Let’s be real here. Attending a trade show isn’t just about marketing and driving new business for your company….it’s also to see what your competitors are up to….right? Gathering intel on your trade show competitors is a function of doing business, and we can promise you your competitors are doing it to you as well.
Gathering competitive intelligence isn’t about “stealing” or “copying” your competitors. When done right, it’s about gathering information about them and the marketplace, that you can use to identify gaps in your own strategy, better understand opportunities and risks and how your industry is changing or shifting.
So check out our tips for how to ethically and professionally gather competitive intelligence on your competitors at your next trade show.
Gathering competitive intelligence isn’t about “stealing” or “copying” your competitors.
If you observe competitor swag or info on your booth visitors – ask them about it
So, picture this. Your booth staff is in your booth, poised for action, powerful conversations and more. A visitor comes in and they notice that they’re wearing a blinking neon bracelet from one of your competitors and is holding a packet of info from them too.
What do they do?
A – ignore it and just start talking about your company
B – acknowledge it and start a dialogue with them about their experience and thoughts on the competitor?
Neither one is wrong or right per se, but B most definitely gives you an opportunity to gather some CI by actively and purposely engaging in a conversation with your visitor about them.
Now, the trick will be to engage in a way that’s light and with questions that encourage the booth visitor to share their opinions and thoughts, thus helping them to feel important and encouraging them to chat with you.
Starting an easy and open conversation with, “Oh I see you visited [x competitor’s] booth, what do you think about [competitor’s] xyz product/solution? How do you think it differs from others? Are you familiar with our products/services?” Hopefully from here, you can then transition to a conversation about your company’s offerings, and listen for where they’re at in their buyer’s journey to provide them with content and experiences that meet them there. In the process, you’ve also gathered some specific intel about your competitors, simply by participating in a conversation.
Have your booth staff meet their booth staff
As long as your staff are wearing their badges and are forthcoming while in the booth with your competitors, there is nothing shady about it at all. Depending on what industry you’re in, it may be easier to chat up your competitors than others. But we think being forthcoming and honest as you peruse your competitor’s booth is the best way to go.
Consider grabbing some of their literature, or observing their demos and live presentations. Be sure to keep a respectful distance when their booth staffers are talking to visitors, but do your best to pay attention to their conversations to listen for what kinds of topics are coming up.
If you can talk with their booth staff at all, be subtle in your questions and try and keep your questions to general information just like what a visitor would be interested to know such as:
- Product/service offerings and features
- New products they’ve launched recently
- Where their company is located and different branch locations (if any)
- What is their company’s mission or philosophy?
People like to talk about their companies and themselves, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about the person you’re chatting with and their background too.
Use a ranking system to evaluate their booth and presence at the show
Encourage your team to review your competitor’s booths and to size up their exhibits. Each team member may have a different view or opinion so using a ranking system can be beneficial.
Have them review things such as:
- The displays themselves
- Demos/Talks etc.
Add anything to this list that’s important to your business to improve upon or make changes to. Check out this trade show checklist you could use to assess your competitors and how they compare to your business too.
Remember, your competition has already, or will most likely be checking you out at your next trade show, so get out there and get some good intel on them too. What’s the old saying, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Get some good ideas and make them your own. It’s good for your business, good for healthy competition, and for keeping things moving forward in your industry.
Superior Expo Services is a leading family owned trade show general services contractor with over 25 successful years in the business. We know what it takes to ensure that you, your show, and your exhibitors are supported and set up for success. We pride ourselves on providing superior performance that rivals the big guys, yet never compromises our grassroots customer-centric approach to project management, personal service and attention to every detail.