Market intelligence. It’s a powerful thing. It can lead you to make good decisions if you have the right intel as they say in the movies, and bad choices if you don’t.
A danger for any business is losing touch with the marketplace.
It can occur when a company’s belief about its products and how users rate them differs from reality.
One of the most underrated uses of trade show participation is intelligence gathering.
And unlike some other forms of intelligence gathering, you don’t need a spy plane, martial arts training or watches with extra gadgets to break you out of tight corners to get what you need.
You just need a trade show.
A place where market intelligence walks right up to you
Trade shows have many great attributes.
One of their biggest USP’s is that visitors, and for this read, potential customers, actually come to you whenever they walk onto your stand.
This unique quality is one many exhibitors could use more profitably.
One way to do that is to gather the information that will be useful to business development.
When you exhibit, it’s essential to be focused on capturing sales leads and on asking the questions that will make this happen.
However, when you are in conversation with visitors, you have the opportunity to glean nuggets of intel, you couldn’t hope to gather back at the office.
My advice, especially to new exhibitors or new businesses, is to grab this opportunity every time you exhibit.
It’s a learning opportunity
Questions about company structure and purchase process
How does the purchasing process work within your company? Who is involved in the process? What are the levels of purchasing spend authority with each person or team? Typically when do you place orders? Is there a new supplier procedure that we will have to go through and typically how long does this take? Are payments made from your office or from somewhere else? How long does payment usually take from the invoice received? How long have you been with the business? Which teams within your company do you work most closely with? How does your company position itself to customers?
Questions about sales development & other events
Referrals: are there other decision-makers in your company that would be interested in our products? If yes, ask for their names and locations. Are they at the show today? Will they be attending? If not, why not? Is there a policy for attending trade shows and if yes, what is it? Do you visit other shows? If yes, which ones? How do you rate each when it comes to usefulness to your business? Why is that? Apart from attending shows, how do you source new suppliers, products and services?
What do you know about us?
Before today, were you aware of our business? Have you dealt with or purchased from our company before (perhaps when you were at another company?). Has your company ever asked us to quote and if so, do you know why we didn’t get the contract? Looking at our products on the stand today, which are the most relevant for you? What would you like to change or what would you like to see added or removed? Have you seen these advertisements/email offers/product reviews before?
What is the outlook for your business currently? How much of your company’s business is outside the UK? Which countries are your biggest markets? Are you planning to launch any new products in the next 12-18 months – if so are we a possible supplier for these new lines? Who is your company’s biggest customer? Do you think that there are other applications for our product or service that we haven’t covered?
Gathering and applying what you’ve learnt
The potential for information gathering is enormous. Hopefully, the questions above have provided some ideas about the things you could cover.
I’m sure you’ll think of many more.
Every visitor conversation is an opportunity to provide your business with valuable insight. When preparing for a show, keep this thought in mind and brief your stand team accordingly.
You will also need a plan for reviewing the information gathered post-show.
That’s the exciting part of the exercise. And when I say “exciting” we both know I don’t mean in the Jason Bourne sense of the word.
This excitement is for desk jockeys who exhibit. That’s when we get into the field.