How LinkedIn Can Turn an Awful Trade Show Attendee List into Prospecting Gold

Ahh the coveted trade show attendee list.

These lists are like the Holy Grail to B2B companies that exhibit at industry trade shows. As a former trade show coordinator for a manufacturing company, I remember how ecstatic I was when I got a “good” list that included every important piece of contact information I needed to reach out to my target prospects before the show.

I also remember the dismay I felt when I got “bad” lists that contained little more than the company and attendee name.

Even when I did get a “good” list it was still a tireless journey trying to reach out to my prospects on the phone. They would have objections like “I only make appointments with certain companies and I’ve never heard of you before” or  “Oh yeah Mr. Insert Name isn’t available right now and I don’t know when he’ll be back.”

If I tried to send them an email I was still only met with limited success. The prospect either gave a phony email address, never saw it because their inbox was too full, the email was sent to the junk mail folder, or they simply ignored it because they didn’t know me.

Talk about a headache!3d supervisor manager in chair

If your company goes to multiple trade shows each season, then you know how much of a hassle all this is. There is good news- LinkedIn can help you make your pre-trade show prospecting MUCH easier.

Not only will you have a higher chance of someone actually reading your message, but you’ll also be able to stay on your prospect’s mind year round. A lot better than cold calling for an appointment, right?

Let’s dive into how you can turn those trade show lists (no matter how “good” or “bad” they are) into your own personal treasure map to a successful show.

What to do when the attendee list includes company name, contact name, and email:

Jackpot! This is the best case scenario and you can breathe a sigh of relief because your job has been made a lot easier. All you have to do is take the email addresses given, put them into a csv file, and do a bulk upload to LinkedIn. (If you don’t know how to do that check out this handy how-to article explaining the process).  If the email addresses you uploaded are associated with a LinkedIn account then you’ll be able to send that person a connection request.

If you’re wondering “What if the email isn’t associated with a LinkedIn account?” then you’ll find this next scenario helpful…

What to do if the attendee list doesn’t include email addresses or the attendee gave a bogus email address:

While it won’t be as simple as uploading a csv file, this tiny obstacle is easily solved. If you at least have the attendee’s name and company name you can find them on LinkedIn. All you have to do is plug this information into the advanced people search and it will help you track them down. If you have some bonus information like where the company is located or the current title of the attendee this will narrow your search even more.

What to do if the attendee list doesn’t give you a contact name, only the company name:

When you receive a list like this from the trade show company it is usually followed by a gloomy, heart sinking feeling. It’s like a little rain cloud decided to park itself right over your desk and refuses to leave. I’ve had that feeling plenty of times. That was until I figured out I can use LinkedIn to combat the evil gatekeepers and find the attendees’ names. This process takes a little bit longer, but when you’re given a pathetic list like that it is most definitely worth it.

So here is what you need to do:

First, you’ll want to search for the company on LinkedIn. When you pull up the company page it will show all the company’s employees that are on LinkedIn in the upper right hand corner and you’ll want to click on the link to bring them all up. Now if it’s a small company, weeding through the employees to find the person you’re looking for will be an easy task.

If it’s a large company, you will want to filter your results so that you can narrow it down and reach out to a few people who are most likely to be the person you’re looking for. You can do this by clicking on the advanced search button up on the top of your screen again and then filtering by keywords like “buyer,” “merchandising,”“sourcing” or any other term that would apply to the person attending the show.

Let’s say you find the perfect person at that target company, and you want to send them a connection request, but they are too far out of your network. You’ll know when this is the case because when you look at their profile it will only say their first name and last initial (e.g John S.) and you only have the option to send an InMail. Don’t worry, we have you covered. Use this handy little trick to bypass the problem and send them a connection invite.

I found the people & connected with them….now what?

Great question! The answer is: reach out to them!

Now that you’re connected with them you want to start engaging with them. This does not mean send them some overly promotional “me, me, me” type of canned email. You want to start a relationship with them so that they don’t just do a quick walk by your booth. You want them to know you, like you, and continue to come back and see you year after year.

The most successful companies at trade shows are the ones that have a loyal following from their customer base. Those are the companies that your prospects are turning down appointments with you for. If you need help figuring out how you can gain this cult like following take some tips from these posts:

Why I Never Respond to my LinkedIn InMails

So You Bought an Email List. Now What?

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