects. Here are some suggested segmented lists for post-trade show follow up.  

  • New contacts categorized into lists based on where they are in the sales funnel
  • Existing contacts who attended based on decision-making proximity 
  • A "thank you" list for any contacts who helped your company at the event (While they may not be prospects, referrals are always appreciated!) 
  • Non-attending existing contacts who might want to know what they missed

Within a week after the event, contact should be made one way or another. From a short “nice to meet you” text, to sending a recap email that also highlights your upcoming events, contacts who felt good vibes from your booth will be happy to hear from you. Just remember to reach out to these different segments in different ways and go easy on the new guys by not over-bombarding them. 


tracking trade show metrics graphicTrack metrics to measure success…and failure

After leads are segmented and enrolled in your nurturing workflows, it’s time to crunch numbers. As in any regular marketing campaign, there needs to be some level of due diligence. These numbers will help your tech company gauge which type of event is best for your business and are good indicators that show if you should cut back or ramp up your event participation.  

We have some basic metrics you’ll definitely want to measure per event. It’s also important to remember to set a goal for each of these before the event so you know what you’re working towards. 

Return on Investment (ROI): As we mentioned before, sending teams and shipping booth materials all over the world can be costly. Make sure you accomplished your goal. Although this KPI takes a little longer to materialize, it will drive your decision to participate in annual events. How many new subscribers attended this event? Did any current customers visit and upgrade their service package?

Booth Visits: This metric is important from a branding aspect. If your booth was lacking interest, there’s a red flag that something went wrong. Either your booth branding, engagement team or social media hype needs work. Was the crew talking nonstop SaaS or were they twiddling their thumbs?

Number of New Leads: As mentioned above, the new leads your team brings back can be broken down by their position in the sales funnel. This metric is huge as leads you meet at a trade show are different from leads who visit your website. They’ve already met you in person, so there’s a deeper connection.

Social Media Reach: Checking hashtag mentions and follower increases is the easiest metric to measure and gives the gift of instant gratification. While (hopefully) your pre-event posting raised these metrics, the post-event numbers will prove how willing attendees are to engage with your tech-tastic company. 


Back to reality 

While a variety of digital marketing tactics assist along the way, connecting with prospects face to face still produces the best relationships, even in the "impersonal" world of tech. It’s the perfect venue to create human connections and showcase your company’s genuine side—as long as you can stand out from the masses. Following up to warm-up the new leads and contacts will continue their engagement with your company long after everyone has left the conference center. 


If you need help getting started with a digital trade show strategy or need a super awesome booth design, feel free to give us a call. We know a lot about tech and even more about marketing.