Five Questions To Ask At A Trade Event To Find The Innovation Needle In A Haystack23 January, 2018 / Articles
With another year upon us, we’ll soon be preparing for this year’s tradeshows and conferences. We will again be walking the exhibition floors and, with aching feet, trying to absorb and process as much as we can. I attend to observe, learn and be inspired. I attend to uncover the next big thing, and I am not the only one. Why do I think I might find the next big thing — the spark that helps my clients innovate like no other? Why do I believe that walking the aisles and listening to sessions are important to helping me think differently? Because I keep five questions in mind while I’m there.
These five questions can help you, too, get the most from any inspirational or educational conference or exhibition you attend. These questions can enable you to maximize your time at any venue where you may be exposed to new things to help you think bigger. These questions, I believe, will help ensure that your mind is open to the newest of possibilities. There’s great value in walking the floor, listening to speakers and interacting with the many bright and talented people whom you’ll meet. By the way, it also works if, instead of going in person, you are absorbing the endless stream of YouTube videos, media reporting, summaries and more. Aside from attending CES in January, I’ll also be going to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Expo West and several other events and asking the same questions:
- What’s the purpose of this product or service?
What need does this idea fulfill or how could this idea make life easier and better for a consumer, and who is the consumer? Can I picture her or him truly benefitting from this product? There’s nothing more important than understanding the true target audience and the consumer/company/customer insight. Without a clear picture of the target and a real emotional insight, no idea will fly.
- What differentiates this product or service?
What’s so different about this idea, product, service or content that could make it thrive and grow in the market it’s in — or better yet, create a new category or market? What makes it stand out from the crowd? Asking yourself what’s different or why this product or service could work is critical to understanding if it can offer a differentiated positioning in the market. Ask the people in the booth: Why launch it, sell it or use it? The why’s get us to the root of whether we will buy it (if, in fact, we will).
- How can this product or service be improved?
Whether it’s a wonderful idea or just mediocre, what do I think the company behind this product or service could do even better, stronger or faster to make this a truly magical innovation? Maybe unique to marketers, we always try to make something a bigger idea, establish a more emotional connection or a more fertile opportunity. Asking “what more?” helps us build on even the best innovations and ideas.
- Where does this product or service fall on the adoption curve?
When is the best moment for this innovation to succeed? Is it too late, right on time or ahead of the curve, where consumers will need to be educated and it might struggle to gain acceptance?
Sometimes an idea is ahead of its time and fails because consumers aren’t ready for it, the technology is not yet streamlined or the costs are still too high. For example, 3-D printers will soon become a household device but we aren’t quite there yet. Personal vehicles make a difference in many lives today, but 20 years from now we will likely be grabbing self-driving cars that make a route around our towns.
- Now what?
What can I do to leverage this technology, product, piece of knowledge or even talented intellect in my life and in my work? “Now what?” is the question that takes us from thinking to action. At these conferences, I try to learn something new from each person I meet and figure out a way to use it in my work or life. A few years ago, I met someone who had raised enough money for her venture on Kickstarter. Today, I spend a lot of time mining insights and ideas on Kickstarter and have helped fund two ventures for my clients using it. I have also uncovered nuggets of great ideas that have already generated revenue.
With the answers to these questions, we can learn to dismiss certain technologies or ideas, file some away for the future, leverage components or nuggets from others and maybe help to launch one or two, as well. We can make the most of a few crazy days of innovation and technology bombarding us from all angles. For any conference, exhibition or show, we can more easily cull through the thousands of ideas we see quickly and efficiently. We can expand both our clients’ horizons and our own and perhaps uncover that elusive needle in the innovation haystack.