Gene Sower, Samson Media President, at NJ Biz Expo 09

Not only do I attend several trade shows a year as a way to network with people and see what’s out there, but I also exhibit at trade shows as a way to meet new prospects and grow my business.

Many shows, like the pet industry Super Zoo show, also give all registered exhibitors a list of all the show attendees as an added value for exhibiting at the show.

But while anyone who attends a trade show or business expo accepts the fact that the business cards they drop into that bowl or the show pass that’s scanned will result in some type of follow up, how much is too much, and when does “follow-up” cross the threshold into SPAMMING and the equivalent of cyberstalking?

Here are several things to keep in mind to make sure you don’t rub your prospects the wrong way when following up trade show leads.

TIP 1.  OFFER VALUE:  As with any types of follow-up communications, whether it be email, direct mail or phone calls, include some value in the follow-up communications.  Offer a discount, free shipping, a special report—something that your prospects will be glad to receive.  Yes, it takes more work and forethought but it will increase the likelyhood of your prospect responding positively and welcoming future communications.

2.  LESS IS MORE:  Nobody likes to get a flood of follow-up emails.  It’s impractical and just plain annoying.  A good rule of thumb is 2 – 3 communications leading into the show, and then 1 immediately after the show and perhaps one per month after that.  Any more than that will wear out your welcome — fast!

3.  PERMISSION ONLY, PLEASE!:  Make sure every email communications along the way, both before and after, offers the ability for your prospect and customers to opt out of receiving future email communications.   Permission-based email marketing is the ONLY way to go the distance and maintain a long-term relationship with your prospects and customers.  This will separate you from being a spammer. 

4.  USE RESTRAINT:  You don’t want to kill the Golden Goose.  Remember, your prospect is also receiving follow-ups from dozens of other companies pursuing their business.  Don’t abuse the access you’ve been given.  How to stay on your prospects good side?  See Tip #1.