by Madlen Miller, Marketing and Business Development Manager
The approach of springtime means it is time to start preparing for industry conferences and tradeshows that are scheduled this year. When deciding which events you plan to attend, it is important to first, understand the nature of the event itself, then evaluate the purpose of your attendance, and finally, what will be the expected return. Industry events vary widely with respect to educational content and target audiences. It would a waste of your time and your company’s dollars to attend a conference for Small Businesses sourcing indirect products when you work in direct product procurement for a Fortune 500 company. This seems like an obvious concept, but is a common occurrence.
Once you have narrowed down your wish list, the next step is to determine how you will pay for your registration. As you know, the hardest question to answer when requesting marketing dollars to attend these events is: What will be our return on investment (ROI)? Here are some tips to help you answer this question before you seek management approval.
1. Understand the Expense – You should have a total cost breakdown of the expenses for each conference including registration fees, lodging, flights, other travel expenses (cab fare, rental car, etc.), parking, food per diem (if not provided by the event), and marketing material costs. This will not only show that you recognize the full cost of this endeavor, but also that you have faith that the investment will be worth it.
2. Stay Current – Supply chain management conferences and other procurement events are mostly comprised of educational components presented by the best of the best in the industry. This is a great advantage to your company as it is important to stay abreast of changes and new technologies in your field that could ultimately affect the bottom line. QUANTIFY: Submit a session schedule detailing the content of those sessions you plan to attend.
3. Training – Take advantage of any training courses offered and identify the special skill that could help your team overcome any current or future challenges.
4. Networking – Obviously, the biggest advantage to attending industry events is to meet other sourcing professionals and share industry intelligence. It also offers an opportunity to get in front of current and future vendors. QUANTIFY: Provide a list of vendor contacts who will be in attendance (usually listed in the sponsor/vendor materials for the event), and identify those which you plan to evaluate for potential future use.
You must put your salesman hat on and realize that this isn’t going to sell itself. You must be knowledgeable and informed and be able to answer any questions that arise. Don’t go overboard! Reasonable requests with detailed back-up will go a long way.
Approval of a request is not your last step. Follow-through is important! Attend the sessions and training courses you said you would and bring home lots of business cards. Follow-up with the people you met at the event and keep the lines of communication open. If you show management that you value their investment and recognize its value, you will have faster buy-in for future requests.