In honor of my competitive intelligence colleague, Jonathan Calof, I am writing this post on his subject of expertise, trade shows! Jonathon just won SCIP’s esteemed Fellow’s award which will be officially presented at SCIP’s annual conference in Washington, DC which takes place from March 9 – 12. Trade shows are one of the best venues for cooperative intelligence practices since if you display cooperative connection and communication skills, the floodgates of knowledge will be yours!
Most discussion around trade show analysis measures their effectiveness in ROI terms:
How many sales did we close as a result of connections at our booth? How many new connections did we make that represent customer prospects?
Many of the other benefits are more squishy to measure:
How much scoop did we collect on the competition, market trends, technical innovation, product development, or new technology that helps us develop a better strategy or adjust our sales tactics?
What infrastructure do we have in place to quickly report our findings to those in our company which might engender further collect during the trade show? And after we return from the trade show?
What infrastructure do we have in place to qualify prospects for our business?
This can start right at the booth as you can qualify the better prospects and have coffee or drinks later, since you don’t want to spill all your company secrets right at the booth area since you never know who might be listening in who is not a prospect, but might be collecting on your company!
I like to prepare a cheat sheet which helps me qualify customers when I exhibit. It’s kind of cumbersome, but it is fail proof since people’s answers to these questions guide me on how and if we should further our relationship. Remember customers aren’t the only great connections at trade shows. For example, industry experts, newspaper reporters and bloggers help sell your company too. They have their biases just like anyone else, and you want to influence them to favor your company and your products and services so they write good things about you. Think: who else do I want to connect at this trade show mecca where people are so pre-disposed to share what they know?
Lastly, I assess if this was even the right show for the company to exhibit at. Many companies don’t think about this as much. We tend to exhibit at shows since, “We’ve always had a booth at ‘X’ show.” Each year I like to assess our effectiveness at trade shows we’ve attended. Sometimes I use an ROI calculation. Sometimes I realize I can’t afford not to be at a trade show since all my competition is there connecting with a finite number of potential and existing customers. At other shows, product announcements are made: can you afford not to attend this type of show and blow your horn? Where it gets gray in decision-making is when results are gradually getting worse: do you just pull out of the show or do you change your behavior and tactics in hopes of improving your results? Marketing through social networks is also competing with in-person events like trade shows, which could be the subject for another day.
How do you assess your effectiveness at trade shows?