Trade shows are a proven marketing tool for collecting leads to fill a company’s sales pipeline. However, many exhibiting companies use an old fashioned, clumsy collection device which can be very ineffective. It is called, “the fishbowl.” The vast majority of the business cards dropped in the fishbowl are from folks who want a “chance” to win a prize. Are these trade show gamblers your best prospects?

Think about this, how many non-leads are in the fishbowl? Consider the time and effort someone will go through to shuffle through those cards to see who is actually a lead. Is the back of a business card the correct place to capture pertinent information on a lead? Isn’t it rather a small surface for your notes?

In my opinion, there are better ways. Here are my two favorites:

1. Lead Collection Devices:

Use technology to assist your lead collection efforts. Most shows rent lead retrieval devices and I would strongly suggest that you consider renting one. These devices can come in several “flavors” from the terminal type in which you swipe an attendees badge to hand held-devices and Smartphone types.

If you make the investment, make sure your booth team is trained and knows how to operate it properly to collect the necessary information. Most devices allow for some degree of customized questions you can add. Explore that option, so you can collect the information you desire to qualify the lead. If you don’t use the opportunity to qualify with sharp questions, your collection device is no better than an electronic fishbowl.

2. Rather than a Prize – Consider a Donation to a Charity:

Nowadays, the sentiment is shifting from, “What can I get" to "what can I give?” The lure of a prize is now being replaced with a charitable donation in many cases. In the host city for the trade show, is there an animal shelter you could support or maybe a food bank?

As marketers we know pictures can stop people in their tracks. People love animals and children. If you had a picture like the one below, would it be very eye catching?

This picture is from the Facebook page, the Dog Bless You. The Dog Bless You page is run by the non-profit Explore.org, which has vetted many organizations that are providing service dogs for veterans and other soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

What charity resonates with your corporate values?

GES included a charity in their appearance at IAEE’s Expo! Expo! Not only did it touch on their corporate values, but it hit home. It was an employee’s foundation (Todd Iverson) and was dedicated to the school their son attended before he passed away. Read the blog about it here.

And because the press like these types of story angles, you might be able to gain positive exposure well beyond the show floor. Consider weaving your corporate story with your chosen charity to show the world the values you hold.

If there is a story you would like to provide about a charity and your exhibition efforts?  Please share it with us on GES’ Facebook page or send me a tweet here!