Trade show success does not necessarily go to the team with the flashiest booth. The best leads are developed by those who put the most work into their event strategy. They target the clients with whom they want to establish or reinforce a relationship, and they have a plan to do it.

#5 Making pickiness pay

All trade shows are not created equal. The sort of event that generates leads and may even convert on the spot is the one that features a vertical slice of the market. This permits attendees to interact with suppliers and market to potential clients. Trade shows can be particularly good ways to penetrate new markets, particularly international events that can result in business relationships in entirely new areas.

#4 Cyberstalk for success

Success at a trade show begins with preparation. The first step is identifying targets. The show’s web site usually has a list of attendees, and will certainly list speakers. Each company and each speaker should be considered as a marketing target. Some shows will have LinkedIn groups just for the show, which can provide an opportunity to interact with other attendees. Searching the show’s Twitter hashtag can yield valuable information, and Facebook may provide a certain amount of data, as well.

#3 Expand the schedule

Since trade shows exist to enable interactions between clients and businesses, exploit every opportunity to do just that. Definitely schedule meetings with prospects at your booth. And also set up lunches, dinners and even breakfasts with likely prospects. Every meal that you eat with only your colleagues is a lost opportunity. If you’re looking for a lot of new foot traffic, consider offering refreshments and drinks in custom water bottles, mugs and glasses. This means that prospects will walk away with your logo and contact information on an item that they’ll keep and reuse at home or in the office.

#2 Preserve the data

Do not be afraid to have a laptop or iPad open at the booth, tied directly to your firm’s CRM database. Get the prospect’s data gets where it needs to be from the moment of the first contact so vital information can be preserved before memory fades and pencil scrawls on the back of business cards smear into illegibility.

#1 Preserve the connection

Immediately connect to the newly developed contacts using social media. Tweet a thank you, and provide a link to a page where they can get additional information about your product or service. Connect on LinkedIn, and follow target companies on Facebook. If feasible, arrange further face-to-face encounters. In any case, carry the relationship forward.

Bonus point: Get creative with your trade show merchandise. Don’t do what everybody’s doing, try thinking outside the box, but on-brand.