We've been talking about getting the most out of your trade show visits in our last two columns in this space. Here's one more important tip: get a badge scanner and be sure to use it early and use it often.
You are spending good money to go to a trade show and get new business. With a badge scanner (or badge reader), the complete contact information of each person stopping by your booth will be saved for you with one swipe. It is often much easier than fumbling around for business cards.
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Renting a badge scanner does cost money. However, the alternative of buying the attendee pre- and/or post-show lists can cost more, and ususally aren't as good as the ones you get yourself. The names you receive through the badge scanner are people who've stopped by your booth and had a personal contact with you; what we call "Live Leads." The larger list includes everyone who attends the show; consequently the mail you send to them will have to be more impersonal.
To get your badge scanner you need to go through the trade show you're attending, because they hire a certain company for leads management. Usually, there is an Early Bird Deal, so be sure to call ASAP to get the deadline. Also, remember to ask if the leads come in a print out (which you get immediately) and in digital format as well, which you usually receive at the end of the show.
You'll pick up your badge scanners at the beginning of the show, and if everyone's getting one, you'll be happy you pre-ordered. It's a good idea to keep receipts of badge-reader rentals with you when you enter the show, so through the bustle and confusion there is no confusion about your reservation, and pick-up goes smoothly.
Each show requires different contact information to be provided for the badges, so the amount of info you get depends on that, not your badge reader. Obviously the more the merrier, and traditionally you'll get their name, company, title, address, phone number and sometimes their email.
When you get back home you'll be able to convert the digital that data into Excel, which is very useful for doing direct mail, emails, or phone calls. Usually the data comes in a "comma delimited" form. To learn how to import it into Excel go to Excel "Help" and type in "comma delimited". It will bring up several choices, and you choose "Open an entire text file in Microsoft Excel". Follow the directions from there, and you are a winner! Your trade show leads will be ready for you to follow-up on.