Lead Capture Software: How Do I Choose the Best for my Trade Show?

There are myriad ways you can capture lead data. When selecting lead retrieval technology for your show, you have two options: you can purchase from the show organizer or contract with a third-party service. While both have their pros and cons, your needs will determine the solution.

Exhibit Concepts surveyed clients and prospects, interviewed an industry expert and polled our internal account teams to provide readers with the best arsenal of information.


According to our external survey, the majority of respondents prefer this option compared to third-party software. Respondents note that this option is the most convenient and intuitive, support is available onsite, and thus, is not as likely to fail. When making recommendations to clients, the ECI account teams generally recommend utilizing show-provided software for the same reasons. They also note that show-provided software has evolved and provides some of the same robust features third-party software offers. Kimberly Meyers, principal of Kimberly Meyers & Associates states that when deciding between third-party and show-provided software, keep in mind that show software may grant you access to show engagements.

For example, Meyers attended a show allowing attendees to take part in an interactive badge game. When attendees scanned their badges and connected with individuals in a booth, the badge scanner would award them points. The trackable points went toward winning a prize. If you’re using third-party software at a show with an element of gamification, your exhibit may not be able to participate.

While survey respondents highly recommend show-provided software, it does have a few shortfalls. The majority of external respondents note that some show-provided software do not include an API Kit, meaning integration with the marketing CRM to capture leads is not seamless or even possible. Some may also lack the ability to customize fields or add notes, which will require you to come up with a Plan B to capture additional, necessary fields. Another common issue marketers might experience is a lag in obtaining leads. “Sometimes, it can take a couple of days to receive your list. Recently, turnaround is quicker than it used to be, but you should plan not to receive your information immediately,” said Meyers. Some respondents also note that not all shows provide lead retrieval software (an example being small state shows) which forces you to purchase third-party software or manually capture leads. Be it third-party or show-provided software, it’s also a good idea to prepare for any equipment failures to ensure no matter what, you’re capturing critical information.

Across both the internal and external surveys, respondents frequently mention several show-provided options they’ve encountered.

Experient: This was the most popular on both surveys. This vendor offers seamless data integration, data intelligence that helps marketers deliver customized experiences and their eventBit solution, which provides marketers with behavioral data through Bluetooth® beacons placed on attendee badges. Respondents cite that Experient is reliable and the most intuitive.

Xpress Leads: Survey respondents said XPress Leads is common on the show floor. This vendor also has a downloadable app compatible with Apple® or Android™ devices. This app scans badges and collects the first and last name, whether online or offline. Online mode includes address, phone number and email. It also provides default or custom lead qualifiers, a ranking system from zero to five stars and a notes field.


Third-party software is another option for capturing lead data. This software is not offered by the show and will require a little more legwork to set up. Meyers notes that third-party systems integrate with CRMs more seamlessly and provide more customizations compared to show-provided software. “Overarching, it would be fantastic to have your own system. These systems can be flexible and are efficient if you’re attending more than one show a year,” said Meyers.

According to our external survey, respondents say that the ability to set up required fields ahead of time and plugging into show-provided software creates efficiencies for those working the booth. When data is collected, there is no long lag time from when you capture the lead to when you access it, which makes the follow-up and analysis processes move quicker compared to show-provided software. If your company is exhibiting at multiple shows, third-party software will make data collection across your program consistent. Show-provided software fields may vary from show to show.

While third-party software may provide your company with more flexibility, data consistency and instant capture, the majority of our survey respondents, both external and internal, say that this option is expensive. In our external survey, respondents say that they avoid this option because it is not as intuitive as show-provided software; it is difficult to train staff how to use, lacks customer support, is too reliant on the internet and more likely to fail onsite. As mentioned under show-provided software, if a show is conducting an engagement linked to their lead capture technology, your brand may miss out when using third-party software. Notoriously, third-party software seldom integrates with software provided by the show. If your lead retrieval strategy will require integration at a show, be sure to check with the show provider in advance to resolve any issues and establish a back-up plan.

Astoundingly, the majority of both external and internal survey respondents recommend Zuant as a third-party software option. This vendor captures lead data by scanning a badge or business card, uploads the information instantly to a database where live reporting is available, sends follow-up emails once visitors leave the booth, provides a library of form templates or customizable form fields, allows you to edit data on the fly, scores leads and works offline. Respondents express that customer service is excellent and will help you work with other app systems to ensure integration is seamless, and training and setup only need to be done once.


These options provide a multitude of possibilities, features and reports to obtain leads. Once you’ve determined which option best fits your budget and needs, you’ll want to vet your options to make sure that your data is collected seamlessly throughout the show. Before you sign a contract or statement, getting answers to these questions will help you determine the best fit:

  1. What features will this software include at each price point?
  2. How is data entered into the software?
  3. What type of reporting is available? How quickly is reporting available?
  4. How is reporting delivered?
  5. Is this data compatible with mobile devices? Are there any restrictions?
  6. Is this compatible with my CRM? Will this come with an API Kit?
  7. If third party, is this compatible with show-provided software? What are the restrictions?
  8. Is this software reliant on internet access? Does it have the capability to operate offline?
  9. If creating a survey, what type of question customizations are available?
  10. Are pre-made templates included?

These fundamental questions will help you compare vendors to select the best one for your show. Once the contract or statement is signed, your teams must have adequate training before they’re in the booth and engaging with prospects. While it’s likely you won’t encounter any significant issues, make sure you have a back-up plan in case technology fails. Bringing paper forms or a container to store business cards is never a bad idea in case you need to move to Plan B.

Need every step for successful trade show measurement? Check out our blog on metricsjustifying your trade show spend, our lead metrics cheat sheet infographic, and our white paper outlining each step. If you need an expert to lead the way, we’re here for you!


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