4imprint, LLC



While it’s possible to find plenty of information about who attends trade shows and why, no recent research studies have focused on the follow-up that occurs when the show is over. So, we went straight to the source, surveying hundreds of organizations in industries ranging from manufacturing to nonprofit.

Inside this e-book, you’ll find all the ins-and-outs of trade show follow-up: timing, methods and frequency. See how your lead follow-up stacks up.


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Trade show follow-up data: Continuing customer connections

Every trade show has a project plan: Let your customers and prospects know you’ll attend. Invite them to visit your booth. Engage them while they’re there. Generate leads. Close sales.

But, what happens when the trade show ends? Few studies have focused on the follow-up that occurs when everyone returns home to the office.

To learn more about the follow-up process, we surveyed hundreds of businesses and nonprofits across a variety of industry types and organizational sizes.

In the pages that follow, you’ll see how quickly and how often follow-up occurs. We’ll also share preferred follow-up channels and the ways they’re using  promotional products to keep their brands top of mind.

Read on to see how your follow-up strategy stacks up!

Kevin Lyons-Tarr
CEO, 4imprint, Inc.
with 4imprint 28 years


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Data collection methods

In order to better understand how organizations follow up after a trade show, 4imprint surveyed Exhibitor Live® attendees February 25-27, 2019, and an online survey panel March 13-April 8, 2019.

Of the 454 people who started the survey, 408 completed the survey. Unless otherwise noted, the analysis contained in the following pages is based on responses from the 311 people who participated in at least one trade show.


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Respondent industries

21.1% Small business
18.6% Healthcare
10.0% Education
9.3% Manufacturing
6.4% Government
6.1% Nonprofit
28.3% Other


Organization size (by employee)

15.4% Less than 10
49.5% 10-249
13.2% 250-999
12.2% 1,000-5,000
9.6% More than 5,000


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Number of trade shows

Roughly half of respondents say they participate in fewer than 5 trade shows per year.

22% 1-2 trade shows per year
26% 3-5 trade shows per year
16% 6-10 trade shows per year
35% 11+ trade shows per year


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Approximately half of respondents say they’ve participated in trade shows 5 or fewer years.

7.4% 0 years
23.8% 1-2 years
22.8% 3-5 years
13.2% 6-10 years
31.2% 11or more years

1 in 3 say they’ve participated for 11+ years.


[Responses of “Other” and “N/A and Don’t know” were removed.]


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Building relationships, strengthening brands and generating leads are the most common reasons for participating in trade shows.

74.3% Build relationships
68.5% Strengthen brands
68.2% Generate leads
52.4% Meet key clients/partners
44.4% Launch new products/services
36.0% Research competition
21.9% Close sales

Just 1 in 5 participants closes sales AT trade shows.


[Response totals exceed 100% because respondents were asked to provide multiple answers. Responses of “Other” and “N/A and Don’t know” were removed.]


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Customer leads

Two-thirds of respondents collect business cards to track customer leads.

65% Collect business cards from attendees
23.8% Ask attendees to fill out a paper form
14.5% Ask booth staff to fill out a paper lead form
46.3% Scan attendees’ badges
22.8% Ask attendees to fill out an online form
15.4% Ask booth staff to fill out an online form

Electronic lead tracking still trails paper collection methods.


[Response totals exceed 100% because respondents were asked to provide multiple answers. Responses of “Other” and “N/A and Don’t know” were removed.]


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Email, sales calls and social media advertising are the three most popular forms of lead follow-up.

83.0% Email
52.1% Sales call
31.8% Social media advertising
27.7% Sales visit
24.1% Direct mail
19.9% Send promotional product
3.5% Don’t follow up

1 in 5 organizations follows up with a trade show giveaway.


[Response totals exceed 100% because respondents were asked to provide multiple answers. Responses of “Other” and “N/A and Don’t know” were removed.]


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1 in 6 respondents follow-up on all trade show leads.

17.7% follow-up with 100% of leads
20.3% follow-up with 80-99% of leads
17.4% follow-up with 60-79% of leads
12.2% follow-up with 40-59% of leads
7.7% follow-up with 20-39% of leads
7.7% follow-up with 19% or less of leads


[Responses of “N/A/Don’t know” and “None” were removed.]


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Follow-up timing

More than 80% follow up in the first two weeks.

8% one day
50% one week
24% two weeks
6% one month
2% six months
1% one year
4.2% never
5.1% other

Nearly 1 in 12 respondents follows up within one day of the trade show.


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More than 60% of organizations follow up with leads five times or fewer.

60.8% Follow up 5 times or less
6.8% Follow up 6-10 times
4.2% Follow up 11-25 times
14.1% never discard leads

One study found sales leads should be contacted at least six times.1


1) Prater, Meg. “How to Make the Best Follow-up Sales Calls in 2019.” https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/best-times-to-connect-with-leads-infographic. Accessed June 22, 2019.

[Responses of “N/A/Don’t know” and “No follow up” were removed.]


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Common uses

One in three organizations uses promotional products when following up after a trade show.

16.7% Before trade show or event
63.7% At trade show or event
31.8% Follow-up to trade show or event
12.5% Closing a sale
16.4% Thank-you following a sale
14.8% Other follow-up contacts


[Response totals exceed 100% because respondents were asked to provide multiple answers.]


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Most effective promotional products for trade shows:

#1 Logo apparel
#2 Logo pens
#3 Logo totes and bags
#4 Logo drinkware


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#1 Logo apparel

18.6% of organizations consider logo apparel the most effective trade show giveaway for following up with leads.


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#1 Logo apparel

1 in 5 respondents rate logo apparel the most effective trade show promotional item.


Shadow Heather Polo #133148

Next Level® Fitted 4.3oz Crew T-Shirt #111195

“The color was exactly what was online. The shirts are soft and comfortable.”
-Crystal from Glastonbury


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#2 Logo pens

17.7% of organizations consider logo pens the most effective trade show giveaway for following up with leads.


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#2 Logo pens

TIP:  Perfect for lead follow-up, this item can easily be mailed to customers to keep your brand on hand—literally.


Souvenir Motive Pen #149652

“Love the pattern at the bottom and overall matte color.”
-Ashley from Appleton


Inlay Stylus Pen #147677-ST

“This is a great find! Not only a great and functional pen, but it has a stylus so it’s cool and relevant to the times!”
-Liz from Sacramento


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#3 Logo totes and bags

More than 1 in 10 respondents say logo bags and totes are most effective for following up with trade show leads.


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#3 Logo totes and bags


Surge Pocket Tote #144784

“We love the tote and love the price!”
-Zulema from San Antonio


Cotton Sheeting Colored Economy Tote #1972

“Love this bag. It’s light and perfect for my promotion.”
-Laura from Melbourne


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#4 Logo drinkware

1 in 10 respondents says logo drinkware is the most effective trade show giveaway for following up with leads.


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#4 Logo drinkware TIP:  Customers will appreciate a useful follow-up gift, like themed cups or on-the-go tumblers.


Everest Jet Tumbler #149676

Refresh® Pebble Tumbler with Straw #138131

“The cups were great and all our conference attendees loved them!”
-Stephanie from Roanoke


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Promotions to remember

Trade show giveaways are an excellent way to connect with customers and potential customers before, after or during a trade show.

And, when you send prospective customers a promotional item following a trade show, it helps keep your organization top of mind long after the trade show has ended.


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Share your trade show follow-up giveaways

Did a promotional product help you land a new customer? We want to hear! Email 4ideas@4imprint.com with photos and your lead follow-up success story.


copyright 2019 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved.

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