Trade Show Intelligence Gathering

At a glance, trades shows and face-to-face marketing events present exhibitors with the chance to promote their brand as well as network with other industry professionals. While these events do serve this purpose, events also afford the exhibitors a chance to scope out their top competitors, and even an opportunity to discover rival brands they were previously unaware of.

Trade shows and marketing events are not the only places an exhibitor can utilize for intelligence gathering. Industry conferences, trade conventions and numerous other face-to-face events all provide an excellent competitive environment for researching market trends, new technologies, and market opportunities for your company, competitor plans and products, and much more. This post will help educate you on how to run a simple yet effective trade show intelligence gathering campaign at an industry event so you can report back home with a wealth of industry insights.

Trade Show Undercover

Knowing thine “enemy” is the first step in intelligence gathering at an event. To properly set about the task of learning more about your competitors, you can employee a spy of sorts. No that doesn’t mean hiring a mercenary to snoop on your competition. You can simply recruit a booth staffer from your team whose sole job is to don “plain clothes” and traverse the aisles of the convention hall and inquire with competitors. This way you can get a closer look at the goings on in other booths, and your spy can ask in-depth questions you may otherwise never get answers to.

Questions for your undercover staffer to figure out while sleuthing:

  • Similarities between your company’s offering and your competitions.
  • Are your competitors’ exhibits larger than your own?
  • Are your competitors opting for more expensive, complex or uniquely designed exhibits or smaller portable displays?
  • Do your competitors on average draw in more attendee traffic into their space than you do?
  • What type of attendees are your competitors attracting, how do they differ from your own?
  • What products/service are your competitors pushing at this event?
  • Ask competitors why they are highlighting a certain product.
  • Learn pricing and other sensitive product information.
  • Gather sales and marketing collateral, giveaways etc.

(*Note while spying is a part of the game, unethical or unscrupulous tactics are not. Keep it professional.)

Industry Themes and Trends

Trade shows are unique in the fact that you will never get a better opportunity to see what’s trending in your industry. From the small up-and-coming brands to the industry leaders, you can get a peek at what’s next. Collectively they also provide opportunities to gather the most competitive information in the least amount of time for the lowest cost to your marketing budget.

While you may employ a spy to get the scoop right from the source, you can also take notes on the common themes and product releases at your event. You should also attend as many presentations, speeches and mixers as possible to enhance your understanding of your industries trajectory. Knowing where your industry is headed is the best way to plan for the future of your company, so tracking trends and themes is just as important as discovering the size of your biggest rivals booth. Remember, note taking is key, pictures are great and an inquisitive mind is essential when tracking trends.

Social Scanning

Social media can help you supplement your on the floor intelligence gathering because trade shows and the official event hashtags associated with them generate a large volume of data for you to mine. Social media management and automation tools such as Hootsuite can be set up to archive tweets associated with a given event hashtag and posts made by competitors on Facebook.

Automating your intelligence gathering also helps save you time because you can monitor the goings on in the social-sphere without having to be glued to a screen the whole time. Once you get back to the office you can filter through tweets and other social media posts to get a better understanding of your competitors messaging, branding, in-booth offerings and product releases.

It’s important to remember that no matter how well-executed your event intelligence gathering program is, all of your effort will be for not if you don’t properly analyze the information gathered and turn your key insights into actionable strategy to stay ahead on your competition.

For more, check out our guide for managers or check out how to take advantage of the current business world.

Eric Dyson is the Content Marketing Specialist at Nimlok. Eric is a rapacious reader and has a voracious appetite for all things pastry. From gas station apple pies to gourmet cheesecake; if it’s sweet he eats.