It’s no secret that the trade show industry is booming. On November 5th, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research released the results of their most recent study on trends in B2B exhibition usage and attendance. Results suggest that trade show attendance will continue to grow over the next two years, with about 24% of exhibitors planning to add more trade shows to their schedule.

So why do people go to trade shows? The study found that for 80% of respondents, the drive to attend a trade show is the search for new products.

For B2B companies, this means that trade show attendees are looking for you. Trade shows give you the opportunity to showcase your product or service in an environment where people are open and excited to see what you have to offer. There’s nothing quite like the energy that you’ll find at these events, and that’s what makes trade shows such a unique opportunity.

Room for Improvement

Here’s the problem: many B2B marketers aren’t using trade shows to their full advantage, despite their best intentions. A whopping 59% of companies are still using paper-based lead forms and business cards to collect information from trade show attendees. While this can certainly work if you have a system in place for collection and organization, it still requires a lot of tedious, manual data entry — not to mention the possibility of misplacing forms or business cards.

In addition, 70% of exhibitors don’t capture demographics and other lead qualifier questions, which can make follow-up with leads more difficult.

So what can be done to make lead generation and follow up more efficient when it comes to trade shows?

Enter Marketing Automation

John DiStefano, research director at BtoB, described marketing automation as a “sleeping giant” when it comes to trade shows. One of the fortes of marketing automation is its ability to link live events with further marketing needs, like lead nurturing.

How, you may ask? John Matera of RedTail Solutions gave a great presentation at our Elevate conference to explain how you can use marketing automation to get the most out of trade shows. Below are a few additional ways that you can use marketing automation to make trade shows a more efficient, fluid process:

Set Up a Landing Page

When you attend a trade show, you’ll want to set up a dedicated landing page with a form to collect information from leads. Say goodbye to manually inputting information from handwritten forms, or collecting pockets full of business cards (although exchanging business cards is still good practice). Having a landing page where leads can input their information allows you to collect more information, more quickly.

Nurture Leads Post-Trade Show

Having all of this information in your system makes it easy to keep tabs on leads after the trade show. When the leads are imported into your marketing automation system, you can attach them to a campaign (in this case, “trade show XYZ”) so that you’ll know where they originated. From there, you can follow up with them or place them on drip campaigns to slowly nurture them with relevant content post-conference.

Record ROI

Because prospects are attached to campaigns within a marketing automation system, it’s easy to attribute revenue to its source. With this insight, you can judge the ROI of your trade show presence, and use this information when forecasting future trade show attendance and budgets.

These are just a few ways that marketing automation can make the trade show process more efficient, and ultimately, more enjoyable. What are your experiences using marketing automation at trade shows? Let us know!

Stay tuned for our upcoming infographic on trade show trends!

Jenna Hanington

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  1. Using Trade Shows In Your Marketing Strategy – Infographic « New York City Marketing - November 30, 2012

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