Monday, July 07, 2008


Software Vendors: How to market to folks from large enterprises at industry conferences...

The primary reason folks in large enterprises attend conferences is to sharpen their saw by networking with others in the industry. This is best accomplished when vendors provide us with useful information (No, your brochure doesn't count) that we could use regardless of whether we have interest in your product...

We choose conferences by reviewing the mix of speakers, location (think Miami over Denver) and of course the ones that benefit whatever we happen to be working on as our number one priority once we return back to the office. The exhibition halls in most conferences are filled with hundreds of vendors with varying levels of value propositions. Is it reasonable for software vendors to honestly think we remember you?

The value of trinkets such as blinking flashlights do help and 3X Button Down Oxford Shirts with your logo sent to my home after the conference help even more (hint) but the first failure is in cold calling. The problem with followup by most vendors is the fact that everyone is doing it within the same window. More importantly, since I just returned back to the office I am probably more focused on cleaning up all the email that has been sent and other things that have either hit the fan or trending negatively.

The funny thing is that the practice of vendor brochures and followup is not only hit or miss, it is also environmentally irresponsible. There is one particular vendor who periodically mails me promotional material that is nicely wrapped and sent via Fedex. The Fedex box contains another box which contains another box that ultimately contains something meaningless. I have received items as valuable as a pack of chewing gum to nothing but a business card. Did you know that I purchase my groceries at Whole Paycheck? Folks are paying more attention to global warming and the waste of resources. Sure, you have done a great job in capturing my attention but not in a way that is beneficial to your business.

When I am at my desk, I can bookmark my favorite websites. Why can't this analogy work for industry conferences? Imagine if there was a way for me to indicate which vendors I wanted to followup with later. The notion of bookmarking speaker presentations, folks I have met in other enterprises and cool vendors seems like something worthy of pursuit in the 2.0 world.

If I can bookmark, then both of us can participate in realizing green IT. This form of electronic tracking would also be of interest to vendors as well in terms of understanding who to sell to me. For example, imagine if IBM were at a conference and they knew I attended a presentation on Green IT, security and open source. When you ultimately followup with me, you might be able to sell me a lot better than simply doing name dropping of other enterprises without even knowing whether I have an interest at all.

More importantly, you miss another opportunity to spend your own marketing dollars more wisely. Why aren't you asking me about how I perceived the value of the conference? If you know that the odds are likely that I will not attend next years event then this could save you some money. Why not ask what events that I like? Would it be of interest to you to know that I have never attended a conference by either Gartner, Forrester nor Burton Group? Would it be of interest to you to know that I have attended two conferences in the past sponsored by the 451 Group and have found them to be of high quality? For the record, I haven't attended the Burton Group conference because of value, but have avoided it because I really hate flying to California. I am spooked by the slightest bump in air and tend to only want to fly north/south.

Likewise, you may also know that I find better value in attending small intimate events such as OWASP, NYC TechForum and IASA over larger more commercial oriented events. Don't solely focus on my title and how much budget I have, but do consider my interests, passions and aspirations...

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