How to Creatively Collect Leads and Leave a Lasting Impression at Industry Trade Shows

Trade show marketing at industry events is a great way to create new contacts for your association and to keep in contact with existing members.

But how can you make sure that you’re getting the highest return on the time and energy you are investing in trade shows?


10 Creative Ways to Collect Leads at Trade Shows

Check out these 10 tips for creative ways to collect leads so you can spend your time, and resources, wisely.

cell phone with inbound marketing strategy website, which is one way to start thinking about how you want to create buzz before you collect leads at trade shows

The first step to having a successful trade show outing is knowing what you define as a success. Are you trying to gain a certain number of new members for your association? Are you trying to build a new list of warm leads or do you want to increase engagement with the ones you already have? Or maybe you’re just trying to see what the competition is up to.

Knowing what you want to get out of your trade show experience, and coming up with a resourceful marketing strategy, are the most critical aspects of a successful trade show. Set your expectations and goals before you start to collect leads. Ensure your focus is on what, or who in this case, will move the needle and drive success for your association.

Create a Social Media Following for your Association Before You Collect Leads

develop a social media following before you collect leads at an industry trade show

You can start developing a following long before you arrive at the trade show by engaging with people on social media. Create a Facebook event to let potential association members know when you’ll be at the show, and where you are located on the exhibition floor. Create a poll on Twitter asking what sort of information potential contacts might want to see at your association’s booth.

Get some brand awareness going before you arrive to create excitement around what your association has to offer potential members. When you create buzz on social media before the trade show, you can then strike up a dialogue with potential members (and even existing members) who enjoy your posts online. It’s much easier to collect an engaged lead this way.

Ask for Their Information with Confidence

people shaking hands

Don’t just wait for potential leads to visit your association’s booth. Walk up to people, talk with them and shake their hand. Ask them about their business before you try to collect their information. Don’t make them feel like you’re just there to collect leads. Create interactions with potential leads that is both personal and memorable. Positive, individualized interactions are going to yield to more enthusiastic leads, who will turn into potential members of your association.

Make Your Association’s Booth Interactive

A great way to give your booth some staying power is to make it an interactive experience. Ask provocative trivia questions to make potential members want to know more about your association. Invest in technology that is memorable, cool, and different from what everyone else is doing. Turn your booth into the place to be at the trade show.


Giving potential leads a stimulating experience at your booth will also make those folks want to tell other people to hit up your association. It’s free advertising!

Provide High-Quality Giveaways as a Way to Collect Leads

Let’s face it, we all know that some people are just perusing the trade show because they want the swag you’re offering. And while these things do cost money, providing quality giveaway items is going to make your association look a lot better than the cheaper alternatives. (How many pens and keychains does one person need?)

Get a t-shirt you would want to wear or a coffee mug that you would want to drink out of. A giveaway that is made out of quality materials is going to reflect well upon your association and its perceived value. And most importantly, make sure whatever you give away has your association’s name and all of its contact information presented plainly yet thoughtfully.

You Need a Powerful Call To Action to Collect Leads

A positive interaction doesn’t have to stop when someone walks away from your booth. Like we mentioned earlier, give these folks a reason to tell other people to visit your booth.

For instance, you could incentivize people to tell other potential leads to visit your booth to win a BIG prize that you are giving away. Consider partnering with a travel company that trades free publicity at your booth in exchange for a vacation that you can raffle off.

Or maybe you only give your t-shirts to people who return to your booth with another person. You could make it a challenge to have your leads pass around business cards with their info on the back for a chance to earn even more free goodies like wireless headphones, a $1,000 Amex gift card, or a free membership for a year. Another thing you can do is encourage likes and follows on social media for prizes. The sky is the limit here when it comes to cool swag and creative contests.

Interact With Other Booths and Do Your Recon Work

We all know the old phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. See what the other booths around you are up to. Find out what giveaways they are offering, and what information they are presenting. Knowing what your competition is up to can give you the edge you need to have an easier time collecting leads. Offer what others can’t, and offer it better!


business people shaking hands who met at an industry trade show

Spend your time checking out the booths of associations you’re not competing with as well. They may have an idea that would work great for your booth, and perhaps even in a different way.

Squeeze Pages and Interactive Kiosks Go Hand in Hand

You might be familiar with a landing page. A squeeze page is the same idea, but with one specific goal: to collect potential leads for your association. For the exchange of a person’s contact information – their name, email address, etc- you offer a prize like an e-book or access to a podcast.

And interactive kiosks and squeeze pages are pretty much a match made in heaven. The best part about running your CRM squeeze page on an interactive kiosk is that it can store all of the data you collect digitally for easy retrieval. Also, many companies offer interactive kiosk rentals so you don’t need to purchase the machine outright.

We all know that business cards pile up quickly, and they can get lost easily. Web-based software on an interactive kiosk is a great way to capture leads safely and securely, while showing that you are an association that embraces technology and looks toward the future.

Not Ready for a Kiosk? Check Out Alternative Tech for Your Booth

If you’re not ready for an interactive kiosk, fear not! Do you know there are apps for your phone that can also assist in data collection?

Check out this squeeze page app that allows you to easily transfer data between your devices. There are also apps that can act as a business card scanner. You can even use your phone as a badge scanning device to quickly collect information and keep the conversation personal.

man writing a personal note to one of the leads he collected at a trade show

Personalize Your Follow-Up

Something we repeatedly touch upon is that a personalized experience makes for a memorable one. Take notes about what you discuss with your potential leads so that you can follow up later on with a response that lets them know you remember who they are and what they care about.

People want to feel important, and letting them know that they are important is going to leave a lasting impression on potential members who are considering joining your association.

Make Your Trade Show a Marketing Campaign Success!

Trade shows can be an invaluable way of collecting qualified leads for your association. Be sure to make the most of your time and money; set yourself apart from the competition by engaging in high quality interactions. Leave people feeling good. Remember, the cream always rises to the top!

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