This is my second post on tips and tricks at trade shows. The key to taking advantage of the opportunities to gather intelligence —and minimize errors—is careful planning and thoughtful preparation. Because industry players – competitors, suppliers, customers, regulators, potential partners, gurus – are all gathered in one location, you can learn so much at a fraction of the cost of traditional research methods – when you work smart.
Wherever money is exchanged, information is exchanged. It’s there if you know how to look.
Leonard Fuld, The New Competitor Intelligence
Key Intelligence Topics
Strategic planning focuses on your ability to clearly define the objective of the conference intelligence effort. A set of Key Intelligence Topics (KITs) facilitates the identification and definition of your company’s intelligence needs. KITs are strategic components of an ongoing competitive intelligence process. The following are examples of KITs:
- Competitors’ positioning, branding, and messaging
- New products or product line extensions
- Extent of competitors’ presence at the event
- Competitors’ intentions
- Competitive technologies
- Drivers of innovation
Doing your homework before the event helps you to focus your purpose and define the procedural aspects of your collection effort at the event. Conduct pre-conference research on two fronts:
- Learn the latest on the industry and the players through secondary sources—company websites, professional journals, news, articles.
- Collect information on the show, including hotel and conference accommodations, transportation, exhibit hall maps, schedule of events, presentations, hosted receptions, and networking/social opportunities.
This information can be assembled in a conference “playbook” or briefing provided to each team member. Each playbook also includes a calendar of events that comprise collection opportunities tied to each KIT. In addition, the playbook provides information on ethical guidelines, the “command center” where you’ll conduct a kickoff meeting and daily debrief sessions, contact information, and rules about security around equipment, materials, and phone calls.
At the Show
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
While careful preplanning is important, staying flexible is just as critical. When you arrive at the conference or trade show, check the final schedule for corrections and last-minute changes.
Holding a kickoff meeting with your team provides an opportunity to review the KITs, intelligence targets, information sources, and intelligence opportunities. You can reinforce the strategy and focus, coordinate assignments, and pump up enthusiasm.
In addition to planned and formal opportunities, intelligence gatherers working smart position themselves at key locations where people mingle. These include the breakfast buffet, the exhibitors’ break room area, the hotel lobby, the elevator, the bar, the airport.
Give team members the time to “work the floor” and visit competitors’ booths multiple times. In addition to your targets’ exhibits, visit other displays. Discuss key findings at the debrief sessions.
Next Blog Post
So, while you’re busy gathering critical information on your competitors, what is happening back at YOUR booth? What are YOUR colleagues talking about? Check in next time to learn about counterintelligence through a case study. Better yet, sign up to the right of this page to receive automatic blog post updates via email.
Loose lips sink ships
US Office of War Information, WWII slogan
“Knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant, if not the only, source of competitive advantage.” – Peter F. Drucker
Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year participating in industry conferences, trade shows, and seminars. While your company may be maximizing your sales efforts at these events, a conference or trade show may be the single best place to collect market and business information that can be developed into competitive intelligence. Because industry players – competitors, suppliers, customers, regulators, potential partners, gurus – are all gathered in one location, you can learn about customer needs, emerging technologies, government directions, competitor plans, how to compete in specific markets, and more at a fraction of the cost of traditional research methods.
“If there’s a more ‘target-rich environment’ for the collection of competitive information, I’ve never seen one.” – John Nolan
Making the most of each intelligence gathering event requires careful planning and preparation whether attending as a team or going solo. Working smart at the show requires focus, organization, and seizing opportunities. Determining if a particular conversation is elicitation or merely an innocent question can be very difficult to tell. Ultimately, it makes no difference in one’s need to be cautious and aware of what can and cannot be said. Working the show smart means being aware that competitors are as interested in you as you are in them.
In upcoming blog posts, I’ll cover Key Intelligence Topics (KITs), Rules of the Game, The Interview – Art & Science, and Protecting the “Family Jewels” While Scouting the Competition.
- The market for business broadband connectivity is very robust. In recent interviews I learned that network fiber and cabling equipment and services are a growing market despite the hype around mobile.
- Ethernet/fiber upgrades are big business. Cablecos are quick to tell me that coax isn’t the only game in town…many offer high-capacity Ethernet/fiber solutions with aggressive pricing vis-a-vis telcos.
- Nearly all kinds of devices with embedded micro-controllers (telematics, smart home meters, industrial control systems) either now have or will have network interfaces. Many are mobile and wireless.
- Mobile apps for smartphones and tablets (Android, iOS, etc.) are exploding. Just like most businesses and organizations now have web sites, they will soon have to have a mobile app and QR code.
- Enterprise IT is struggling with the BYOD (bring your own device/data) trend: workers increasingly want to connect with enterprise private networks using their own smartphone or tablet.
- Industry players tell me the that IP convergence is but one key driver for data infrastructure solutions: ”many touches in lots of places” is the new mantra.
It seems like the wired/wireless trends are pulling in opposite directions. By any measure, the mobile app space is growing exponentially and displacing enterprise desktops – IDC predicts that mobile will surpass wireline by 2015. At the same time, worldwide demand for wired broadband and cabling plant upgrades is also strong despite a weak global economy. There are even reports of spot shortages of fiber cable.
The wired side reflects corporate cap ex, which suggests corporate planners see a continued need for copper and fiber plant, despite a paradigm shift at the edges. The user side is driven by consumer trends, including a new generation of workers who use smartphones and feature-phones more like appendages than accessories.
While BYOD has a lot of headaches, notably security, it offers enterprise IT a potential bonanza. The total cost to provision, support, and maintain a fleet of tens of thousands of PCs can be staggering. With BYOD, much of this can be shifted to the users.
Mobile apps are increasingly content-rich and location-aware, driving increased demand for high capacity infrastructure to service a burgeoning number of users. If BYOD adds to this trend, demand for wireless infrastructure, especially at the edge, will ramp up sharply.
But what stands behind the wireless access points? Fast and high capacity cabled networks, which in turn must connect to broadband backbone provided by regional and national carriers.
The only weak spot in all of this seems to be in the demand for traditional desktop computers and software. In my work, I use a lot of spreadsheets on a Windows workstation with two wide screen monitors to bring it all together. Although I love my iPhone, I don’t see any way that I could do my research analysis with it. I’m sure millions of other desktop users wouldn’t be able to get their work done on a smartphone or a tablet. Extrapolating from this completely unscientific sample, my guess is that PCs will be a stable market (the classic BCG “cash cow”) and the mobile side will grow rapidly (the BCG “star”).
In any case, the future of network infrastructure space looks well-lit. It will be a long time before fiber cable spools are the 21st century’s buggy whips.
The approach I used was to develop a bottom-up market forecast for each of the twenty major device types aggregated into a data-driven forecast for the component’s total addressable market.Read More
Northwestern University Athletics is using Facebook to poll fans on its basketball court redesign. Most of the responding fans are voting for an all-purple court (NU’s colors are purple and white.) It is hard to imagine traditionalists and players seeing this as an advantage. Viewed on ESPN it would probably seem to many as the visual equivalent of the vuvuzela. Is this a smart way to use social media to engage fans, to generate interest and obtain feedback? On Facebook, the crowd is self-selective. With just 200 “likes” on the Facebook page (out of hundreds of thousands of actual fans and paying spectators), outliers with the largest megaphones can drive buzz and appear to sway opinion, just like one spooked cow can start a stampede.
The advantages of a representative sample are well-known. So how can we crowd-sample? Here are a few firms that find the “right crowd.”
- Trada builds specialized crowds that help companies create and improve ad campaigns on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- The University of Oxford hired Chaordix to create a custom-made crowd to help them brainstorm ways to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.
- To tap expertise outside the company, Medtronic relies on Innocentive, which offers “challenge driven innovation”. Companies anonymously describe technical challenges to which members of a “global community” submit bids. A company then decides whether to option the proffered solution.
- Big Idea Group’s Insight Clubs are private, online consumer communities of 50 to 300 members focused on uncovering innovation opportunities in products, services and marketing for its clients.
Experiments show the “social influence effect” causes us to adjust our thinking to the feedback of the crowd by mindlessly imitating each other. As we become increasingly networked, the vocal crowd seems to speak for the group, yet may mean less. It is important to know how the “crowd” fits in with the rest of a population or community, or you could end up with a purple people eater.
Could crowdsourcing be a viable alternative to a focus group?Read More
In a short four part blog we will discuss how crowdsourcing can be a part of an overall plan to foster technological advancement, design products, research markets and sell to consumers.Read More
CE is undergoing a paradigm shift from producing devices to supporting differentiated customer experiences. Innovation for its own sake is not enough: Getting closer to customers is the key to success. As products become smarter and customer interactions evolve, the amount of customer data is growing exponentially. CE companies can leverage technology to analyze data, generate insights and cultivate deeper, more intimate customer relationships.Read More
The 2011 Chicago Auto Show (CAS) boasted a 10 percent year-over-year increase in attendance. Local dealerships hope a heightened interest in a recovering auto industry will translate into a continuation of increases in monthly sales. Of course, lots of people are trying to figure out what will drive the market.Read More