Sponsorship vs Exhibitionism

(February 06, 2008) Have you ever noticed the huge barrier of distrust between the people who work in Recruiting and the vendors who serve them? It’s an astonishing thing. The divide is as structural as the disconnect between Corporate Recruiters and the various members of the staffing and search industries.

Part of the problem is the way that vendors reach out to their potential customers. There are a narrow range of potential channels: bulk email, telemarketing, tradeshows, web ads, print ads, superbowl ads and direct mail. Each of these methods assumes that response rates are tiny and that yelling is the best way to communicate. Marketing in our industry is rarely subtle or comforting. The communications channels depend on loud and oversimplified messaging.

The Recruiting Roadshow™ is a series of communications experiments. We’re trying to understand:

  • Regional communications differences and their impact on effective Recruiting;
  • Alternative methods for vendor – customer interactions;
  • The localization of expertise (local people are more effective than national celebrities);
  • The use of physical networks to optimize online social networking; and,
  • The development of an industry-wide continuing education infrastructure.

Our sponsorship experiment bears particularly close examination.

Typically, vendors are required to elbow their way into the consciousness of their prospects. The trade show circuit, with its endless array of booths and carnies is a good image. If you’ve never been to one of the big trade shows, imagine a sea of ring toss, duck shooting, basketball tossing, hammer and bell booths with their barkers. In the largest settings a full circling of the exhibits can take days.

Often, trade shows feature a late afternoon parade. Conference attendees are given a bingo card and sent to collect stamps from each of the booths. A fully completed card entitles the bearer to participate in the afternoon’s raffle of the giant teddy bear. There is always a stampede of attendees with their overflowing bags of goodies.

At the Recruiting Roadshow™, we’re trying something different. No corn dogs, no cotton candy, no timeshare sales, no petting zoo. In a big event, the typical commercial marketing transaction is barely remembered by the event participant. The booths blur together.

The Recruiting Roadshow depends on sponsorship. Since the events are free to participants, all of the costs are borne by the underwriters and sponsors. Sponsorship means something special to participants because the event is funded for them by a few memorable vendors. They aren’t allowed to sell anything during the Roadshow. They are, however, encouraged to attend and to get to know the local audience.

The experiment is designed to make sure that value is delivered first, that the learning environment is sacred. A Recruiting Roadshow™  sponsor is not brassy or intrusive. They use the opportunity to demonstrate the depths of their commitment to service. More than anything else, it’s an opportunity to give back to the community.

That sort of approach builds the sort of reputation that lasts a long time.

John Sumser. – © 2008 Two Color Hat, Inc. Santa Rosa, CA

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