August 7th, 2019 | by

Events are expensive, even if you’re not a sponsor. Thе average marketing department spends 31.6% оf their budget on events. But they’re still one of the best ways to get your product in front of a crowd of likely prospects: a captive audience already interested in a subject related to your product.

… But that’s a LOT of money. You’ll need to earn it back, and multiply it, if you want to keep your budget next year.

You can find lots of tips online for generating more leads at events: spend more money on better real estate on the event floor, spend more money on prizes and giveaways, send more people.

These are all good ideas with two things in common: 1.) They’re very expensive, so you’ll have to net even more deals just to get the same ROI; and, more important: 2.) You’re still playing a numbers game. Many of the people taking your swag – and the attention of your sales reps – are NOT good fits for your product. 

Without a plan, you’re still “wasting half of your advertising dollars, without knowing which half.”

The DiscoverOrg and ZoomInfo team attends and sponsors 100+ events per year! We think our our process is dialed and we’re here with some better ideas to multiply your event ROI – before you hit the conference floor, and without blowing out your marketing budget.

Read it: Generating Leads at Trade Shows: The Complete A-Z Guide for 2019

Identify who’s going to the event

Catch the right fish in your net.

There’s a reason this is step #1.

Our Director of Outbound Demand Generation, Nina Wooten, has noticed a trend: People who aren’t able to identify good-fit attendees have to go for volume. They have to cast a wide net, usually with giveaways, prizes, and gift cards, because their next customer could be anyone. But giving away pricey swag increases the cost per lead: You’re essentially paying every person who stops by your booth, even though most of them will never be (and could never become) customers. $.$.$.

In the quantity vs. quality dichotomy, the scenario described above is definitely the quantity route.

Find a way to curate a list of trade show or conference attendees, though, and the rest of the job is much easier – and cheaper.

If you’re an event sponsor, you’ll probably get a list of “cloaked” attendees that includes only their titles and their company – not individual names. Or you had to pay for a one-time use of a still-limited list of contact data. Also, not ideal. If you’re walking the event and don’t have a booth, all you have to go off of is the company sponsors.

Still, one way or another, it’s worth a marketer’s time to go through that list to identify the actual people associated to those companies and titles.

Does your team actually do that? It’s time-consuming, yes. However, even if you don’t have DiscoverOrg, it’s absolutely worth the time it takes to do this work.

(If you do have DiscoverOrg, check out our recently released a feature update – ListMatch + Person-Matching, which automates this process.)

With this data in hand, marketers can identify which prospects to focus on during the show and can begin pre-marketing to these individuals.

Fill in the blanks. See how ListMatch + Person-Matching can boost your event ROI.

2. Prioritize pre-event outreach



Once you know who’s going to the event, you can prioritize prospects. In a sea of hundreds of booths and thousands of people, this is extremely helpful for both your sales and marketing teams.

There are a lot of ways to prioritize – based on fit, intent, and opportunity – but the important thing is that you do it, so you know where to start.

At DiscoverOrg, we start by looking for patterns among our best customers:

  • Industry
  • Company size/revenue
  • Geographic location
  • Tech stack

Segment customers vs. prospects

Pro tip: In addition to looking for new event leads, trade shows and conferences are a great opportunity to establish deeper relationships with existing customers. After all, you’re already spending the money to travel to the event.

We like to plan events, like happy hours or dinners, and invite both prospects and current customers that are local to the event, so our leads can talk to current customers first-hand – and as a thank-your to our customers.

Get it: The Ultimate Trade Show Prospecting Collection

3. Launch a multi-touch campaign

Get Sales and Marketing aligned to make this work

We’ve found multi-touch campaigns to be very effective, but it takes both marketing and sales departments to make it work.

We use paid social ads, email drips, phone calls, and sometimes even direct mail to make sure, by the time the event rolls around, that our prospect knows who we are – and has us on their schedule at the show.

Target event leads with social ads

This is an easy win. Target your prospects with paid social media, advertising your presence at the event. You can also advertise free demos or other promotions.

Personalized email

Take that list from Step 3, that you segmented by customer vs. prospect, and create personalized email sequences for each.

Call cadence

If your company has an outbound sales team like ours does, share your lead list with the sales team and ask them to make some calls, inviting the prospect to book a meeting, schedule a demo – or at least stop by your booth.

The goal of all of this? To put your company on their radar and book a meeting – or at least stop by your booth.

There’s a webinar for that: The Ultimate Tradeshow Toolkit

4. Motivate attendees to stop by your booth or book a meeting

use org charts to prospect at trade shows


Keep your eyes on the prize

Your event strategy may change whether you’re just walking the floor or have a booth, but the goal is the same: To book a meeting or demo.

If you’re walking the event

If you’re not tethered to a booth, grab your list of leads and look at the event map. Jake Shaffren, our Director of Sales Development, circles the booths of his prospects and actually plots out a path on the event map. (Jake generally captures 10% of event attendees as future prospects, which we think is pretty great.)

If you have a booth

Of course you want a lot of traffic to your booth, so here’s where you can spend a little money. We like to give away raffle tickets for a high-ticket electronics item like an iPad or fitness tracker (… in exchange for a badge scan or business card, of course. Hey, nothing is free.)

Other good options are discount codes, product offers, and of course, company swag. This incentivizes people to stop by your booth but limits your spend. You still want a lot of activity around you’re booth, even if not everyone is a good-fit prospect.

Make sure that whoever is staffing the booth has a list of your prioritized accounts. When people approach your booth and introduce themselves, check to see if their company is on your list. If it is, you’ve got your lead – or at least a foot in the door!

Give your attention to attendees who are from your target accounts: Get their business card, scan their badge, or even connect with them on LinkedIn. Better yet, get them to agree to a meeting on the spot.

Remember, the objective is to book a meeting or a demo. Every conversation you have should take you a step closer to that goal.

5. Enrich your post-show leads


Business cards and badge-scans don’t tell the whole story

The event is done – but your job is not.

You now have two batches of contacts: 1.) Those who were on your priority list from the beginning, whom you were hopefully able to connect with at the show; and 2.) new names.

Because attendees don’t have to enter accurate information for a badge-scan, you’ll get a lot of garbage phone numbers, and titles for that list of new names:

  • Sales Rockstars
  • Account-Based Queens
  • Chief Robot Whisperer
  • Software Ninja

Details on business cards is usually reliable, though it’s not a lot of information.

So the next step to generate good event leads is to clean and enrich the lead data after the show: industry, company size, department budget, tech stack, and any planned projects are all great data points, if you can find them, to ensure your prospect is a good fit, and you’re not wasting your time.

If you have DiscoverOrg, you can use ListMatch + Person-Matching to upload a list of companies and employee names, and enrich the list with verified data like direct dial phone number, verified email address, company firmographics, technologies installed, org charts, and more, using a precise matching algorithm.

Otherwise, try to match prospects to existing accounts within your CRM, outsource the data enrichment to an outside research team, or do some internet research yourself.

No one wants to waste valuable time following up on leads that stand no chance of becoming customers. The goal of post-event data enrichment is the same: To determine if leads can be qualified for follow-up.

Read It: Improve Trade Show ROI with Pre- and Post-Show Marketing Strategies

6. Launch a follow up campaign


Turn those great show-floor conversations into meetings

No matter how perfect a prospect account is, it’s possible – even likely – that the person you connected with at the event is not the decision-maker for your product.

There are a lot more individual contributors at events than upper management (who actually have the ability to sign the dotted line and spend money on your solution).

If you engaged directly with decision-makers at the show – fantastic! Give them a call, and don’t wait more than two days to do it. Remind them of your meeting and conversation, and ask for a demo.

If your research reveals that the names you got are not actually in a buying position – that’s OK too! Call or email and ask for a referral to a decision maker.

It’s the same laser focus at every step: Get a meeting. Book a demo.

So many sales reps and marketers walk into a trade show, look around the room, and become completely overwhelmed. They’ll talk to anyone willing to listen, go home with a stack of business cards … and are never able to return the kind of ROI that their leadership team is looking for from expensive events.

If you’re looking around the conference room or trade show wondering where to start, it’s already too late.

To really turn those great conversations into revenue, lay the groundwork beforehand – and keep your eye on the goal!

Contact us today to see how we can boost your trade-show lead generation!


Cheer up. Check out the industry’s most reliable B2B contact data.



Verified phone numbers and emails—straight to the decision maker.


Charity Heller
About the author

Charity Heller

Content Strategist, DiscoverOrg

Charity Heller, DiscoverOrg's content strategy manager, has been developing, composing, and editing content since age 2. Before her dive into content marketing, she founded and operated a book-editing company for 10 years. Charity has a B.A. in English literature, Professional Editing Certification from U.C. Berkeley, and she's a certified Project Manager.