Leveraging marketing automation at trade shows

Despite their best intentions, many B2B marketers aren’t using trade shows to their full advantage. A recent Centre for Exhibition Industry Research survey indicated that 59% of companies are still using paper-based lead forms and business cards to collect information from trade show attendees. With its ability to link offline events to online marketing efforts like lead nurturing, marketing automation has become an important tool for businesses that invest a lot of their time and money in trade shows.

Marketing automation can help streamline marketing and sales tasks before, during, and after a trade show, taking care of a lot of the heavy lifting for users. Let’s take a look at the advantages marketing automation can offer at each stage in the trade show process.

1. Before the trade show

Before attending a trade show, you’ll want to ensure that your prospects and customers know that you’re planning to be there. Do this by sending out targeted email blasts prior to the event.

Send out an email blast to a list of prospects who live near the site of the trade show so that they know that your company will be in the area. Position the email as a friendly reminder that you’re stopping by, and include a note that you’d love to see them at the conference.

2. During the trade show

At trade shows, you have a short amount of time to collect a lot of information. Let marketing automation do most of the work for you by setting up landing pages and autoresponders.

Have something to offer: Trade shows are competitive. It’s smart to include some sort of ‘carrot on a stick’ to rope prospects in, like the chance to win a free iPad just for stopping by.

Set up a landing page: Having a dedicated landing page set up on a computer or iPad to collect information from leads is an important best practice.

Prepare auto-responders: A good practice for trade shows is to set up autoresponder emails that will deploy as soon as a prospect submits a form. Use the autoresponder to thank your prospects for stopping by and provide extra content to keep them interested.

3. After the trade show

Once the trade show is over, your work isn’t quite done. You still need to import all of the leads you’ve collected into your marketing automation system, assign them out to sales reps for follow up, set up drip campaigns to nurture your prospects over time, and record and evaluate your ROI for future reference.

Assign leads: After importing leads, you can assign them to your sales reps to follow up and place them on drip campaigns to slowly nurture them with relevant content post-conference. To assign leads, first check any notes that were made when the leads were imported or scanned into your system.

Set up drip campaigns: Start with a short introductory email that reinforces how great it was to meet them, restate your value proposition and tie it to some of the key takeaways from the trade show. Provide links to supporting materials like product demo videos and data sheets, and finally leave them with the offer to touch base if they’re interested in learning more. From there, drip content to your prospects over time in one to two sentence emails that describe what you’re offering and why it’s applicable.

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 see how many trade show-generated leads were converted to customers. You can use this information to calculate the ROI of your trade show presence and forecast future trade show attendance and budgets.


Ryan Bonnici
BY Ryan Bonnici ON 6 August 2013
Ryan Bonnici leads marketing at HubSpot Asia Pacific and Japan. For more frequent updates, follow him on Twitter at @ryanbonnici.