I recently attended a distributor conference, hosted by one of my manufacturing clients. This client sells their products through their own sales team, but also relies heavily on a solid network of distributors.
For the conference, they brought in a handful of their valued distributors to educate them on products, talk sales technique and solicit important information about what’s working and what’s not. I was surprised to learn that many of these distributors had been selling my client’s products (and selling a lot of them) for 10 years or more, yet had never set foot in their facility.
In a day and age where things have gotten so digital that we’re ‘friends’ with people whom we barely tolerated in grade school, there’s something to be said for regular face-to-face interaction with those who we work with day in and day out.
If you are able, you might consider hosting your own conference, scaling it to your liking. Whether you choose to host for distributors, customers or even your vendors, this is a great way to control the message about your company and start a valuable conversation. Here are a few ideas that, if paired up correctly, can shape a great conference:
Pre-event survey. Ask your attendees what they’d like to hear about, in advance of the meeting. Sure, we can all get up at the front of a room and pound our chests and talk about how great our products are, but unless that chest-pounding is relevant to our audience, it’s just noise. Plus, they’ll feel engaged from the get-go.
A facility tour. Let them come into your facility — kick the tires, so to speak. Have them walk the factory floor (if you have one) and interact with the folks who bring life to the products you sell. Speaking with an engineer or a quality control manager may just give them the clarity they’ve been looking for.
A relevant presentation. It is important for your attendees to walk away with good information about your products and services. Consider loading the presentation onto a thumb drive and sending it with them when they go. That way, they can reference it again.
Dinner at a local favorite. Engage with your attendees on a non-work level. Get to know them over a meal at one of your favorite spots. Entertain them a little as you help grow and strengthen the working relationships that you count on.
Feedback session. Don’t underestimate the importance of soliciting feedback from your audience. It would be a shame to bring them in and just talk AT them the whole time. But be aware — ask and you shall receive! Get your notepad ready and listen to all they have to say. You will likely come away with some great ideas and helpful feedback.
The bottom line is, it’s important to give your audiences a proper understanding of WHY you’re so good. Take the time to connect with your various audiences and remember that there is no substitute for a great face-to-face conversation. No matter how many fans you have on Facebook. The confidence and conviction that comes with this level of engagement can translate into big dollars for your bottom line.