I am behind my computer today trying to catch up after two weeks of attending conferences. The first of which was the Bersin Impact conference in Hollywood, FL and the second was the Society for Healthcare Volunteer Leaders (SHVL) conference in Lexington, KY. I attended these very different conferences to stay up to date on the latest trends for departments that I lead: Human Resources (HR) and Volunteers.
While both of these conferences were very different, they had one very significant thing in common that relates to strategic marketing for entrepreneurs. A formal vendor presence. Here are some reasons why you might consider marketing your product or service at a trade or professional show:
- Captive Target Audience– If you are selling a cutting-edge HR software, who better to talk to than HR professionals attending a conference on the most up-to-date social capital trends? Once they find out the trends, they’ll want a way to implement it in their own organizations. Sell them the tools while they are there.
- Sales Leads– People like games and free stuff. You can cold call people all day and not get a lead, or you can purchase some fun swag and create a contest at your trade show booth. You wouldn’t believe what contact information people are willing to share for a free hoodie. Once you wrap up from the conference, you have an entire list of people to follow-up with. All of whom you have already established a positive, reward, relationship with.
- Scope Out the Competition– We don’t always know our top competitors until they set-up booth 10 feet from us. In this day and age companies are created quickly to fill needs in the business world. Sometimes companies make their debut or release upgrades at conferences. As a fellow vendor, you have full access to the vendor show floor. You can collect brochures and make contacts with other players in your area of expertise.
There are professional associations for just about everything these days. Don’t count yourself out of attendance just because no one else you know is going. A quick internet search can yield many results for your niche market. And don’t worry if the association you are interested in doesn’t allow for vendor booths at conferences. Join anyway. By joining associations, you can often sponsor speaking sessions or at minimum have access to basic contact info for fellow members.
I’ve been at the Bersin Impact 2018 conference this week. In fact, I’m typing this from my hotel room in Hollywood, FL. I’ve been surrounded by amazing business leaders and HR professionals from around the globe talking about human capital trends. This isn’t the kind of stuff you might remember from your mother’s glory days in “personnel”. The lines of where HR starts and the business starts are continually blurred (as they should be). HR is not external to the business; people ARE business.
Deloitte has identified the overarching human capital trend for 2018 as “the rise of the social enterprise”. Gone are the days where CEOs of your favorite brands can remain silent on social issues that affect both their customers and employees. A major player and role model in this trend is Unilever. You may or may not recognize the company name, but you will certainly recognize their brands like: Magnum, Helmans, Dove, Lipton, Ben&Jerry’s, Nexxus, Ponds, and V05 just to name a few.
This morning’s key note speaker and Unilever’s CHRO extraordinaire was Leena Nair. Her message was very clear about a company’s responsibility to be a change agent for good in both the lives of their employees and their consumers. Here are some of the key take-away points from her presentation that relate to both people and brand:
- Create a culture where your employees feel like they can be their authentic selves at work and they will be your best brand ambassadors. You can see examples of this in Unilever’s sponsorship of Pride, diversity/inclusion in Dove commercial, etc.
- One of Leena’s first slides articulated: “Brands with purpose grow faster, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive”.
- Leaders have responsibilities to further brand and purpose internally and externally.
- Millions of people apply to Unilever and even if they aren’t hired, the company has a duty to respect each as a human and consumer by giving them feedback/response to their application. Maintaining a positive experience with Unilever.
I immediately started following Leena and other Unilever leaders on social media. I can’t wait to learn more about what Unilever does next as a socially responsible enterprise. And because I love supporting good companies, I’ll keep buying my Nexxus shampoo and eating plenty of Ben&Jerry’s. Marketing at its finest!
*All photos were taken by me and are either from Leena Nair’s presentation at the conference or the Deloitte/Bersin sessions.