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6 min read

Top Five Things We Learned From WBENC's 2024 National Conference

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Orange Marketing attended WBENC's National Conference in Denver, March 19-21, and it was off the hook wild. This may have been the best conference we have attended -- in our lives. Here is why it was such a good venue. And here are the top things we learned to make working trade shows for leads even better for us next time. 

#1 Everyone is at WBENC to WORK

WEBENC's Amplify Conference, sponsored by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, had 4,500+ attendees and 325+ exhibitors, with a minimum of three people in each booth. This show clocked over 5,000 people easily. All attendees and exhibitors are open-minded and working hard to find possible buyers for their products and solutions. We have never seen people so ready to exchange business information and get to the root of what a good follow-up would look like for either party. 

Who was exhibiting? Fortune 500 and 1000 actively working on DEI Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives. This means Amazon, Price Waterhouse, Home Depot, Walmart, and others were looking for women-owned businesses to add to their DEI list. There were also smaller vendors, simply looking for business from the attendees and exhibitors. In any booth that wasn't a major corporation, you would, nine times out of ten, be talking to the CEO/Founder. We have attended many tech shows and can count on zero hands the number of times CEOs worked the booth. 

The attendees ran the gamut from women-owned SMB businesses to larger companies. All looking for a connection for whatever it was they were selling. What did this mean to us? We could easily approach anyone and everyone, and ask them (after a polite minute or two), what their CRM is that they are using. Everyone was friendly, open, and wanted to engage. And, everyone was there to help everyone else. 


  1. Have your quick and succinct pitch ready. But be polite and listen to their pitch first. In the beginning, we found ourselves jumping the gun and stepping on people. Remember to listen first, then speak. And try to add value or be helpful.
  2. A gimmick? We passed out little bags with chocolate, mints, and business cards to make the awkward card handout more fun. It worked.
  3. Make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. For example, we were laser-focused on finding medium-size B2B SMBs using HubSpot, other less feature-rich CRMs like Zoho or Pipedrive, or no CRM!


card front

#2 Conference Lead Collecting is Hard

Welp. The teacher became the student. We think we're smart about lead collecting and coaching our clients' sales reps on best practices. As an attendee this conference was a cluster-F for us. People don't necessarily have business cards anymore (environmentally conscious, super cool, etc.). So the pre-2020 method of writing notes on the back of a business card would not work. Many people simply had QR codes available for scanning. Sounds perfect, right? Except every person had a different QR code app that loaded the data into Gosh knows what application. And it was then that contact was lost forever. We wish we were kidding. 

After our first day on the Expo floor, we tried scanning the business cards using the HubSpot CRM app we always recommend to our customers. Unfortunately, it was more trouble than it was worth. Business cards are not "traditional," and the app struggled. We had to hand-correct about 50% of the data we loaded manually. Thirty cards took several hours to scan and load the first two nights. 

We were dumbfounded about our lead collection problems. Repeatedly we asked various friendly faces how they were collecting leads. We received a variety of answers which indicated a real problem. People were using little notebooks, collecting cards, taking pictures of badges, etc. Even the exhibitors struggled if they hadn't purchased the "data package." We asked them why they didn't and they said it was expensive and results weren't guaranteed. Wow. 

What did we finally end up doing? A two-fer was best. We collected cards and made notes on them, but at the same time, what would HAVE been best in hindsight was taking a picture of the badge of every person we talked to (tip from SOAL Technologies). Then we would have had the order we talked to people and known at which event. As it was, we had some pictures and many cards. And random notes on slips of paper.

We entered all the data from Expo Day Two into a spreadsheet with columns indicating what event (there were many possible events) we met the person at, their CRM, and if they were a HOT, Warm, or Cold lead. The data entry was easily accomplished on the flight from DEN to SNA. Then we uploaded it to HubSpot when we got back, and voila!


Typical phone badge for cards on app BLINQ, everyone
used different apps, and they all worked differently.


  1. Have a notebook handy to record your leads sequentially as you get them. Or maybe print out your Excel or Google sheet as a data collection sheet and fill it out as you go along if you can. (We saw one person filling out her Google sheet on her phone right after a booth meeting; she loved her system, but her tiny phone drove her crazy). Sorting data out later in the hotel or on a plane is no fun, and you easily miss leads. We lost about 5% to 10% of our leads (and we collected over 70). 
  2. One attendee we queried showed us her "Business Card Organizer Notebook," available on Amazon. As ridiculous as this may seem to us digital folk, were we jealous. It was a perfect little gadget and a great idea!
  3. Also, take pictures of badges and exhibitor booths as you meet people, especially of the booths where you are interested. Any memory jogger will help you with such a high-volume conference later.

business card organizerOld school, but genius.

#3 Understand the Audience and Pitch Accordingly

We passed many booths where people had done the minimum. They bought a table space, a back sign, and some pens and gadgets for the trick-or-treaters. Ho Hum. The booth people looked sad and bored in their black pants and branded collar shirts.

This is a women's conference. Women like color and beauty and handbags. Several booths had an emphasis on bright pink. Our customer, EventBuilder themed their booth on Mean Girls. "On Wednesdays, we wear pink." At least three booths were offering Louis Vuitton giveaways. Genius. Freaking genius.

A favorite booth had Siberian Husky puppies in it and were offering cuddles. We spoke to the company's founder, who said her company supported the local animal shelter. We commended her on her marketing chops.

This show has a high "trick-or-treater" element, just like the old days. You have to embrace it. Have stuff to give away and make it appropriate. One booth had lovely, imprinted nail files. Yes, and thank you. 

Because we were working the floor rather than a booth, we walked around with a giant orange Telfar bag and our little treat bags that we gave away. We made sure our business cards were orange and had our picture. Any gimmick to help these poor people remember you is appreciated. The orange bag was repeatedly noticed, and everyone caught that it went with the company name of Orange Marketing. Yay. BUT, we wished we had dressed to the nines, and just embraced it. Orange sneakers, orange shirt, everything. It helps. 

IMG_4353-1EventBuilder! On Wednesdays we wear pink.

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  1. If you will have a booth, have a theme and embrace your target -- women! Ensure everything appeals to women. 
  2. If you are walking the show, dress up, to the nines. These women came to show up and be seen, not blend into the background in black, white, and beige. It is the only show we have been to where people changed for dinner. There was even a winter-themed evening event where you wore apres ski wear. Dress up and own it. It's all part of the fun. 
  3. And if you are walking the show, figure out a way to be memorable. Have a leave behind that is helpful, and assists them in remembering you if they are interested.


#4 DEI is a Thing

Well duh. DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and it is 2023, not 1998.  We didn't know much about DEI when applying for our WBENC certification three years ago. We wanted another badge that would show us to be a legitimate company. WBENC is so legitimate that we failed our first run at the certification. We got it in 2022 and will re-apply for re-certification every year. It's a serious cert recognized at a Federal level. 

We know we closed three deals in 2023 specifically because we were WBENC-certified. One deal was with another WBENC company specifically looking for a WBENC company. They told us to get our butts to the conference, too (thank you EventBuilder). This Conference was eye-opening.


If you can get a WBENC certification, get it. There are DEI procurement people in top companies looking for vendors like you. They are fulfilling quotas and why can't you partake? And go to the conference right after you get certified. Don't be Orange Marketing and wait two years. We were told that attending the conference every year is helpful because you get a better feel for the event and start being more recognized.

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womens statsThis was an eye-opening brochure page (sorry for poor picture quality)

#5 Shows are Good for Business

A targeted show directed at your type of business is so good for you. People there are interested in you and want to talk to you. A face-to-face connection is priceless. It is up to you to capitalize on that face-to-face experience with good show processes. Like *ahem* lead collection, and excellent follow-up methodologies to turn those leads into closed/won deals.

Put shows on your list of things to do this year. They are exhausting, and time-consuming when done right. One every three to four months is plenty for an SMB who doesn't have sales and marketing staff to manage trade show presence (exhibiting or attending).

We have several targeted sales sequences that we will begin executing on Tuesday after the show. And then we have show-specific marketing nurtures these leads will go into after that. And finally, we will call these leads, and link in with them. Did we walk away from the show with signed contracts? NO. But we know our connections should result in several closed/won deals over time. Hopefully, this year. 😆

IMG_2215-1Note the hot pink pants, but don't overlook the Louis Vuitton giveaway far left.


  • Pick out 2-3 shows and schedule your attendance right now. Scout these shows to decide where you may want to exhibit next year.
  • Set up your lead collection system in advance. Don't leave it to chance. We thought we had a system, then realized we most certainly did not.
  • And have a follow-up system already crafted. Ideally, sales sequences and marketing nurtures with good old-fashioned LinkedIn and phone calls.

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