An industry is a group of companies that operate with the same end-users in mind. For example, the trade show materials industry is comprised of all the companies that are working to sell trade show displays and exhibiting accessories to a group of people who can be collectively referred to as exhibitors. The strongest companies always find themselves in a leadership role within their industry, while weaker companies spend most of their energies imitating the strategies of the stronger companies in an attempt to catch up.
Trade show marketing is no different. If you find yourself planning your trade show exhibit by trying to model your booth after one of your best competitors, you will probably find that your industry-leading competitor will have further distanced itself by the time you’ve adequately mimicked their exhibiting system. In order to take a leadership role in your industry, you need to step away from industry standards and norms and take a long, hard look at what end-users are looking for. Once you understand your client’s profile, you’ll have a clear picture of what marketing steps to take. Instead of merely copying your competitors marketing efforts, you will be able to define your own presence and set the tone for your industry. Your display may take an entirely different shape and style than any of your competitors, but that won’t matter if your look is exactly what clients have been searching for.
One way to spot a dying company is to look for responsive marketing practices. Do you ever wonder why Microsoft doesn’t respond to Apple’s constant jabs about the inferiority of Windows PCs? The reason is simple: Microsoft holds over 80% of the market share, and responding to Apple’s marketing efforts would legitimize them. While marketing campaigns should be flexible enough to respond to changing competitive environments, they shouldn’t be focused entirely on tearing down competitors. A marketing strategy that directly attacks competitors in an unskilled or tactless way only serves to legitimize your competition, and may actually drive customers away who want to find out what it is about your competitor’s business model that has you in such a tiff.
When planning your next event, think carefully about what will interest your potential clients. If possible, try to take your thinking outside of the context of what other players in your industry are doing. If everyone else in your industry is making unnecessarily large profit margins, your company will have a lot of success by offering lower prices. If your industry lacks a recognizable brand name, improve your packaging and placement to put your logo in the minds of your potential clients. If your industry is like most, there is plenty of room for improvement. Can you ever improve as a company if you’re constantly copying ideas and responding to the work of your competitors?