Trade Show Apps: Badge Scan vs. iPad Sales App a Review

We spend a lot of time working closely with trade show managers to help them deploy trade show apps to improve the QUALITY of leads captured. (If you need a in-depth strategy guide for deploying iPads to field reps, check this one out.) They already know their competitors are going mobile, and if you don’t think your competitors are you better read our white paper how they are boosting sales and you can too.

These marketers have graduated beyond badge scanners, but still use them by default at most conferences. They represent a small but growing segment of marketers responsible for trade show results.

Not surprisingly, when most marketers first contact us about a trade show app the first question they ask is, “Does your trade show app scan badges?”

We get it.

For some companies, scanning badges to capture leads is sufficient because their main goal is to build a list of names to email and nurture. Their assumption is that most of the people that show at the booth are possible leads. However, increasingly trade show marketers are being judged by the number of qualified leads they capture at a show as opposed to quantity of names they add to their mail list.

For example, I just had fish tacos with a CMO that now has to justify every trade show dollar spent by tracking trade show leads converted to actual sales over the course of the year. Her budget is on the line for 2014, and she was concerned about the increased scrutiny.

We have written a ton about qualifying trade show leads with a trade show app. So, we decided it might be a good idea to compare badge scanning apps with iPad sales apps, so trade show managers can determine which is the best trade show app for their business.

Trade show apps – Key criteria

1. Efficiency of Lead Capture

Using a badge scanner allows you to build a list fast.  The more names you collect, the better value the show can be for you. The shotgun approach, if you will. If you have some great give-away gadgets, or a contest, you can lure people in to your booth and easily scan their badge. Additionally, you will have to download your leads to a CSV file and then upload them to your CRM for follow-up.  This process can take some time depending upon your company’s process.

An iPad sales app will allow you to build a list, too.  Just not as fast as with a lead scanner. But it will permit you to easily share (and email) your product information and eliminate the need to print, ship and, hand out collateral.  You can input contact information into the app and automatically sync it with your CRM.  This means you no longer have to download and import the leads after the show. The caveat being you will most likely have to get the prospects information manually.

Advantage: If your chief objective is number of leads, then the badge-scanning app is more effective.

2. Qualifying Leads

Qualifying leads in the booth is critical for many marketers.  Andy Paul, sales guru, believes strongly that only 10% of the people that enter your booth are truly potential buyers.  An iPad sales app, like a B2B sales app, is very useful to interact with those potential buyers. Primarily, because you and your team will be able to engage them, answer their more in-depth questions, and follow-up immediately with product information.

Compare that with scanning their badge and scribbling on the print out tape.  Some badge scanning apps have input values for adding qualifying information, but most lack the ability to send follow-up collateral. For some companies, simply getting a contact’s info off their badge will be enough, but for other companies sending a hot prospect the collateral they need is the better choice.

*** A note of caution here:  Last year at Dreamforce, the badge scanners failed to deliver phone numbers of attendees due to a mistake.  This cost us a lot of time and effort to find the numbers of our best prospects!

Advantage: iPad Sales App, if you need to get deep into your product info to qualify a prospect.

3. Lead Follow-Up

Matt Hill, trade show expert, has multiple studies that show 50% of trade show leads are NEVER contacted again.  That’s right, there is no follow-up from the company. Personally, I don’t see how companies can afford that. Badge scanning apps require you to collect the leads, annotate them, enter them into your CRM (or just keep them in a big Excel file), and  then distribute them to sales people for follow-up.  Those are a lot of moving parts to coordinate! No wonder this is an issue for many companies.

By using a sales app, on the other hand, booth staff automatically record the product info you sent to hot prospects.  So when your sales team accesses the lead in their CRM, they know the prospects’ interests.  This is key to generating a marketing qualified lead.  Other benefits include auto assigning to reps and using marketing automation, like Marketo, to insert them into a nurturing campaign. You could even set this up to fire a message to prospects while still at the show. Here’s an article about using this technique at Dreamforce.

Advantage: iPad Sales App, if its directly connected to your CRM.


At recent trade shows where we have exhibited, we have used a hybrid approach.  One person is scanning to build the list, while another team member is having conversations with the iPad, sharing product info and capturing the hot prospects information.  So, you get the best-of-both-worlds, list building and marketing qualified leads.

So, comparing the two processes: using an iPad sales app will likely give you higher qualified leads, while a lead scanner will allow you to capture more contacts with little effort.  It’s quality vs. quantity. What are you being judged on this year?