Trade Shows Contain A Wealth Of Knowledge

How do you learn about equipment you need that you don't know you need?

How do you learn about equipment you need that you don't know you need? If you had them, they would make you more competitive, but because you don't know about them, you'll probably be less competitive.

The point is, there are technologies and tools on the market that could make you more competitive. Therefore, you not only need to become aware of them, but also familiar with them. You might not have a need for these tools currently or you might not think you will need, but I guarantee there will come a time when an opportunity from a customer will arise, and whether or not you get the order will depend on your ability to deliver an innovative solution—one that requires tools with which you are not familiar.

Here's a little insight. I know that by virtue of the fact that you are reading this magazine, you understand the importance of keeping up with what is happening in the industry. Industry magazines are a great way to learn about the latest trends, developments and applications. Often, I learn as much from the ads as I do from the articles. However, print material is not an end in itself—its intent is to whet your appetite and encourage you to learn more and to dig deeper.

To gain a more in-depth grasp about new tools and technologies, you could call a salesperson and ask them to stop by the shop. However, sales people are normally paid on a commission basis, and as much as they would love to meet you, tour your shop and chat with you over coffee about how their products can help you, they just can't afford the time. In fact, they'll usually only come by after they have thoroughly qualified you as hot prospect ready to make a purchase.

So what can you do? Here's a simple recommendation: If you haven't been to a trade show recently, you need to register for one today. Getting out of the shop will do you good, and you'll be surprised by what you'll learn and who you'll meet. As fast as technology is evolving, you need to get out and see it. Technology transfer doesn't happen by reading books or magazines. It takes place face to face.

Companies participating in trade shows are prepared to spend extra time to demonstrate their products and educate you, even if you aren't in the market to make a purchase at the moment. The exhibitors have a dual objective—they want to get as many hot leads as possible and at the same time, educate the market about what they have to offer. They know that not everyone has an immediate need for their product or their competitors', but chances are you will one day, and they want to be the source that sticks in your mind.

When planning a to attend a show, it is important to make a plan of what you would like to see or accomplish at the show. Go online to find the show directory or pick up a printed copy at the show. Mark the exhibits that most interest you, but don't limit yourself to those selected exhibits. It's important to walk the entire show, because that's where you'll find those "gold nuggets" that you didn't know existed. Decide how much time you have at the show and allocate it between the exhibits you don't want to miss and the ones you will discover along the way.

Often, when you meander past exhibits, it is not clear what a company does or how it could help you. Be inquisitive, stop and ask what they do, tell them about your business, and ask them how their products could be applied to your business. Ask about the profile of their typical customer, and if they have any customers with businesses similar to yours. By doing so, you are doing two things: learning if what they offer applies to your business and using competitive intelligence by discovering what technologies others with similar businesses are adopting, which also are technologies you are competing against.

I would also encourage you to strike up conversations with other attendees at lunch or while watching a demonstration. Ask them how their business is doing and if they have found anything interesting at the show. This is another opportunity to learn what your peers are doing.

It's more important now than ever to stay informed about technologies and strategies that are being used in the industry. Therefore, read trade publications, look at the ads and round out your understanding of new competitive tools and technologies (those you need, but don't know you need because you are unaware of them) by attending trade shows frequently.

Mitch Free is president & CEO of MfgQuote.com, Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at (770) 444-9686, ext. 2946 or at mfree@mfgquote.com.