Trade shows take up so. Much. Energy. You plan, you stress out, you set up, and then you network the heck out of everyone and hand out business cards like confetti on New Year’s Eve. With good reason, of course; trade shows are prime opportunities to make new and valuable business connections. But the work doesn’t end when the booths come down.

Half the challenge of trade show networking comes down to two simple words: Follow. Up.

If you want to get the maximum returns on the investment you made in your trade show, a prompt reaction afterwards is essential. According to Brian Sun of AutoPilot (an excellent email automation service), “The month after your trade show is prime time for converting these lukewarm leads into a sale. Since they handed over their contact information, odds are they still remember you, which leaves the door open to connect… Generating trade show leads is hard work. If you don’t follow up, you fail.”

1. Create a CRM Database of Your Contacts

If this isn’t second-nature to you yet, it should be. We live in a digital age now. Business cards are fantastic to collect because they’re brief and tangible, but for heaven’s sake, don’t stop there.

Put all of that golden contact information into a spreadsheet where you can utilize it!

These people gave you their phone numbers and their email addresses and told you that they were interested in what you do. It’s an invitation for a one-time follow-up; so make sure you have all the information you could possibly want nearby, in order to make that connection meaningful when you instigate it.

2. Structure Your Outreach

This is where email marketing automation software (like AutoPilot, Mailchimp, and others) really brings home the bacon for you. Load all of the data from your business card collection into your network, and segment your prospects appropriately. You could do this by industry (metal manufacturers versus construction versus shipping), or simply by interest (lukewarm connections versus hot leads).

Next, arrange a scheduled communication strategy for each of them, which will appeal to their interests and offer a range of calls to action to increase or prolong their engagement.

Any data that you uncover, from click-throughs to downloads to outright phone calls, will help you organize your priorities.

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3. Send Video That Teases Your Next Event

Besides sending out footage of the past trade show that the two of you experienced, don’t be afraid to launch the link to a “sizzle” or trailer for your next important trade show or conference – so long as it’s relevant to the recipients, of course.

Invite your prospects to connect again and explore a new setting that could hold new opportunities for them.

The next trade show on your radar could provide specific solutions to the problems your contacts discussed with you; not to mention it’s an opportunity to wine and dine them a tiny bit, but with less pressure.

4. Try Leaving A Video Voicemail

It used to be that trade show follow-ups meant long hours on the phone, often leaving voicemails for message machines. But now that technology has changed, why not try something a bit… different?

Use your webcam to record a personalized message from you, and even include a snapshot of your face (or the two of you at the trade show) as the video thumbnail in your message. Then follow up as usual: express your interest in working together, any solutions you can offer them, and ask for another in-person meeting.

Sending a one-on-one video message shows that you’re intent and personally invested in pursuing this business relationship.

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The picture that you display, before they even click on the play button, reminds them who you are – and the entire experience refreshes their memory of how well you connected on the floor. If you prefer face-to-face networking over phone lines any day, video voicemail will definitely be a new tactic with which you’ll fall in love.

5. Get Creative!

Video voicemail is just one of many ways you can put a new twist on old-fashioned networking tactics. “Branching out” may look different depending on who you are and what you’re used to. Maybe you can make more of an effort to follow and re-post your new connections on Twitter. Or maybe you’ll arrange for them to meet a colleague of yours that has dealt with similar business challenges.

Whatever methods you choose, the key is to make things as personal as possible to strengthen your connection.

Trade shows are still a key part of networking, and they’re still one of the best gold mines for new contacts. But you need to be certain that you’re making the most of every prospect and putting in the necessary effort to build those relationships. So if a lot of these tips sound nifty but digital marketing or strategic video campaigns are new territory for you, give us a shout and we’ll guide you through the process based on the resources you have at hand. You might just find a video voicemail waiting in your inbox, too.