IMTS 2018: Using your digital presence to get the most out of trade shows

How manufacturers can get more leads when attending trade shows

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is one of the largest manufacturing trade shows in the world. The weeklong, biannual event has a 90-year history of drawing crowds over 150,000 people and allowing attendees to build connections, visit with vendors, and find leads in the manufacturing community.

That’s a long-standing history, and the conference has adapted nicely over the years to maintain that prestigious standing. They’ve added IMTS TV to keep attendees updated on events, created a digital planner to assist with keeping track of your schedule, and they bring the fun with hot air balloon tours and rally car rides.

The thing is, although IMTS has taken steps to keep themselves relevant, many manufacturing companies haven’t. They still rely on traditional sales and marketing initiatives without amplifying their results with new digital techniques. The manufacturers that don’t build a digital-marketing presence are leaving money on the table.

That’s why, with IMTS 2018 on the horizon, we’ve compiled our top tips to enhance your trade show digital-marketing presence to get the most out of attending this year’s most productive events.

Create a Lead Magnet

The best part about going to a conference is that you’re presented with a group of attendees with at least one common denominator: they’re a prime target audience whose specific needs can be addressed by your organization. Before the trade show starts, devise a specific offering that will catch people’s attention. These offerings are typically referred to as a lead magnet.

Website Assessment

It can be an inventory management assessment, a guide for business process improvement, or a checklist for critical supply chain steps. Just make sure it’s a topic you can capitalize on and that means something to the target audience. Create the lead magnet with the intent to help your prospect solve a problem they are facing. If they find it valuable you will not only receive credibility but also be seen as a topical expert. That’s important because people buy from people they trust.

This asset can be distributed freely to start conversations and guide them towards the issues that your business can solve. It can also be used as a point of reference when following up with contacts that you meet at the trade show. Generic follow-up usually yields terrible results. Instead, speak to the outcomes of the user’s results.

Develop an Event Landing Page

A landing page is an isolated page off of your website with the objective of convincing visitors to give you their contact information in exchange for an asset that benefits them. This is a great place to let people know you are attending a conference. It also furthers the mileage you get from developing a relatable lead magnet.

The landing page can be used to transform your lead magnet from a booth handout into a digital lead generator. Why wait for the trade show to start to gather leads when you can get the jump on the competition? When attendees arrive at a conference, they are trying to get the most from their visit, so they are naturally busy. Don’t wait to try and fit into a crammed schedule. Promote your landing page through different marketing channels to get in front of prospects before the show begins.

With a landing page, you have the opportunity to announce your attendance, alert visitors to your booth number, give an introduction to your services, and add value through a free offer. A popular landing-page offer for conferences is to giveaway coupons that can be redeemed at your booth.

It’s important to integrate any landing page form with your CRM system. This allows visitors who’ve completed the form to be automatically uploaded into the sales system. The sales team will be able to jump on new leads that have expressed interest and take immediate action.

Pre-Scheduling Meetings

Which is the best option: arrive at a trade show and hope the right individuals find your booth or walk in knowing that you already have meetings scheduled? Of course, it’s the latter. Don’t leave your lead generation to fate.

Most shows like IMTS 2018 offer exhibitor listings where you can pinpoint highly targeted prospects. Sort the companies that have the highest potential to benefit from your capabilities and start searching for their contact information. Most event listings of active participants will be filled out with social media profiles and website links. However, you want that coveted email address.

There are plenty of free tools online that can take a domain and employees name to find emails. Use software like Hunter.io or Email Finder to extract emails that have been published anywhere on the web. Once you’ve created a top prospect list you can reach out, introduce yourself, explain your presence at the show, and express your interest in meeting. Flattery goes a long way. In the email mention an accomplishment, recent piece of news, or a source of pride from the company or individual you are interacting with.

Participate in Social Media

You’d be missing out on half of IMTS if you didn’t participate on social media. They are active on everything from Facebook to Twitter to YouTube. However, more importantly, many of the attendees will be participating in these social streams as well. They will be using the hashtag #IMTS2018, posting conference takeaways to LinkedIn groups, and live-streaming events on Facebook.

All of these conversations are easily accessible to you. They represent the potential for you to add your viewpoints, make new acquaintances, and most likely set up new meetings. Social media is an avenue to let the broader conference ecosystem know more about you. Take a look at Logic Supply for example:

IMTS Exhibitor Innovation Award

They won the IMTS Exhibitor Product Innovation Award and are sharing with the general IMTS community. It gives them a chance to showcase one of their products, help visitors find their booth, and gives recognition to their overall hard work. Not bad for one Tweet, huh?

Social media is an extension of your trade show reach. Be where the leads are and become recognized.

Utilize Marketing Automation

You can’t be everywhere at once and that’s why software like HubSpot and MailChimp have been developed to help marketing teams accomplish more. Marketing automation can cover anything from email drip campaigns to scheduling social media posts.

If you are manning a booth and participating in social media conversations throughout a trade show, it’s best not to isolate yourself in the corner of your stand and ignore people dropping by as you post to social accounts. Instead, use marketing software to pre-schedule social posts and fill in the gaps where live content is more appropriate.

There are other benefits to marketing automation at trade shows. Any email address that's been received at the show can be added to an email marketing list to send nurturing emails. You want control over initial follow-ups to keep them customized, but what if a prospect takes an action on your website before you’ve had a chance to reconnect? A slow response—or no response—is the number-one sales killer.

If you have marketing automation, you can create event-based workflows to trigger emails based on visitor actions. If a prospect you met at the show downloads your lead magnet, you can set internal notifications, follow-up emails, or both. Marketing software gives you the chance to send customized content in an automated fashion.

Event Follow-Up

Strike while the iron is hot. Follow-up emails for new contacts should be the first item on your checklist when you return from a trade show. Don’t let anyone have time to forget who you are or what services you offer. Recall a part of your conversation and include it in the message, people like to know they were heard. Another option is to include your free lead magnet if they haven’t seen the offer yet. They’ve gotten to know you by now and might be less hesitant to engage.

What else can be done for event follow-up? It should be common practice to reach out on social media. Connect on LinkedIn or mention them on Twitter. Attach a related article that you think they might enjoy or that connects to the conversation you had together.

Remember to treat every lead differently. Segment your follow-up lists into groups. For example, you could have met speakers that offer complimentary services, sales leads (cold and hot), and competitors. All these people have different needs. Plan out how each conversation will flow and what you want to get out of interacting with them again.

Have a Good Time

The most important thing is to have fun. People notice. Whether you are interacting with contacts in person, by email, or social media keep your message light and on target.

Building trade show leads is hard work and if you aren’t boosting your efforts with digital lead-generation techniques you’re missing out on half the equation.