The days of collecting business cards at trade shows are over. Isn’t that a relief? Marketing automation has greatly moved the marketing industry forward, but with trade shows especially it’s a game changer. Even just a few years ago I remember standing in a booth asking visitors for business cards and fretting about the laborious task of entering all that data into Salesforce. The inefficiency of it all makes me cringe! But alas, Pardot rode in like a knight in shining armor and swept me off my feet and now trade show marketing will never be the same. Here are three can’t miss strategies to take your upcoming trade show to the next level.

Start from the Very Beginning

Invite prospects to your booth before the show even begins. If you have ever been to Salesforce’s upcoming event, Dreamforce, then you’re familiar with the never-ending Cloud Expo floor. If not, just imagine the biggest room you’ve ever seen with booths upon booths. It’s actually so big, they have to split it into two separate buildings! If you’re exhibiting at a large trade show like Dreamforce, inviting prospects to your booth before they arrive is imperative, otherwise they may never know you were even there.

Pardot helps you put this into practice. Prior to the event, some trade shows provide attendee lists to all exhibitors. If you receive a list, you’re golden! Load that list into Pardot, create a Pardot Campaign specific to your trade show and develop an email and landing page combination that highlights your booth location and overall presence at the event. If you aren’t able to get your hands on an attendee list, use an attendee list from a previous year, or create a dynamic list in Pardot based off the industry you’re targeting. You might also build the list based on geography — send it to anyone within a 60-120 mile radius of your event, especially if it’s a smaller show. In your email, make the prospects aware and excited about any awesome giveaways or fun activities in your booth. Include a form on your landing page that prospects can fill out if they want to meet with your team one-on-one during the event.

Bonus: Add custom redirect links in your internal employees’ email signature highlighting the event. These links will lead back to the landing page. You will increase impressions and start conversations with your prospects and customers.

Do Away with the Business Cards

It’s time for the trade show! Make the most of your time at the event by using Pardot to capture prospects who come by your booth. Set up a form to capture all relevant information (Keep it short! Three to four form fields are plenty.) and check the “Kiosk/Data Entry Mode” in the Advanced tab of the Look and Feel step. You will want to enable this feature so your device is not tracked across multiple prospects. The form can display on a tablet that prospects can fill out to be entered into a giveaway or a demo. Add a completion action to add the prospects to a Salesforce Campaign associated with the event and set their status to “Visited Booth.” This will allow you to easily segment those prospects once the event is over.

Bonus: Create an autoresponder email as a completion action on your form. Thank the prospects for visiting you at your booth and include some links to relevant content. When they get back home and sort through their inboxes, they’ll remember you!

The Fun Doesn’t Stop Here

Great job! You survived another trade show and you’re thanking me because you don’t have a million business cards to enter into Salesforce. You’re welcome. Now it’s time to follow up with those prospects who stopped by your booth, as well as those who you weren’t able to meet. Don’t drop the ball here! It’s easy to thank prospects for attending and move on. Spend the time putting together content about who you are and what you offer.

The best way to follow up with prospects you may or may not have met is by using Pardot’s Engagement Studio. For prospects you invited to the booth but didn’t stop by, a “Sorry we missed you” program can include emails with links to content like recorded trainings, new features and upcoming webinars. Send along white papers and case studies to stay top of mind over the next few months. Engagement Studio can “listen” for when prospects do engage, allowing you to run “actions” such as Add to campaign, Adjust Score or Assign to User. For prospects who made it to your booth, a program thanking them can include links to more content you didn’t send in your autoresponder. Use your program to advance these prospect down your buyer’s cycle. You’ll be surprised by how many prospects will then engage with a sales rep and mention stopping by your booth at last year’s show.

Bonus: Make sure all of your assets are stored neatly in a relevant folder and/or tagged appropriately so that when next year rolls around, you won’t have to start from scratch because you’ll have your processes and assets in place and should only need to tweak minor details.

Trade shows are a lot of work! So many components go into making them successful. Take the time to plan out how your company will engage with your prospects pre-event, at the event and post-event. Using marketing automation for those touchpoints will make your overall event experience much more efficient and seamless.