Ulster reached the quarter-finals of last season's tournament for the firest time since 1999, but saw their dream of lifting European rugby's biggest prize come to an end when they were defeated by the eventual runners-up Northampton Saints at the mk:stadium.
"Saturday will be the proof of that pie," said McLaughlin. "We learnt an awful lot last year from Europe and we were exceptionally disappointed with our second-half display against Northampton.
"But we feel we have taken a lot from that experience. I think the guys know now exactly what is expected of them as far as Europe's concerned.
"We know exactly what to expect from Clermont. They're a quality side, it's a fantastic challenge for us and it's one we're all relishing and looking forward to."
Clermont have made a host of big-name signings in ahead of this season, with the likes of David Skrela, Nathan Hines, Lee Byrne and Regan King, and have a squad with 28 full international starters.
"You're not just 100% sure what way they're going to turn up, who they're going to play or what they're going to do. (Aurélien) Rougerie and (Morgan) Parra didn't play last week so it's difficult just to judge," McLaughlin said.
"Obviously they have Brock James and David Skrela at 10, so you just have no idea of what they're going to turn up with. But it's not really about them.
"The key thing for us on Saturday is that Clermont are coming to Ravenhill, we have won our last eight European games there and that's something we want to hold onto and fight for.
"We want to add Clermont to our lost of successes at Ravenhill. We know the dangers they present, but at Ravenhill - with everybody fit, hopefully - we know that we are capable of beating anybody."