While collecting business cards from trade show prospects has its advantages—no learning curve, no pre-planning required, no need to write contact details down—it’s a practice that lacks in so many other ways. Using a digital lead capture solution, especially one provided by the official lead retrieval provider at the show, offers exhibitors a number of important benefits.


It may seem like asking for a business card is fast, and if asking was all that was required to process (collect, qualify, distribute, follow up) a lead, it might be true. In reality, collecting prospect details is only one small part of lead retrieval. And, in a world of digital sales and marketing automation platforms, kicking off the process manually vs. with an app or scanner that converts badge information into digital data from the start only delays the potential sale.


Lead capture solutions—those that scan badge barcodes, qualify prospects with built-in surveys, send follow-up emails and record information in the exhibitor’s CRM—are more efficient than manual lead processes. Plus, once contact information is digitally collected, the record is always accessible. Business cards end up in briefcases, badge holders and desk drawers until they are entered into a database.


Any time humans interact with data, the likelihood of errors increases. “Dirty” data, information entered into the CRM incorrectly or in all caps or multiple times with slight variations, works against the sales process. Modern lead retrieval solutions help reduce data error by entering it correctly and consistently at the point of collection using an optical scanner.


Although business card collection isn’t as fast, efficient or accurate as a lead retrieval solution, it’s understandable that some exhibitors (those in a small booth at a small show, for example) would opt for manual lead collection. As the size of the staff, booth, and show increase, the more unmanageable the business card method becomes. It’s a recipe for mishandling sales opportunities.


For larger companies with national or international sales teams, collecting leads at trade shows is more complex. Staffers taking in lead information may not be the individuals ultimately responsible for following up. In such cases, qualified leads have to be distributed to the responsible team members, often identified by territory or product line. A lead retrieval system makes lead distribution easier and faster.


Not all digital lead capture solutions offer the same benefits. For instance, some exhibitors use third-party or homegrown solutions that can’t associate badge barcodes (which most of the time only hold an attendee ID number) with attendee contact information right away. Exhibitors have to wait for the solution provider to marry the ID number with the attendee contact information (normally after the show), or they have to purchase an API (application-programming interface) that allows their solution to talk to the registration company’s solution. Official lead retrieval solution providers give exhibitors real-time access to both the ID number and the contact information as part of their service so exhibitors can process leads quickly.

Business cards are easy to use, but they can’t come close to offering the return on investment and benefits of digital lead capture platforms.

Contact SmartSource for more information on how to supercharge your lead capture campaign.