What's the point in getting to know consumers at trade shows if you never hear from them after the event? If you spend time talking to people at your stand or booth, trying to convince them to become a customer, you've got to do all you can to connect with them in the future.

Not everybody will buy goods or services from you immediately. In many cases, people like to take their time to think about purchases. They might like what you have to say, and find your business offering engaging, but prefer to let the dust settle and contemplate making an order in their own time.

This is why it's so important to establish contact with leads after you meet them at a trade show. But how best to do this? If you come on too strong and start bombarding them with sales calls and marketing material via email, you might just put them off.

A great alternative is to connect with these potential customers on social media. When you talk at the trade show, try to get their contact details, and at the very least, write down their name. Doing so will allow you to track them down online, whether this is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or another networking site.

Engagement on social media has to be at the centre of your digital marketing, along with a professional website and well-optimised SEO strategy.

If you can join a consumer's contact or 'friends' list, you've got the opportunity to build on the relationship you started to form at the trade show. You can start off by sending a quick introductory message, saying hello and reminding the person of your meeting. Then you can take things from there, depending on the warmth of their response.

It might be that they are ready to make an order with your business, and your little reminder encourages them to get in touch straight away. Others may not want to buy, but there's nothing to say they won't change their mind in the future. If they have access to your social media posts, and an easy way of getting in touch, they might just become a customer further along the line.

You never know when contacts may become useful in business, and social media allows companies to connect in real-time with all of them. If consumers are not interested in what you have to say, they will ignore your communications - this is nothing lost from your perspective.

But if they are looking to make an order, your decision to get in touch over the internet may just point them in the right direction. Rather than offering their custom to one of your rivals, they'll come knocking at your door.