Working trade shows (Part 1)

February 18, 2013

One of the most productive ways to do your own competitive intelligence is to learn how to work the trade show, or expo or conference A recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek praised one entrepreneur as “an old hand at tradeshows” noting that “and as we walked the Expo floor he checked out his competition”.[1]

“Checked out his competition”, a wonderful phrase to hear.

Exactly what should you be doing to check out your competition at a trade show. First let’s touch on what not to do: do not pretend to be something or someone you are not. In most trade shows you have a badge identifying you by name and organization, that is, probably color-coded as well when to indicate whether you are a vendor a potential customer the media and attendee etc. Honesty is the best policy. Be who you are.

Now, once you are there, you should do is take a look at the list of vendors and determine which of your competitors are present and, perhaps as importantly, which ones are not present. Did you expect to see particular firm there? Why are they not there? That may mark the beginning of an inquiry into a potential new opening in the market space.

Now take a quick look at the floor plan. Who spent a lot of money on space and who seems to be spending less money than last year? Those buying more space or more expensive space than last may be more dangerous to you in the near term than they are now. The reverse could be true for those that cut back on marketing expenses at the trade show. Does that mark something significant?

Don’t be afraid to walk around and look at your competitors’ displays. Even take a picture. It is an open session and you are behaving openly. If you are working with a number of people at the trade show, it would be useful to detail one or more of them to actually visit the booths, displays etc. and listen to what your competitors are saying and to see what they are displaying.

What else should you do? I’ll cover that in future blogs.

[1]Matthew Power, Apocalypse 24/7, Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb. 18-24, 2013, 63.

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