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Trade Show Prospecting: Misadventures of an Inbound Coordinator

Jul-Creative-riding-solo.jpgRemoving the Training Wheels & Riding Solo at a Local Trade Show

Recently, I was challenged to attend a local trade show - by myself. Gulp. The opportunity was the 2016 Milwaukee NARI Spring Home Improvement Show, which I love. I regularly spend my weekends binge-watching Flip or Flop, To Catch a Contractor and/or Property Brothers. I fancy myself a little handy and always seem to be painting one of the rooms in my apartment. But I'm not a sales person; I'm a marketing coordinator. Hence, my nerves.

Inbound marketing attracts leads for home builders.However, as it turns out, a marketing coordinator can be just as good at talking about inbound marketing, because inbound is all about meeting business goals through education - exactly like a conversation. Usually, I'm the one behind the scenes making sure the brand looks its best and reaches the right audience, but I calmed my nerves (Instagram #inspirationalquotes, anyone?) and got to work. 


Pre-show Recon

Use lead scoring to find your target audience.I started to doing some research on the exhibitors at the show. This enabled me to prequalify certain exhibitors who met our target audience personas best; these were my "must-talk-to" exhibitors.

In addition, we scored these prospects using lead scoring. Leading scoring is great way to find out which prospects are worth devoting resources to first.

  • Why spend time with a prospect who isn't engaged or wanting to learn about your business?
  • Why force information on someone who won't become a delighted customer?

If you would like to learn more, lead scoring will be a topic of an upcoming blog.  Subscribe to our blog on the right so you won't miss out! 

Research also prepared me to talk to prospective clients more intelligently. I wanted to be able to comment on their current work, website, branding, blogging, etc. That knowledge would set me apart; they would (hopefully) be more receptive toward a conversation with me.

The Plan

I was looking to have genuine conversations and not give a pitch. Keeping it organic was important. Remember, inbound marketing is all about educating and meeting needs, NOT selling. Here were my steps:

  1. Open with a sincere compliment as an ice breaker.
  2. Listen to the business about their work, goals, and potential problems they face in their business.
  3. If inbound marketing would be a good solution, bring it up naturally.

I brought with me a postcard shortly describing what Jül does as a small leave-behind piece (most of the education came from the conversation I would have). My team and I also created a designated landing page for NARI exhibitors to visit to request a digital assessment after the show. Even if they don't become immediate clients of ours, they're still benefitting through the education we can provide about their website and digital presence. Inbound = educating.

The Show Visit

Inbound marketing is about a conversation and education.

Many of the booths displayed beautiful, amazing examples so it wasn't hard to find something to talk about with them. Naturally, we transitioned to conversing about their business needs and customers, with me mostly listening to the exhibitor talk about their work.

If the conversation lent itself to inbound marketing, I would educate them about the benefits and give suggestions on how they might follow-up and nurture leads after the show

Luckily, the first booth I stopped at went great and each booth after became a little easier. I focused on building a relationship and not promoting our inbound marketing agency

Post-Show Follow-Up

After-show follow-up is just as important as the pre-show planning. When I got back to the office, I added all of my new contacts into our CRM and created an email workflow (sequence of automated emails) to help nurture these leads. Each email offers the group an educational piece to download or read, keeping them engaged until they're ready to become clients - and that's the magic of inbound marketing. We meet people where they are in their buyer's journey and adjust our message accordingly. 

Tips for Successful Trade Show ProspectingInbound marketing tips and tricks for successful trade show prospecting. 

  • Research, research, research. 
  • Make a must-talk-to list using lead scoring. 
  • Create a special landing page for prospects to visit, which has a free offer. 
  • Engage in genuine, natural conversations.
  • Exchange business cards or have a special takeaway with a link to your landing page.
  • Post-show, follow up and keep leads warm through nurturing emails.

Throughout this experience I was able to utilize my knowledge of inbound marketing and showcase its value. Being able to make a real connection is so important, and the relationships matter, whether that is in-person or online.

This may be where my NARI story ends, but the misadventures of an inbound marketing coordinator have just begun. Stay tuned...

Topics: Inbound Marketing Nari Trade Show