There are a hundred reasons to exhibit at a tradeshow, and one of the best is to see what your competitors are doing. Everything they have for public consumption is on display and it’s a great thing!
Play spy and learn what you can from their appearance.
Not only are they showing off their new products and services, but their brand and people are all on display as well. If you put together a checklist it’s an easy task to rate those competitors and size them in relation to your company, as well as other competitors.
Prior to the show, create a list of those companies that you want to evaluate. This should be easy enough to do by examining the show website. Once you have your list, determine what you’d like to evaluate.
First, find out if the company did any pre-show marketing. If so, can you quantify or track it?
Next, rank their booth on a scale of 1-5, A-F, or whatever you’d like. Stand back from the booth so you can take it all in. Evaluate things such as:
- Overall visual impact
- Graphic messaging
- Booth layout and functionability (did I just make that word up?)
- Product(s) displayed
- Meeting space
Make note of any activity in the booth. Are they doing anything in particular to draw traffic, such as a spinning wheel, special guest, or an interactive and engaging activity? Ask yourself if you think these activities are actually engaging potential customers or if it’s just gathering names and addresses that are ultimately not very useful, such as collecting business cards in a fishbowl for an iPad giveaway or something similar.
Are they giving anything away, such as imprinted pens, buttons, squish balls or flash drives?
Are the staffers branded in any way, such as branded shirts or silkscreened tee’s? Do those branded items clearly represent the brand and are they easily identifiable?
Are they giving away any samples or product materials?
If you are the kind of person that finds it easy to talk to other people (yeah, some of us are and some are not – I get it!), see what kind of corporate intel you can gather by chatting either with one of their employees, or with one of their competitors. This is where you might find out about personnel movement, corporate decisions, new products in the pipeline, or other pertinent information. Tradeshows are often rife with gossip.
Before wrapping up your competitor evaluation, check to see if any of their management is involved in any of the show presentations. If so, make a note of the topic and time and date.
Once the show is over, sit down with marketing and management and share the information. It may be an informal sharing over coffee, or it could be a formal report on what competitors you evaluated and what you learned. In any event, tradeshows are a great place to learn as much as you can about the market – so plan on using that opportunity to its greatest advantage.