The keys to writing trade show follow-up emails that stand out (with templates)

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Author photo: Dann Albright

Dann Albright


Picture this: you’ve just finished a few days at a trade show (as an attendee, not a rep).

You saw dozens of product demos and chatted with more sales reps than you can remember. You get home, bleary-eyed, and check your email.

Your inbox is overflowing with sales pitches. There’s at least one from every sales rep you talked to. And several from reps you’ve never heard of.

But then you see one email that stands out. “Oh yeah, I remember her!”, you think. You open the email, and it’s not a sales pitch. It’s just a friendly invitation for a call.

Now think.

As a sales rep, wouldn’t you rather send that last email than be part of the first barrage?

Trade show follow-up emails can be very effective in setting up a conversation with a lead. But they’re also easy to get wrong.

Here’s how you can stand out from the crowd with great follow-ups:

Start preparing for follow-ups before the show ends.

Your trade show follow-up process should start during the show; your emails will be more effective if you collect the right pieces of information while you’re talking to prospects.

Here’s the best thing you can do:

Take notes during the show. Those sales notes will help your follow-up email stand out.

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You might like to think that you’re very memorable. But if you’ve been to a trade show, you know that people are constantly bombarded. So you’ll need to help them remember you.

And it’s going to be easier if you’ve jotted down a few notes.

Let’s say you attended the same presentation as the person you’re emailing. Make a note to ask what they thought about it. Or if they told you about a particular problem that they’re trying to solve for their company, jot down what they said.

Anything that will help your lead remember meeting and talking with you will be helpful.

The important thing here is to take these notes as soon as possible—you’re not going to remember them by the end.

If you’re using a CRM to track your trade-show leads, make a note in the notes field. Here's how it looks in Copper:

CRMs should have fields for you to record different types of information about your prospects.

These notes can also help you stay organized and prioritize your follow-ups.

If you met several hundred people, tackling the trade show follow-up email process can be intimidating. Having notes and categories streamlines the process.

Now let’s take a look at how you can use that information to craft a great trade show follow-up email.

Write subject lines that get opened.

Your lead won’t remember you if they don’t open your email.

If you’ve ever done email prospecting, you know how difficult it can be to get people to click on your email.

The art and science of writing great subject lines could fill a full book. So we won’t go over all of it here (check out our guide to writing sales email subject lines for an introduction).

Your goal for a trade show follow-up subject line is simple: get your prospect to click.

Let's do a quick exercise. Take a look at these two “from” names and subject lines:

  1. Darrius from JeffTech | Following up after the Teletech trade show
  2. Jefferson Technologies | Can we schedule a quick call?

Which would you be more likely to open? The first immediately ties your name to an event that the recipient has been to. The second one looks like an unsolicited sales email.

When in doubt, go with short subject lines that get right to the point. The sweet spot is 6–10 words, according to a study by Retention Science. (And try to use your real name in the From field.)

Send your follow-up emails at the right time.

In addition to using an attention-grabbing subject line, it’s a good idea to think about the timing of your email.

Most less-savvy sales reps send emails immediately after the trade show, which means your prospect is getting hit hard with a lot of pitches at once.

Wait a few days before you send your follow-up email. It gives your lead a chance to travel back home, get re-situated, and give some thought to what they learned at the show.

It’s the perfect time for reaching out.

Keep your emails short and to the point.

It’s tempting to throw out a reminder of who you are, pitch your products, talk about the problems that you can solve, and try to set up a phone call.

Resist that temptation.

You’ll get much better response rates if you keep your emails short. You might use something like this:

It’s short, to-the-point, and easy to read. It’s not just a pitch.

This kind of email gets responses.

If your lead opens the message and sees a wall of text, they might hit Delete without reading it. And that doesn’t do you any good.

Let’s look at some of the other components of writing a good trade show follow-up email:

Remind your lead who you are.

I’ve mentioned this a couple times now, but it’s worth reiterating. Make sure that your lead says, “Oh yeah, I remember you!” when they read your email.

If they don’t, they’ll feel like they’re getting a cold pitch, and that’s much harder to do well.

Again, it doesn’t have to be anything that you made a soul-searching connection over. Just something that'll jog their memory and remind them of your conversation.

If you had a very brief interaction, you might have to get a little creative:

This way, even if your prospect doesn’t remember you, they’ll understand why you remember them. It’s a more personal way to say, “You might not remember me, but . . .”

You might also consider creating an email signature that includes a small headshot to remind people of what you look like.

Give your prospects an irresistible offer.

There’s no better way to grab someone’s attention than by offering something for free.

In our example email above, we included a free ebook. That’s a great way to build goodwill with your prospect.

And while your freebie shouldn’t just be information about your company (who wants to read that?), it should give your prospect an easy path to your website.

If the resource also has a link to a page where your lead can request information or set up a call, even better.

Just don't be pushy about getting them to download it.

How should you follow up with cold leads after a trade show?

There will probably be times when you get someone’s email address even though they didn’t give it to you. Maybe a colleague grabbed it or the organizer of the trade show gave it to you.

Should you email that person?

In most cases, it’s better not to. It’s difficult to send a trade show follow-up that stands out if you’ve never met the person.

Of course, there are exceptions. If you know enough about the person to be confident that they’ll want to talk to you, it’s worth a shot.

Be open about how you got their contact information and what you expect from them.

Think about how you’d want to be emailed after a trade show.

Like any other form of sales, the best way to write a trade show follow-up email is to think about how you’d want someone else to write one to you.

Would you like to be assaulted with pitches immediately? No.

How about receiving a novel-length list of features and services? Definitely not.

You want a message from a real person. And that’s exactly what you should aim to send to your trade show prospects.

Once you’ve had an interaction or two, then you can start switching to sales mode. If you're interested in writing better emails, here are a few tips for writing sales follow-up emails that get conversions.

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