Spending time at trade shows is not all about prospecting and connecting with potential clients, as there is opportunity for competitive intelligence (CI) gathering with your competitors being so close. Having all of the knowledgeable people in your industry in one place give you a tremendous opportunity to find out key information. The best way to succeed at gathering competitive intelligence in any situation is to make sure that you have a plan, and working a trade show is no different. Define your goals and set your expectations before you head to the trade show so that you can take full advantage of the CI gathering opportunity; keep your hears open.
There are plenty of opportune locations to platform executive reports talk and eavesdrop on the public information that people are discussing around the trade show. Hanging around the places that competitors or industry insiders may be naturally discussing their business might give you the crucial information that you are waiting for. Be aware that other people at the conference, such as your closest competitors, may be trying to gather CI in the same way and keep your business chatter in private when you are at a trade show. Usually the trade show will be held at a conference hotel and if you can spring for a suite you can entertain your clients and potential partners in private with some class.
Make sure that you attend all of the social events that the trade show offers or invite key people out for drinks on your company’s expense. Having all of these people in one place allows you to get to know your competitors, industry insiders, and other key people on a more personal level. Just be sure not to give any information away or get too talkative when the booze starts to flow. At the same time make sure that you are listening for any information that they will offer up by the same method. Gaining a more personal understanding of your competitors and forming an amicable relationship with key players in these companies can become invaluable in the future.
There is also an opportunity to get access to the list of attendees or participants by volunteering to work with the organizers of the trade show. This volunteering also gives you an authoritative edge over your competition when you are trying to break the ice with larger partnership opportunities. Using this data you can make a plan of attack to engage each of the attendees or participates that will be most valuable for your time, as it is unlikely that you will be able to speak with everyone.