Trade Show Ideas to Grow Your B2B Email List

Trade Show Ideas to Grow Your B2B Email List

Trade-Shows-and-growing-your-b2b-email-listYou and your sales team can almost feel the excitement in the air the first day of a trade show. All the booths are clean and clutter free. Your exhibitor neighbors are chattering about last minute details. Your staff is charged up on an extra cup of coffee and their first day’s morning meetings. The doors to the exhibitor hall opens and thousands of potential clients rush through to see who has the best swag and maybe, just maybe, talk about buying something from someone. You’re hoping to be that someone.

Three days later your staff trudges into the exhibition booth, their luggage waiting expectantly in the car. The booth next to you is down to just a handful of junior level sales reps. The coffee, if there’s any left, is a bit stale. You’re looking at a list of thousands of people who visited your booth and wondering how exactly you are going to follow up with all these contacts when you get back to the office.

These shows can be one of the least expensive and most productive B2B advertising opportunities your company has. Or it can be a waste of time and money. How you follow up with the leads, qualify them and turn them into customers makes all the difference. Use these trade show ideas to grow your B2B email list and follow up on leads after the show. (And don’t forget to check out our most popular post about successful trade show ideas!)

  1. Gather email addresses at your booth. You’ll see in #2 why gathering email addresses with permission to email is valuable. How to do it can be difficult when you have a booth filled with people. Many shows allow people to just swipe a card to show they visited a booth. This easy method, however, doesn’t guarantee you any face-time with the people who come by. Take pictures of business cards you receive using the Evernote app, suggests SmartSheet. You’ll know these are people you personally met when they gave you a card. You could also have people fill out an online form with their name and email using your ipad or a laptop. It’s a little more time consuming, but it also allows you to know who is really interested in what you offer. Use that information for a drawing if you must, but make sure they know they will receive your emails and segment those into one of your lists.

  2. Segment your contacts as quickly as possible. I’m not talking about getting every single email address categorized alphabetically by industry and then birth date. I’m talking about creating three to five general categories for your contacts. You might start with “stopped at our booth”, “made an appointment”, and “general XYZ show attendee”. You don’t want to send out the same email to every group, and not all these groups will need or want to be on your e-mail list. DO NOT just upload the spreadsheet of contact information the show hosts provide to you. It’s a sure fire way to tick off prospective customers and get flagged for spam.

  3. Decide what you want to accomplish with your B2B email  campaign. If you just want to start by getting these attendees on your email marketing lists, send out ONE and only one email asking them to sign up to receive your newsletter. MailChimp suggests sending out an initial offer for a free whitepaper which requires the reader to offer up their email address and opt-in to the email list. (As an inbound marketing agency we love this idea!) Your goal for people who stopped at your booth might be to find out more about their needs or send them a more specific bonus offer. Set your goal and make it reasonable. To ask people who attended the show but didn’t stop at your booth to make an appointment with you is probably a stretch, so start by peaking their interest and having them opt-in via a form. Anyone who does not respond to the first e-mail should be deleted from that list.

  4. Make a reference to the trade show in your email and/or mail campaign. When you reach out to the thousands of people who interacted with your company, remind them where they met you. Open by talking about something that happened during the event or a new product announcement that was made. One of our clients left a show in the midst of tornadoes so we started their follow-up notes with “We hope you were able to travel safely out of Chicago. The storms held our team up for a few hours, but we’re all glad to be home now.” When you’ve experienced something fun or even survived something scary “together” your customer thinks of you more as a friend and less as an unknown business.

  5. Create a specific e-mail or mail campaign. We’re an inbound marketing agency, so obviously we support e-mail marketing wholeheartedly. We’ve also watched traditional mail campaigns work as well, especially when you are concerned about being labeled as spam on those first contacts. For contacts who have agreed to receive you email newsletter, send a series of follow up emails, usually 4-6 that include content from your website or even your YouTube channel. Again set a goal of getting an appointment set or an order placed. Offer opportunities for that to happen throughout the emails. Contacts who haven’t responded after 4-5 emails should receive a final email like this: “We really enjoyed our time at XYZ show and hope you’ve had a chance to catch up on work since you’ve gotten back. If you have any questions over the next few weeks or month about your 123 services or products, please send me an email. I’ll be happy to personally handle your account.” If they’ve agreed to receive your newsletter, keep them on that list but do not offer any additional follow up. Mail campaigns should be sent on a recurring basis to remind the potential customers about your services and products. You might start by mailing something every week or two weeks and then taper down to once a quarter if they do not respond.

  6. Have the capacity to follow up and make sure it happens in the first two weeks. Have your emails and mail pieces ready to go prior to the event. If your content is ready, all you have to worry about is segmenting your lists. Make sure someone on your team follows up with contacts who made appointments. Then closely monitor which of the contacts who visited your booth actually click through your emails or download any bonus information.


Use these ideas to gather email addresses and use them to follow up with prospects. Remember, the goal is to create and qualify leads for your sales team. The higher quality leads you can offer your team, the more interested they will be in attending future shows.