Using email for trade show followup

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Trade shows have always been a great source of new leads; but, considering travel costs, booth construction, booth rental and collateral printing, they are also one of the most expensive. There are ways, however, to maximize the number of warm leads they produce, said Melanie Attia, product marketing manager at Campaigner, a provider of email marketing services.

“I know from my experience being an attendee and an exhibitor that trade shows are a fantastic way to build [your email list]; but you need a strategy going in because not every contact you meet will be a valuable contact,” she said.

What's the best way to ensure a successful list build at a show? For one thing, marketers shouldn't automatically add a prospect to the database just because he or she provided an email address. “You'll want to ask them to opt in when you send them your post-show email,” she said. Attia also provided these four tips to help marketers separate the email wheat from the chaff.

  1. Rethink giveaways. Big prizes can attract a lot of people to a booth, but they might not be the right people. Attia, for example, had the unfortunate experience of giving away an Apple iPad to one of her competitor's employees. She suggests marketers give away prizes that relate directly to their product or service, such as an e-book or white paper. This will increase the chances that booth visitors who offer their business cards or have their badges scanned will be potential customers not just people who want to win swag.
  2. Create a conversation piece. Visitors who drop into one marketer's booth likely have visited many other booths, too, which may make it difficult for them to differentiate one company from another after the show is over. Attia suggests marketers make an impression by including a conversation piece in their booth design. “We send out emails that include a picture of us in our booth,” she said. Another company, she said, hired someone to make “really cool” balloon animals.
  3. Give prospects a wired way to connect. Asking prospects to drop their business cards in a fishbowl is problematic for a couple of reasons: People run out of business cards, and they want to have control over what happens with their information. They might, for example, not offer their cards for fear that they'll receive a flood of emails. Marketers can address this concern by setting up a Web-enabled computer in a high-traffic area so that booth visitors can sign up for emails while having some control over what happens with their information, Attia said. “Give them different options where they can learn more about your company, get a free white paper [or] look at a special landing page designed just for the show,” she suggested.
  4. Separate email addresses into “streams.” Attia divides business cards and contacts into different piles: people she had meaningful conversations with, those whom she met outside the booth at cocktail parties or social events and people who simply dropped their cards into a bowl. Then, she modifies her emails based on those criteria. “People you connect with in a less businesslike setting are going to inspire better conversations, and you can follow up with details and say, "It was great talking to you.' Those connections make for more receptive recipients.”
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