3 Ways to Get More Qualified Leads at Tradeshows

If you’re in business, trade shows of some kind are probably in your marketing mix. Let’s not kid ourselves, when you invest upwards of a few grand (or more) to be there, results matter.

So let’s start by ditching the ballot box.

Ditch the Ballot Box?

Yes, that right. Don’t waste your time. I have better ideas.

The rationale behind inviting people to stuff that piece of paper in a box is that it creates goodwill, provides you with leads and draws passersby into your booth.

The chance to win a prize will draw people into your booth alright…but will they be there out of genuine interest, or because they can’t resist a freebie? Not to mention the overcrowding that can result, tie up resources and just plain annoy those people who want to stop and talk.

As far as “leads” – the names and numbers of a few hundred people who want to win a free widget are not leads. Not good leads anyway, and definitely not qualified.

Goodwill…don’t worry, this has absolutely nothing with being a grouch, it’s about being effective. I’ll show you ways to ditch the ballot box without being stingy.

Have an Exclusive, Secret Giveaway

Rather than a giveaway with no barrier to entry, invite those who do stop and talk to enter to win a special prize as a thank you. The conversation you’ve had was a great opportunity to get to know their needs and interests, your ballot will ensure you have their name and contact information to follow up after the show.

Simply ask: “As a thank you for talking to me today I’d love to give you a chance to win a weekend getaway at our resort…can I get your name and phone number?” Take down their information and you can jot your own notes as a reminder after they leave.

Leverage the Popularity of Mobile Phones


When Big Fish Media exhibited at the Tri-City Expo last year we put our fish in the fish bowl and demo’d our Text-to-Win application instead of the traditional ballot box.

Knowing that most people walking through a trade show these days will have a mobile phone – why not use it to deliver value, capture key information and collect leads.

Here are some ideas…

Promote the Value of Your Newsletter

Value…yes, I hope that if you have a newsletter you’re using it to provide value to your subscribers. Create, or have someone create for you, a mobile phone-friendly newsletter subscribe page. Then, invite visitors to sign up – but make sure it’s enticing!  Don’t say “Sign up for our newsletter”. Instead, try…

  • Sign Up for Free Home Decorating Advice
  • Join Our Wine of the Month Club
  • Be the  First to Know When We Launch New Products
  • Join Our Insiders Club

I use “Sign Up for Free Marketing Advice” because marketing advice is the value I provide to my subscribers.

Create a catchy sign and make subscribing to your newsletter the requirement for entry into your prize draw. You may not get as many entries as you would through a paper draw, but you sure get more qualified leads. Not to mention, the ability to continue the dialogue for as long as they remain a subscriber.

Share your mobile friendly URL on the sign via a QR Code, a short URL that’s easy to type, or have visitors text the word SUBSCRIBE to your shortcode to instantly receive a link by text.

If you don’t have a newsletter you could have them sign up receive some other valuable content (appealing to your ideal customers, but not so appealing to the general public) such as an e-book, report or whitepaper.

Draw Business Cards

In the B2B industry business cards pack a lot of valuable information. Rather than blindly following up with hundreds of names scrawled on tiny pieces of paper, you can do a little research first. Hopefully you’ll uncover value you can provide, or perhaps you’ll choose to connect with them via Twitter or Linkedin instead.


Feel free to share more ideas in the comments below!  AND, while you’re here be sure to sign up for free marketing advice to your inbox every week.