How to Follow up with Leads After a Trade Show or Conference

You attended a trade show, conference, or another type of event where you connected with sales leads, but what do you do with those leads when you get back to the office? You need a follow-up strategy and a process in place to ensure those business cards don’t end up in a pile on your desk where they’re forgotten.

Following are four important parts of a strong trade show or conference follow-up strategy that you can use to increase the return on your event investments.

1.  Categorize Your Leads

Your first goal when a conference or trade show ends is to determine who you connected with and which leads have the potential to turn into a sale. Depending on how you participated in a trade show or event, you may have collected business cards and contact information for a wide variety of people, and it’s likely that only a quarter of them are real sales prospects. 

Therefore, you need to categorize your leads based on the information you have about each one. This is why it’s so important to write notes on the back of business cards whenever you can)! Categories could include sales prospects, potential partners, vendors, journalists, industry influencers, competitors, and more. 

Another way to categorize leads is based on how you interacted with them during the trade show or conference. For example, let’s imagine you had a booth at a trade show where you offered product demos. You could categorize leads after the show in the three ways: 

  • People who watched an actual demo at your booth
  • People who simply spoke to a team member at your booth but didn’t watch a product demo
  • People your team didn’t speak with but whose business cards you acquired 

Depending on how people engaged with you at your booth, you can make an educated guess as to where they are in the buyer journey and how you should follow up with them, which leads directly to parts #2 through #4 below.

2. Qualify Your Sales Prospect Leads

With your list of sales prospect leads in hand, it’s time to gauge each prospect’s interest in your product or services so you can identify where they are in your sales pipeline. In other words, further categorize your sales leads as cold, warm, or hot depending on how ready they are to buy a solution to a problem they’re having.

For example, a cold lead is someone who is not in the buying cycle yet or is at the very early stages of the buying cycle while a warm lead is already actively researching solutions, and a hot lead is ready to make a purchase decision.

In addition, use your notes from the event and secondary research to learn more about each lead so you can determine where they are in the sales pipeline and what authority they have to make buying decisions. Review each lead’s company website, their LinkedIn Profile, their contact and license information in the Cannabiz Media License Database, and so on to get as much information as possible to properly qualify them as a cold, warm, or hot lead.

3. Match Leads to the Best Follow-up Strategy

When you know which stage of the buyer journey sales prospects are in, you can connect with them in the best way to move them to the next stage. Every lead doesn’t need a phone call, but some leads absolutely need a phone call sooner rather than later.

For example, hot sales leads should be handed over to the right salesperson for one-to-one follow up via email or phone. Additionally, the salesperson should follow the prospect on social media and engage with them to build a relationship.

Warm leads should go directly into an email marketing nurturing program. This applies to customer prospects, potential partners, and other lead categories that you want to build relationships with so you can reach future goals.

Cold leads shouldn’t be abandoned if there is a possibility that they could want or need your products and services in the future. Add them to an email marketing nurturing program that keeps your brand top-of-mind. 

Discard leads that are not your target audience. This includes your competitors. You don’t want the wrong audience to get your email marketing messages and negatively engage with them. Their negative engagement or lack of engagement could hurt the deliverability of all of your email marketing campaigns in the future, so it’s critical that you remove them from your email list.

4. Send Post-Event Email Marketing Follow-up Messages

Within a week of a trade show or conference, it’s important to send a series of messages to warm and cold sales prospects to start building on the relationship you started at the event (note that hot leads should be contacted one-to-one, not in bulk email marketing follow-up campaigns). I came up with the four Rs for post-event email marketing so you can do this successfully.


First, you need to re-introduce yourself so recipients remember who you are. In this message, you should offer to answer any questions they have and provide help if they need it. Include a call to action that tells them to contact you with questions or for help.


The second message should go out two or three days after the Re-introduce message and should remind recipients of any offers you promoted during the event and/or any post-event offers. Make sure you include deadlines for your offers so the message creates a sense of urgency. The call to action should lead to the next logical step to take advantage of the offer.


One week after you send your Remind message, you can send your Re-engage message to continue nurturing recipients with useful, helpful information. This message should educate, inform, and connect the dots between what you talked about at the show and what you offer on your website. Therefore, linking to blog posts, videos, or images on your website is very effective. Include a call to action to contact you with questions or for more details.


Don’t let prospects get away. Research shows it typically takes five to seven email messages for a lead to respond to a sales person (assuming they’re in the stage of the buying process that they’re actually considering a product or service like yours). Therefore, you need to continue nurturing them with useful, engaging content to further build a relationship and brand trust. They may not be ready to buy today, but you want to be top-of-mind if they’re ready to buy in the future. 

Consider sending nurturing messages once per week or bi-weekly. The call to action in these messages can lead to content on your website (blog posts, videos, visualizations, and so on) or to a contact form depending on the message.

Key Takeaways to Follow up with Leads After a Trade Show

The key to following up with leads after a trade show is to take the time to understand who each lead is and where they are in the buying cycle (if they’re a sales prospect). With that information, you can plan a follow-up strategy with phone calls and email marketing that enables you to close more sales now and in the future.

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