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How to Use Trade Shows to Gather Competitive Intelligence Data

Trade shows can provide interesting opportunities for competitive intelligence. To begin with, most companies send a senior executive or product expert to meet and greet clients or prospects at such gatherings. Additionally, participating organizations make a lot of information available to everyone who visits their booths. Before attending a trade show or sending other personnel to a trade show, plan ahead:

  • Obtain a map of the exhibitors and target the ones you want to visit. You may even jot down a list of information you want to obtain from each exhibitor.

  • If other people from your company are attending the trade show as well, remind them to gather intel in addition to their other duties.

  • Establish a procedure for gathering all printed materials that are collected by your team.

You can use cameras and cellphones to take pictures or record presentations. If a competitor makes a presentation at a trade show, it’s fair game from an intelligence standpoint.

When you return to your home base, take the following steps to convert the information you gathered into something useful:

  1. Have each attendee complete an intelligence summary sheet.

  2. Organize the intelligence summaries into a single document with a cover page containing the following information:

    • Names of companies mentioned in the report

    • Key issues or information revealed in the data

    • Analysis of information

    • Summary of intelligence

    • Recommendations for further investigation or action

  3. Input all relevant data into your CI database to inform future analysis.

    [Credit: Illustration courtesy of Jim Underwood]
    Credit: Illustration courtesy of Jim Underwood
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