Team SecurityGate just completed our inaugural exhibition at Black Hat and I can enthusiastically say the experience was a success!
Anytime technology users gather by the thousands, I see an opportunity to gain feedback and advice on our product, and smart companies thoroughly enjoy trade shows for this specific reason. I think some overly confident startups, perhaps blinded by immense funding, miss the mark entirely at trade shows by focusing too much on “showing” and not enough on “learning.” Early stage software companies should strive to continuously learn from their potential future clients.
Although we arrived in Las Vegas armed with positive feedback and case studies from our current clients, we left invigorated with new market feedback from the hundreds of visitors to our booth. Below, I’ve listed three thoughts on why every entrepreneur should love trade shows as much as I do.
The first question I always ask someone walking by our booth is “are you challenged with [insert the problem your company solves]?” More about your company’s future is told in the next 3 seconds—one… two… three. If they say “yes” in any variation, the next step is automatic: they will look at your booth and you’ve captured their attention. If the answer is consistently no, then you know you have an even bigger challenge on your hands. Once we capture a user’s attention, I ask them to further explain their unique challenge, why it is important, and how they are currently dealing with the issue.
After explaining his or her pain, your user will be anxiously waiting to learn how and if your product will solve his or her problem. At this point, you have a solid 30 seconds—maybe less—to communicate your company’s value and benefit. What has been successful for me is completing this pitch in a memorable, visual-rich experience of the product that will last long beyond the trade show. Another key is to focus on the user’s face as much as possible (or have a teammate) watching for visual and audio clues to identify what resonates with them the most. I absolutely LOVE asking users “do you think this is a viable solution to solve your problem?” Get right to the point. Then I’ll either ask, “what would solve the problem” or “how would you use our product?” followed by “how often would you log into the solution?”
The final discussion is focused on what they wish the product had that he or she doesn’t see. “What is missing or what would you love to have in this product if you designed it?” Find me a user that doesn’t want to have a say in the future development of a product—especially one they’re spending money on—I bet you cannot. Users, especially early adopters, will usually provide generous feedback when asked directly.
A common problem with technology entrepreneurs is the failure to seek market validation early. The longer a company waits to show their product to their target market with a more developed UI, any changes based on feedback will be costly and time-consuming reducing the likelihood they’ll hit a bullseye out of the gate. Trade shows provide immense value, but only to those with a deliberate intent to listening to the users, influencers, early adopters, and decision-makers.
In the end, your users define your company. Engaging and empowering them with a say in product development at some point, hopefully early, will increase the value of your product in the marketplace and ensure customer loyalty for the long term.