Which events do you plan to attend next year?

Q4 is the perfect time to think about your event calendar for the upcoming year. Trade shows, public speaking engagements, and conferences are full of potential leads (if you know how and where to look).

To capture more leads, you need a plan. In this post, we’ll cover how to capture leads at events and convert those leads into sales.

The event lead capture process has 3 steps:

  1. Planning before the event
  2. Execution during the event
  3. Follow-up after the event

1. Planning before the event

An effective event lead capture strategy begins before you ever set foot in the venue. Start with the type of event.

Is it a trade show or a conference?

Trade shows are often industry-specific and allow you to be more direct and strategic. Prepare to discuss how your business helps solve problems within that industry.

Do some research and learn about where the industry is moving. Look for:

  • Trends
  • Potential obstacles
  • Disruptors
  • Common problems

When you demonstrate industry knowledge to potential leads, you’re more likely to make a meaningful connection that leads to next steps in the sales process.

  • Discovery calls or business fit assessments
  • Product or service demonstrations
  • New customers(!!!)

If you’re attending a conference, the attendees will be in similar roles. Marketers attend marketing conferences, engineers attend engineering conferences, and salespeople attend sales conferences.

Depending on the conference, it might make more sense to focus on networking and partnerships rather than sourcing new business.

Different event styles mean different types of attendees. Tailor your approach to take advantage of the specific event.

The key takeaway in planning before the event is to know your audience. This helps you be deliberate — both in choosing the events you attend, and how you approach the events. You won’t waste time attending events that your audience doesn’t, or miss the events your audience does attend.

Pre-event planning also means setting up your follow-up messages and automations beforehand. Basic task and email automation in ActiveCampaign can have a big impact on your lead generation and follow-up.

Automate things like:

Add a tag to a contact as a form action to segment your contacts in the ActiveCampaign form builder ActiveCampaign’s form builder lets you automate the tagging process when a contact submits your form.

Make sure you have your process ready at least a week before the event. When you set up automations early on, you can focus instead on generating high-quality leads. You won’t need to scramble to follow up with leads in the hours or days right after the event.

2. Execution during the event

What’s more important than getting leads at events?

Getting the right leads at events.

It’s easy to leave an event with a pocketful of business cards from individuals who don’t remember you and might not be a good fit for your business.

Don’t go through the formalities just to collect business cards.

At the event, aim to have meaningful conversations with each person you meet. Use your research to ask about industry trends or problems they might have. Learn about their plans for the near future and see how you might work together.

Your prospective customers will remember conversations that go beyond the typical formalities. Ditch the generic intros and ask specific questions. Deliberate intros improve your chances of moving the conversation forward:

  • “So what do you do?” → “What are you planning to do about ___ this year?”
  • “We’re a digital agency.” → “We partner with small businesses to optimize their ad spend. Do you rely on social media advertising or search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC)?”
  • “What’d you think of the first speaker?” → “I thought the comments on how the buying landscape is changing were interesting, is your business doing anything to account for those changes?”

If there’s a fit, don’t go straight for the business card. Instead, ask for their email address and work to set up a more personal call a few days after the event. If you can, schedule a follow-up call while you’re speaking with them.

This reduces the chances of leads going dark, and removes the annoying email back-and-forth trying to lock down a time for a call.

You can make this process even easier by using email and scheduling tools:

  1. The ActiveCampaign Forms App for iPad helps you turn your conversations into opted-in contacts within ActiveCampaign. Add them to a lead nurturing email sequence or newsletter.
  2. Calendly scheduling software syncs with your online calendar and email to show your availability and send confirmation emails when you schedule a call.

With Calendly you can add notes and other info to give your scheduled calls context and an agenda

These tools work for 1-on-1 conversations or at your trade show booth. If you have a booth, company swag is a proven technique to initiate conversations and capture contacts at an event.

What if you’re currently engaged in the sales process with someone at the event? Don’t be afraid to close them in person! If you’ve had discovery conversations and they’re interested in moving forward, close the deal! You can approach them and say,

“Okay, we’ve been through the exploratory phase, we’ve talked about goal setting, we’ve talked about the services and the software that we’re going to be starting on… why don’t we just get started right now?”

An event is a great place to have a closing conversation. The prospective customer is excited and thinking about new ideas, so it’s a perfect time to capture their energy and engagement and get them to sign up with you.

3. Follow-up after the event

When you do your due diligence in the planning process, you won’t have to worry about your email follow-ups after the event.

Your follow-up strategy should include:

  • Following through with any next steps that you scheduled — send those intro emails and make your follow-up calls when you said you would
  • In your follow up conversations, use the event you both attended as an ice-breaker to make a quick personal connection
  • Once you’ve connected, bring up any specific details from your conversations at the event to cement the connection with your leads

Follow-up should also include measuring success for your business.

Use segmentation to tag the contacts you captured at the event and track them through the sales process.

Evaluate the event and answer these questions:

  • How many contacts did you capture?
  • Of those leads, how many scheduled next steps?
  • How many leads closed as customers?
  • Was the event worth your time?
  • Is one type of event more worth your time than another?
  • What types of leads are most valuable to you?
  • Which lead generation strategies worked? Which didn’t?
  • Did a particular strategy lead to better conversations? More leads?

The more information you gather on the leads from an event, the easier it is to measure success.

Conclusion: How to capture leads at events

Capturing leads at events is a great way to begin relationships with potential clients. Events are also an opportunity to increase your:

  • Thought leadership
  • Brand awareness
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Industry knowledge

A successful event lead generation strategy means planning well before the event. Think about the type of event, the attendees, and the problems they face.

At the event, work to connect on a deeper level and set up next steps if there’s a potential business fit. Don’t be afraid to close anyone who is already in your sales process.

Follow up and track your leads — then evaluate and refine your strategy to make the next event you attend even better!