Setting up a booth at your industry’s premier trade show is a great way to bolster your annual marketing strategy. It’s important to recognize however that as you begin to disassemble your booth, the effort to make the show worthwhile is just the beginning.

Don’t get me wrong, making sure you walk away from a show with a number of qualified leads is important, but not nearly as important as taking the time to strategize an effective way to follow up with potential buyers in the following weeks and months.

Before identifying a few tips to make your follow up plan a little more structured and easier to roll out, I felt that it was important to share two key statistics with you.

First, the average business to business (B2B) organization spends roughly 20% of their marketing budget (according to a recent Forrester study) attending trade shows. As someone that attends trade shows regularly, this number may or may not come as a surprise to you. Having said that, a study conducted in 2010 concluded that less than 70% of exhibitors had a concrete strategy on how they planned to follow up with their leads after the show. When you consider how much is at stake, it’s somewhat shocking to learn that some companies simply aren’t prepared or equipped to convert their hard-earned leads into sales.

1. An Expeditious Response is Vital

Waiting until you return from the trade show is much too late to create your follow up campaign. In fact, your trained staff should know exactly how and when you’ll contact prospective buyers before you even get to the event.

If the number of anticipated captured leads is substantial, consider making use of ready-made email templates to efficiently distribute as many responses as possible in less time. It’s important to remember however that each one should in some way be tailored to the individual in order to build on the relationship you established at the trade show.

Avoid the use of cookie cutter correspondence; if you’re using the same template as last year, be sure to include relevant information from the most current show – there’s no quicker way to get your communication ignored than by putting little effort in your follow up emails.

2. Use a Specific Call to Action to Uncover Hot Leads

Following-up means that you’re getting the opportunity to unravel the potential buyer’s needs. For that reason, it’s important to avoid ubiquitous calls to action like, “Click here to LEARN MORE!”. Instead, give them a few very specific options to choose from such as, “Request a demo” or “View recent updates on product XYZ”. These specific asks can help you figure out what else the buyer might be interested in, and perhaps more importantly, how ready they might be to buy.

3. Walk a Fine Line Between Promotional and Sales-y

Granted, the whole idea of following up with leads is to get them to make a purchase. What you want to avoid at all costs is overloading the buyer with too much information in this initial communication, or worse, information they simply don’t need. As you prepare your email, refer to your notes from the show. What did you talk about with this lead? What product or service were they interested in? Be sure that your email is centered around the need the two of you discussed on the trade show floor, and create excitement around the potential solution.

4. Make it Easy for the Lead to Contact the Sales Team Directly

Occasionally, a lead is ready to buy from the word go. When you send out the email, be sure to include the contact information of the sales rep they spoke to at the show. This makes it easy for them to contact the person they need to speak to in order to place their order. Doing this will help your client avoid the unnecessary task of having to locate your sales team’s contact information on your website, and expedite the conversion.

5. Include a Photo

Since there could literally have been hundreds of exhibitors at the trade show, include a photo of your booth (preferably a photo taken that shows numerous interactions between your staff and attendees) to remind them again of your company. This is especially important if you offer a product or service that’s similar to one of your competitors – it’d be a shame to lose out on a sale over a case of mistaken identity!

Remember, as important as a trade show might be, it won’t amount to much if you don’t take the time to communicate properly with your leads afterwards. If you’ve taken the time to invest in exhibiting at a trade show, so too must you invest in following up.