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3 Data-Driven Winning and Losing Strategies for Building Materials Manufacturers at Trade Shows

Every year, building material companies spend hundred of thousands, if not millions, of dollars on trade shows, but they rarely are able to report on the ROI from these expensive events.

September 10th, 2018



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Trade show exhibits and visitors are dwindling each year, and we suspect it’s for this very reason. Don’t give up on your trade show schedule just yet. Just change your strategy. Today, Zach and Beth are talking about how building materials manufacturers can create a truly successful follow-up campaign for all those leads you meet at trade shows, including exactly what to do before, during, and after the trade show to gain leads, grow sales and get serious ROI for your trade show efforts.

More About This Show

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales, and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this episode, Zach and Beth show you how to drive traffic to your booth and qualify leads while they’re still on-site.

If you prefer the written word over listening to the full podcast, we’ve got all the details you need below.

Trade shows are one of the places where we see the most room for improvement for building materials manufacturers to drive their ROI.

Just having a presence isn’t enough and there are a lot of companies making the same mistakes over and over again.

The biggest common issue we see is not having an approach for what you want to accomplish. You need to think through your strategy in advance of attending.

Many of our clients wonder if they should go to trade shows or not because it’s expensive. There seems to be a drop in attendance across most trade shows in recent years, and manufacturers are having a difficult time proving their ROI.

Since the investment to be an exhibitor at a trade show is so large, it’s vital that you know why you’re going and to have a goal not just for while you’re there, but also for when you get back.

If you want to see a better return on your trade show investments, we’ll show you several opportunities to drive that growth.

First, let’s go over common mistakes to avoid at trade shows then we’ll wrap up with the three best winning strategies for an immediate ROI.

Mistake #1:

Lack of Purpose


Before you send your sales team to a trade show, ask yourself why you actually want your company to attend. You probably want to make contacts and get leads, but in order to do that successfully, you need to create a compelling story for your trade show booth.

Too frequently when we attend these events, we’ll ask a building materials rep about their product, and they immediately dive into how old the company is, where they’re located, and that their product is great.

But here’s the problem with that pitch: it’s not a story, it’s a history. And it’s easily forgettable.

Instead, you need to define what your booth visitors are looking for ahead of time.

Don’t just go to trade shows to get face to face time with your biggest customers. While that certainly is important, you’re missing a huge opportunity to grow your business with new leads.

So go into it with a purpose-driven focus that you want to capture new, warm leads in addition to networking with your existing clients.

Mistake #2:

Not Training Your Sales Team


Once you decide to grow your leads at a trade show, you only have a limited amount of time to capture the attention of your booth visitors. Your sales team needs to immediately communicate what makes your product better than all of the competition.

This is especially true because all of those competitors probably have booths around you.

Zach once went to a trade show and stopped at a railing company’s booth. Incidentally, the booth was surrounded by other railing companies.

When he asked the sales person why their product was better than the others at the trade show, all he said was “Well, we stand for quality, durability, and integrity.” Then he tried to get Zach to enter a raffle.

If Zach had been a builder or an architect, he wouldn’t have had any questions answered about why he should choose that railing product over any other he saw at the show that day.

Prepare your sales team with answers that are impactful and that will get booth visitors interested in engaging further with your brand.

To do this, organize a quick pre-show meeting and give your sales staff a theme for that specific trade show. If you’re going to AIA, make sure they focus on high-end design, quality, and getting a boutique look. When you go to Greenbuild, you need to hone in on your company’s green message and why you’re better than your competitors.

These trade shows are way too fast-paced for you to simply let your sales team wing it. You need to prepare them with the right elevator pitch that revolves around the trade show theme and matches up with the attending audience’s pain points.

Also convey your company’s goal in that pre-meeting. Is the goal to scan badges and follow up later? Are you testing out a new market?

It’s worth the additional prep time so that you can avoid just going through the motions at every trade show. You really want to maximize your efforts in order for them to actually pay off.

Mistake #3:

Not Doing Anything with Leads You Collect from Trade Shows


When we talk to building materials manufacturers and ask what they do with their trade show leads, we’re always surprised by how frequently they don’t have a plan. After all, your company spends so much time and money to exhibit at these shows, you need to have some sort of follow up plan in place.

You don’t have to be a huge company to make this work. Zach recently went to a trade show and when he got back, one of the smallest manufacturers he met with sent an extremely personalized email about the conversation they had at the booth.

A week later, he got another personalized email. So it’s not about your size, it’s about your execution plan. Don’t let those contacts sit in an Excel file; make sure you actually do something with them after the trade show.

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid at your next trade show, we’re going to show you three proven strategies for increasing your ROI each time.

Winning Strategy #1:

Geo-Targeting the Event


A really easy way you can get attention both before and during the event is to use geo-targeted ads. You can do this through Google Adwords or social media outlets, and it basically lets you target people by their geographic location—meaning specifically people at the tradeshow location. These ads allow trade show attendees to discover you and your booth information on Google and you have the opportunity to attract new prospects to your booth by educating them as to why they should come to your booth and learn more.

If you’re at a large trade show like IBS or KBIS, you may or may not have a prime booth location. Geo-targeted notifications can help alert people to where you are and what’s happening at your booth.

Creating a geo-targeted ad strategy ahead of time means driving more traffic to your booth to help you and your sales team be exponentially more effective while you’re there, no matter where your booth is located.

Winning Strategy #2:

Continuing Education Continues to Bring the Crowd


We recently did a survey on what builders and architects want from manufacturers, and the biggest response was that they’re looking for education on the industry.

As a building materials manufacturer, you need to figure out how you can help educate and add value to your audience while at a trade show. One of our favorite examples of this is GAF.

They had a huge crowd the entire time at IBS because they offered session after session on helpful topics like how to use their product better, how contractors and builders can grow their businesses, and how to use social media.


These sessions kept people in the booth while building the company’s brand. It also helps to keep GAF at the top of people’s minds when it comes time for them to consider a roofing product to purchase.

Valuable content gets people to associate broader question and issues with your brand. Plus, it brings them back to your website or blog to find helpful content, which then increases the opportunity for leads to reach back out to you.

On top of that, any type of value-driven content at your trade show booth builds trust. If leads know that you’re spending money on education and bringing them value, they’re likely to think that the rest of your brand is just as great.

One final bonus? A crowded booth means more badges to scan—which leads us to our final winning strategy for building trade show leads.

Winning Strategy #3:

Qualify Leads While They’re in the Booth


This strategy may sound complex, but we promise you it’s not.

Here’s how it works:

At all trade shows, you typically have access to some sort of badge scanner. The technology may vary, but you can usually add in questions or notes from your conversations with booth visitors.

The key here is to get your sales team to categorize leads while they’re still in the booth. They don’t need to answer a ton of super specific questions, like how familiar someone is with your brand.

Instead, they can listen for key indicators that tell them if a person is a hot lead, like if they’re asking lots of questions about your product or currently working on a relevant project.

All of those factors serve as a tip off that they’re a strong lead and should be placed into an aggressive follow up campaign involving personalized emails.

Let’s look at the numbers on this one. You might not be able to qualify every single person you talk to at a big trade show like IBS. But even if you can be just a bit proactive and target 25% of your visitors, that’s automatically 25 to 50 people who are hot leads.

You can then initiate that assertive follow up and even if you receive an active response from just 20% of those individuals, you’ll start to see your trade show efforts turn into actual sales.

Wrapping Up

Always create a clear goal that involves more than just getting traffic to your booth or making the boss happy. Your building materials company needs to really show up and take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to further segment your audience.

By doing this in real time, you’ll create a much clearer path not only developing that list of leads, but actually converting them into sales.

Need some help with strategizing for your next trade show? We’d love to help. Reach out to us at [email protected].

Ready to hit your goals?