Nearly all tradeshows offer lead-scanning stations for rent. These are required for scanning in a booth visitor and capturing their information to a database or spreadsheet for your sales team to follow up on when they get back to the office. I’ve seen these things cost around $500 per unit to rent for a few days. You can try to reverse engineer it (where I work we’ve tried) but it’s unreliable, doesn’t work, they’re going to change at your next show anyway, so it ends up just making more sense to bite the bullet and get those lead scanning units.

But today your booth staff may have iPhones on them while at the show, so couldn’t they use an app to capture visitor information and avoid these exorbitant equipment rental fees? They can use their phones, but they won’t be avoiding any fees, and it may be more difficult for them to scan badges.

Lead capture software, like Compulead and iLeads, is free to download. But in order to use it you need to unlock it. You need to buy a license from the show. After buying a license (for around a few hundred dollars each) you get a code to unlock the software to work with the show you’re attending.

I made this mistake last year for a tradeshow, thinking that if I have to get screwed paying spend hundreds of dollars to support lead capture I might as well make it so that booth staff had lead capture right in their pocket. But instead the booth staff complained of how difficult the software was to use and ended up not even using it and collected business cards which would then need to be added to our database by hand.

How could it be difficult? I wasn’t at the show, but my best guess is that in an environment like a tradeshow it’s difficult to capture information on an iPhone screen. The app these guys used wasn’t a scanner, which they were used to. They had to input a 7 digit badge number into the app to capture data then enter in all the qualifiers and interests. They also couldn’t train on the software before because the licenses wouldn’t activate until the day of show.1

They aren’t alone. We didn’t use iLeads, but if the reviews are any indication iPhone lead capture isn’t so great:


Compulead isn’t much better. While it has a few good reviews, ones like this are a big red flag.


It doesn’t work. It crashed during the whole show. Not a single lead we entered was saved. It doesn’t work offline. It doesn’t scan badges. You have to type numbers in by hand. We ended up writing down on a piece of paper like a bunch of idiots. It isn’t worth $1 let alone the $400 they charged. I want my money back.

Whether the complaints are valid or not is irrelevant. This won’t be a mistake I’ll make again. I’d rather pay the same overpriced fee for a dedicated station. If you need more evidence about why tradeshows are dying off you can add lead capture to the list.

And as far as those $400 license fees…there’s gotta be some App Store violation in that, right?

  1. This may be a moot point, because lead scanning stations are always different and you don’t get them until the day before the show or so. But at least then you can experiment before any visitors show up.