It may seem counter-intuitive, but exhibiting at trade shows or expos where all your competition has also set up shop is smart marketing. The fact a show is attended by your competitors means the right buyers are going to be there. The presence of your competition is your barometer for determining if a show will add value or if it will be a flop. The fact that you can do some competitive research while you are there is icing on the cake.
If you come across a show that seems at first glance to be a good fit, and then discover your competitors are not exhibiting, it’s a sign you need to do more research on the show’s attendees. There just might be an excellent reason your competition is not there.
Ask the show organizer for demographic information on their attendees. At the very least, they should have an audience breakdown by title or job responsibility. While the industry focus of the show might be right for you, the audience may not be.
If you have a limited budget, it’s best to play it safe and choose shows that draw your competition instead of taking a risk on what appears to be a hidden opportunity. Trust in the old saying, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
It’s hard to get an appointment with a potential customer these days. They want to know what products and services are available, but they often do not have time to meet with individual sales reps throughout the year.
Buyers attend trade shows precisely because they can vet all potential vendors in one convenient location over a two- or three-day period. A process that used to take weeks or months is now condensed into a couple of days. By exhibiting at a show alongside your competition, your company will at least have the opportunity to be included in the comparison process. If you do not show up, that possibility never materializes.
Exhibiting alongside competitors can help you differentiate your offerings. In fact, you can go into a trade show with this objective in mind and make your signage, giveaways, and brochures reflect those important differences. For example, if your big competitor is known for their poor customer service, why not highlight your “fabulous” approach to customer care.
Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to do some serious competitive analysis. You can see first hand their messaging and approach. By looking at what products or services they are highlighting at the show, you can get a good idea of what direction they are taking their company and their plans for the future.
You might discover a new industry trend you were previously unaware of and can now adjust to ride the wave. Alternatively, you might discover an unfilled need that your smaller more agile company can take advantage of before your big competitor.
When you are starting out, it’s better to look for shows where your competition is exhibiting. There is a reason why McDonalds builds stores near Burger King and Wendy’s. The location is a good one, and they are not afraid to compete.