Worried about competition at your next trade show? Don’t be. By taking a proactive approach to studying your competitors, you can use their previous trade show displays and marketing efforts to build a better exhibit and generate better results.
Just like smart businesses observe, study and improve on the efforts of their competitors, smart trade show exhibitors take their competition seriously — not only as businesses to outdo, but as sources of information, ideas, and inspiration.
Below, we’ll share five tactics that you can use to learn from your competitors and build a better, more effective trade show exhibit that helps you achieve your objectives and increase your trade show marketing ROI.
Exhibiting for the first time? Use competitors to work out the optimal booth size
One of the hardest parts of exhibiting at a trade show for the first time is working out how large your booth should be. Underspend and it’s easy to end up with a small exhibit that doesn’t live up to its potential — overspend and your exhibit could look and feel too “empty,” even if it isn’t.
One simple way to avoid this issue is to study your competition and base your first trade show booth around their previous exhibits.
Using Facebook, track down custom trade show booths from your competitors and take a look at the average size, signage, and other features. By looking at two to three competing brands, you’ll get a feel for the right size, design, and layout for your first exhibit.
Use more experienced competitors to plan your event team
Not sure how many sales representatives to take to the trade show? Unsure of whether you’ll benefit from an extra engineer or product expert during the event? Just like you can learn from your competitors’ design choices, you can also learn from their trade show staffing decisions.
When you’re assembling your first trade show team, take a look at the people your competitors bring to their events. It’s often worth attending a trade as an attendee first if only to observe the way your competitors staff their booths.
Once you have an idea of which people are needed most during the event, you’ll find it easier to plan and assemble your own sales, product and technical team for the event.
Tap into social media to spot winning promotional methods
Trade shows are highly competitive environments, with your company competing against all of its major rivals for attention and customer interest. Often, a good promotion is just what it takes to stand out from the crowd and attract the right kind of attention.
Just like you can use social media to look at your competitors’ designs and staffing choices, you can also use it to study their promotions and giveaways.
Using Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms, search for hashtags related to past events your competitors attended. By looking at tweet volume and other social metrics, you’ll be able to work out which promotions and giveaways were the most successful at generating buzz.
Focus on businesses one step, not five steps, ahead of you
If you’re part of a growth-focused business, it’s often better to focus on competitors that are one step ahead of you rather than your much larger competitors.
For example, if you’re part of a small technology startup that’s just getting started at trade shows and similar events, you’ll be able to acquire more actionable ideas from businesses that are just ahead of you in terms of growth than you could from, say, Google or Facebook.
As impressive as a gigantic, eye-catching booth can be, it might not be the best choice for your company from a return on investment perspective. Keep your eyes one step ahead and you can spot real ideas you can put into practice, rather than focusing too much on the biggest brands.
Instead of copying your competitors, build something better
Finally, it can be extremely tempting to copy a competitor’s trade show presence, be it in the form of a similar display or an identical giveaway. However, copying someone else’s strategy usually isn’t the best approach for success in a trade show environment.
First, people will remember your competitors, meaning your promotion might not be quite as successful as theirs if it’s exactly the same as the previous year’s show. Second, what works well for your competitors might not be an equally good fit for your business.
Instead of copying your competitors, use their successful displays, promotions and trade show tactics as inspiration for your own. Aim to improve on what they do and build something better and you’ll not only stand out from the crowd — you might also surpass their results.