My Week at #SHRM16: Build Your Brand and They Will Come

Many people in the HCM industry anticipate the annual shindig and love fest that is Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference and exposition. This year it was hosted in Washington, D.C. From what I saw, it was very well attended, and as usual, the SHRM team did an amazing job directing the movement of over 13,000 attendees to the various activities offered.

My time was spent in the exposition hall meeting with prospects and clients, but I also found time to wander around the aisles of expectant faces, bright colors, games, and giveaways. By the way, there were not nearly enough chocolate giveaways, I will publicly proclaim. What the more than 600 vendors in that expansive hall wanted were cards, business cards, scanning cards, using a $1.99 fish bowl for your cards. Why? Because it meets the requirements of their demand-generation spend. Lead generation? Demand generation? At a conference? But it’s all about branding, BABY!!

Many of the vendors at SHRM spent a significant percentage of their marketing budget for the year on that one “lead generation” activity. Yeah, sure, you get cards with names and numbers on them, but are they really qualified leads? They are the ground-zero leads — the need-to-be-nurtured, talked-to, caught-at-the-right-time kind of leads. Wouldn’t it be more effective and efficient if your leads were knowledgeable about your brand and offerings — and had an affinity for your company? YES — and it’s all about the branding, BABY!!

Gone are the bulky, overbearing exhibit booths that loom like clunky monsters, frightening you from approaching them — unless maybe they’re giving away neon flip-flops. Replacing them this year are open airy booths, minimalistic clean lines, mainly white with splashes of logo colors, but they all look the same. True, these booths are less cluttered and perhaps more inviting for you to try out your new neon flip-flops, but each is easily confused with the next. Brand it up. The magic of a great brand is that it stands out. Take your identity to the next level and watch everyone else try to keep up. Make it memorable with a planned logo explosion on everything in that booth — giveaways, booth staff shirts, rugs on the floor, the backs of the chairs, cufflinks and earrings — because it’s all about the branding, BABY!!

Hey! The right people are in town for this great conference, so slosh your brand all over the conference center. On water bottles as they enter the exhibit hall, coffee cup wrappers, fingerless gloves to keep your hands warm in those air-conditioned rooms, above the urinals — everywhere or strategically placed, because it’s all about the branding, BABY!!

I totally agree that conferences are expected and smart to include in your yearly marketing budget, but they shouldn’t be benchmarked against your lead-generation objectives for the year. They need to be measured within your brand-awareness objective — and the stronger the brand, the more successful any of your other lead-generation campaigns will be. Yes, build your brand and they will come. I promise.  

 P.S. It’s all about the branding, BABY!