Lead Qualifying

Trade Show Marketing Strategy: Bridging Sales and Marketing Gap

Trade Show Marketing Strategy: Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

Trade shows are a major player in today’s sales strategies for companies worldwide. 72% of exhibitors attend trade shows for lead generation. But here’s the puzzling part: only 15% of companies are actually following up with leads post-show, and 94% of marketers believe their company fails to convert event leads into opportunities.

Why? If companies attend trade shows and events for lead generation, why are so many opportunities falling through the cracks? Why do companies pour money into events and trade show marketing without actually capitalizing on the valuable leads? Why aren’t the sales reps chomping at the bit to call those trade show leads back?

It’s because there’s a disconnect between sales and marketing when it comes to trade shows. Sales and marketing teams have different ideas of what makes an event successful, and what a good lead looks like. As a result, sales thinks trade show leads are garbage, and marketing thinks sales isn’t doing their job.

Let’s take a look at this problem we commonly see at trade shows and how to align the sales and marketing teams:

How to Get Marketing and Sales In Alignment at Trade Shows

Here's what often happens after a trade show:

Marketing comes back and says: "Wow, look at all these leads we collected for Sales! We did a great job at the event!"

Sales goes through the leads and says: "Are there any real leads in here? These trade show leads are garbage."

So why don't sales and marketing agree on leads? Because there is a disconnect between what marketing and sales considers a good lead. Marketing is likely to treat all leads the same, while sales only wants the hottest, most qualified leads.

What Makes A Lead Hot, Warm, or Cold?

Hot Leads

  • Has existing pain point that matches your product/service
  • Buying timeline is right away or within a couple months
  • Has the budget/buying authority
  • Asks for a next steps (demo, follow-up call, etc)
  • Typically goes to sales (also called an SQL)

Warm Leads

Aware they have a problem but may not be actively searching for a solutions

Buying timeline is soon but not immediate (6-12 months)

Working on finalizing budget

Scoping out options and in researching stage

Typically go to marketing of business development as MQL's

Cold Leads

  • Don't know that have a problem or about solutions
  • Not ready to buy yet. Need more time
  • Lacks buying authority and/or budget
  • Possibly only came by for the free swag
  • Typically go to Marketing or Business development

End Goal

The goal is to capture prospect information at events so the most qualified leads get routed straight to sales post-show. Then sales only focuses on the hottest leads and the other leads can enter a nurture campaign. This will help teams close more deals and increase event ROI.

In the fast-paced world of business, trade shows remain a vital avenue for networking, showcasing products, and generating leads. However, all too often, the potential of these leads is lost due to a misalignment between sales and marketing teams. To truly harness the power of trade show lead generation, it is imperative for organizations to ensure that their sales and marketing teams work in harmony, particularly when it comes to lead qualification. In this blog, we'll delve into the importance of aligning these two crucial departments and explore strategies to streamline trade show lead qualification for optimal results.

Understanding the Divide

Sales and marketing teams often operate with distinct objectives, priorities, and metrics. While marketing focuses on building brand awareness and creating demand, sales aim to close deals and drive revenue. This inherent divide can lead to a lack of synergy when it comes to lead qualification, where marketing might generate a large number of leads, but sales may find a significant portion of them unqualified or not ready for conversion.

The Consequences of Misalignment

When sales and marketing teams fail to align on trade show lead qualification, several negative outcomes can arise:

  1. Wasted Resources: Unqualified leads can consume valuable time and effort from the sales team, diverting their focus from high-potential prospects.
  2. Missed Opportunities: Valuable leads might slip through the cracks due to inadequate communication and lack of timely follow-up.
  3. Frustration and Demotivation: A disjointed lead qualification process can lead to frustration among team members, resulting in demotivation and decreased morale.
  4. Inaccurate Analytics: Misalignment can skew data analysis and reporting, making it challenging to assess the true effectiveness of trade show efforts.

Strategies for Alignment

To bridge the gap between sales and marketing teams and enhance trade show lead qualification, consider implementing these strategies:

  1. Pre-Event Planning: Encourage collaborative planning between sales and marketing before the trade show. Define the ideal customer profile and set clear criteria for lead qualification. This shared understanding ensures that both teams are on the same page from the start.
  2. Real-Time Communication: Establish seamless communication channels between sales and marketing teams during the event. This enables immediate feedback on lead quality and facilitates quick adjustments in targeting and messaging.
  3. Lead Scoring Framework: Develop a lead scoring system that combines demographic, behavioral, and engagement data. Assign scores to leads based on their fit with the ideal customer profile and their level of engagement with your brand.
  4. Feedback Loop: Implement a structured process for sales to provide feedback on lead quality. This loop allows marketing to fine-tune their strategies and adjust lead generation efforts accordingly.
  5. Marketing Automation: Leverage marketing automation tools to segment and nurture leads based on their scores and behaviors. This ensures that leads receive relevant and timely information, increasing their readiness for sales engagement.
  6. Regular Alignment Meetings: Schedule regular meetings between sales and marketing teams to discuss lead quality, share insights, and address challenges. These meetings foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.
  7. Shared Goals and Incentives: Align the goals and incentives of both teams to encourage cooperation. Consider implementing joint performance metrics that emphasize not only lead quantity but also lead quality and conversion rates.


In the dynamic landscape of trade show lead generation, the alignment of sales and marketing teams is paramount to success. By breaking down silos and fostering collaboration, organizations can effectively qualify leads generated from trade shows, maximizing their potential for conversion and revenue generation. Through pre-event planning, streamlined communication, data-driven lead scoring, and ongoing collaboration, businesses can transform trade show participation into a well-coordinated effort that drives meaningful results and propels the company towards growth and success.

Trade Show Infographic

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