Will James Bond Be Visiting Your Next Trade Show Display?

We often remark on how multi-purpose trade show appearances can be, but one that often goes overlooked is the potential they offer for intelligence-gathering. In such a public venue, full of potential buyers, insights into the market at large are all around you. It’s easy to forget that in the hubhub of the show itself. However, with so much of your industry showing themselves off at once, it’s a prime time to do some investigation at their trade booths.double deck trade show display-resized-600

So, we wanted to revisit some strategies for intelligence-gathering at trade shows, both inside your own trade show booth, as well as throughout the show.

Using Your Trade Show Display To Uncover Industry Intelligence

  1. Have Dedicated Intelligence-Gatherers

Bring along at least one person who’ll be specifically tasked with gathering information. Plus, with tablets quickly becoming ubiquitous, especially at expositions, they’ll have an all-in one tool at hand for anything they might want to record.

Depending on your trade show display crew, you might also consider making this a rotating position that’s passed off every few hours, so everyone you deem responsible enough can get some time in watching the crowds and listening for interesting conversations.

If you need them to pull double-duty, they can also be doing your social media at points throughout as well.

  1. Spend Time Observing Your Own Booth

Some firms make the mistake of focusing too much on their competition, while overlooking great observations directly regarding themselves. Your intelligence-gatherer should spend some time noting the performance of your own exposition display:

  • Tallies of basic demographics on each visitor who stops and interacts
  • Observations of those who visit without interacting – are they leaving for a reason?
  • Keeping an overview of your staff’s interactions with guests, maintaining their quality
  • Notes on which displays or topics seem to be generating the most interest

Having someone tasked with tracking these matters frees up the rest of the booth staff to focus on their moment-to-moment interactions. Plus, you come away from the show with a lot of valuable data on your performance for planning your next trade show displays!

  1. Simply Observing Your Competition Tells You A Lot

When sending someone to check out your competitions’ booth, they can often learn the most just by hanging around the periphery. The same basic list above applies here – the demographics of their visitors alone will tell you volumes about their appeal. It’s a goldmine for your marketers.

If they can hang around long enough to listen to conversations, even better. Again, tablet computers are useful there! That gives them all the excuse they need to pull it out and twiddle with it and jot a few notes without being conspicuous.

Obviously, if they catch wind of Something Big, that’s great, but it’s not something to plan on. Keep in mind that you’re likely to come away from this with much more mundane competitive intelligence. It’s still valuable!

  1. Just Talk To Their Staff

During lulls, chatting up your opponents’ staff often works wonders. If it’s at a multi-day show, they’re likely to be extra bored by the third day, when attendance has dropped off, and welcome the conversation. Some smart questioning into their goals and product lines can often gains a few tidbits that they haven’t released yet.

Send in your best interviewer, if you have one, or borrow one from HR. Plus, they don’t even have to do anything more dishonest than wear a T-shirt that hides who they’re working for.

Or, of course, you could also just chat them up openly. Trade shows are one of the few places where we can all talk a bit and sometimes make some headway in deals with the competition. This could be a good chance to do a bit of true ambassadorial work amidst the competitive intelligence gathering.

  1. Combine Intel-Gathering With Your Social Media Strategies

That tablet is also makes another great justification for walking around the show, taking pictures and recordings: You can put it on your social media feed. As we discussed in our Pinterest article, it’s considered good sportsmanship on visual social media to give some time to other people as well, besides just being neighborly.mod-1365 ipad kiosk locks and rotates 360 with shipping case

Upload a few of those pictures being taken of your competitions’ exposition booths and upload them to your own feed, and make sure the tagging includes some of theirs. You’ll get cross-exposure with some of their fans, and possibly pick up some interesting information in the comments.

By linking your social and intelligence strategies, you begin to see a lot of bonus returns to your trade show display through online interactions.

  1. Hear What Their Fans Have To Say

Whether it’s online or face to face, you also can get a lot of value out of simply talking to obvious fans and enthusiasts for your competitors. Whether you do this openly is, again, up to you. However, the focus should be simply on why they like their preferred brand or vendor. Don’t try to convert.

Among the valuable information you gain, perhaps the most important can be insights into which specific demographics they appear to have locked up. You can refocus your own strategies to target areas where they have less appeal, and have firsthand data to back up the shift.

And if the conversation turns to your own brand and their perceptions of its failings, well, just take note of that as well. If they have valid complaints, you just learned a few things that -if implemented- could appeal to your own customers.

Find All The Value You Can From Trade Show Exhibits

The key to finding returns on your exposition display investment is in harnessing all the many ways a trade show can pay off. As an intelligence goldmine, it can give you leads, strategies, and often hard data, that will be useful in your planning for months ahead.

So, when you’re planning your next trade show appearance, consider the added value of bringing an extra person or two along for intelligence gathering. The long term benefits easily outweigh the small addition to the budget.

For more, check out how to build engagement in your displays or how to see your displays through visitor’s eyes.


Related posts:

Sizing Up The Competition and their Trade Show Displays

Trade Show Wars: Beat your Competitors!

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