Sizing up the Competition: FAQs about Competitive Audits

Derse | February 24, 2020

First of all, WHAT is a competitive audit?

A visual and competitive audit is an evaluation of your face-to-face marketing program performance against competitors in order to see how your company measures up in the marketplace at particular trade shows.

A formal competitive audit should include a qualitative component, such as a scorecard-style report of key criteria like: brand and product messaging, engagement and experiential marketing efforts, measurement initiatives, show floor location, and staff performance.

WHY are competitive audits useful?

They give you and your company a pulse on the competition within your industry – providing trends, trade show booth scale, and traffic data, to name a few categories. You can see where your company lags or leads in terms of customer engagement, booth size and traffic, busy-ness, and a variety of other data points, helping you make future decisions that could improve the quality and quantity of your trade show connections.

WHO should do a competitive audit?            

It’s a best practice that regardless of size, every company should do some form of competitive audit at their most critical trade shows. Depending on the show and the importance to the overall schedule, the depth of the audit may vary: a comprehensive audit may be suitable at your premier show, but a surface-level audit may suffice for shows with smaller booth footprints.

Here are some of the advantages to having a third party perform your competitive audit:

  • The anonymity provided by a third party during the evaluation process can be essential. In a self-evaluation, your exhibit booth staff will be more formal when they spot you and even competition may be able to ID you as a rival.
  • A third party can give an impartial assessment and prevent the biased self-evaluation that you may subconsciously be giving yourself. For example: when doing a self-evaluation, a partiality may creep into your rating of how engaging your booth staff is simply because they are your colleagues. In the same way, even if a particular feature of your exhibit was not present at a certain tradeshow, you might sneak in a few points for it anyway because you know it can be an asset, or has been good for booth engagement at past shows.
  • Another great advantage is the efficient use of your time. A thorough competitive audit, complete with a scorecard and results report, can be a big undertaking as well as be time-consuming.

However, performing a competitive audit yourself also has its advantages:

  • A self-evaluation means a lower cost of investment as the audit will be done in-house. This can be advantageous to show stakeholders its importance, and consequently earn the budget for a formal competitive audit in the future.
  • Your marketplace knowledge is logically more comprehensive than a third party’s: you know your market, you know your customer base, and you know the subtleties that set your company apart from others. These key insights might not be accounted for by a third party.
  • Similarly, product nuance differentiation may be to your advantage in a competitive audit as well.  Understanding the products featured in your booth and offered by your company—details like product development, usage, and performance—are elements that are perhaps only identified by experts in your particular field. Appreciating these differences can help to understand the tone of a competitor.

WHERE in my trade show program will competitive audits help me?

Competitive audits are handy for pointing out areas of underperformance based on a variety of pre-set metrics. Those areas of underperformance can be tricky to spot yourself and may be better identified by a third party, as mentioned above. Common areas of improvement include:

WHEN should I do a competitive audit?

A large, formal audit is something that can be done at the shows you most heavily invest in. However, every company should do some form of competitive evaluation at every show, even if it is informal. Why? Because it helps ensure they understand the industry, trends, and the show dynamics.

HOW do I go about performing a competitive audit?

  1. Determine 3-4 competitors that you want to audit. Ensure they are at the show and have a similar exhibit footprint so you have an apples to apples comparison with budget and scale. Keep in mind which business units are exhibiting at the show.
  2. Identify 3-4 metrics that you want to focus on during the audit. They can be anything and everything that you are curious about: technology, brand messaging clarity, stand-out creative, lead capture, staff engagement, hospitality, booth space utilization, or education sessions and topics.

Think your program could use a formal competitive audit? We have the right people and the right resources to help identify areas of improvement in your face-to-face program and ensure you’re ahead of the competition. Reach out to us today to get started!

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