Conference Follow Up for WBEs

Written by: Cassandra Bailey

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of presenting to a group of WBE-certified companies ahead of the 2019 National Conference. The amazing Peggy Gionta from Partners Consulting and I talked about capabilities statements and shared some new ways to think about them.

At the heart of my talk was the perspective that every person is different and likes to receive information differently.  So in that spirit, here are some tips and best practices for conducting follow-up after the conference. Remember, your goal is to create or maintain a relationship with a real-life human being.  Think about that as you plan your outreach.

For people who don’t like printed capabilities statements:

Chances are these people told you to email it to them.  Maybe you went back to your room that night and sent it.  Maybe you waited until you got back in the office. Either way, timing is not on your side.  The week after National Conference is 4th of July, which means that many people won’t be paying attention to your email or your capabilities statement.  Welcome to the void.

Instead, consider sending your capabilities statement via email 2-4 weeks after the Conference.  Let activity from others die down a little. Hope for a slow period. This will give you a much better chance at getting through.

Think about the email you send along with your statement.  “You asked for it, here it is.” doesn’t work. Instead, try to use the opportunity to further the relationship.  Include a reminder about a conversation you had. Make a joke. Ask a question. Make a reasonable request. Whatever you do, don’t waste this opportunity.

For people who took your printed capabilities statement:

Some people like paper.  They make notes, they bring everything back to their desks, they review and do their own follow up.  These people may be overwhelmed with all that they have. Chances are that they’ll need more information about you if they’re going to try to do business with you.  

What else might help supplier diversity people get to know you?  Well, you can always ask. Just like the recommendation above, wait until they’re settled back in their office and activity dies down a little.  Send them your capabilities statement electronically, “just so they have it.” Would they be interested in reviewing one or more of your case studies?  Would they like to see samples of your work? Would a catalogue of products you offer be helpful? What else would they like to know about you?

Again, one email isn’t going to do it.  If you don’t hear back, try again. But NEVER be annoyed or annoying.  Remember: relationship.

For people who are passing information to their colleagues:

If you get lucky and timing is right, the supplier diversity person may know someone in her / his organization that needs your products and services.  Awesome! In that case, your standard capabilities statement isn’t going to be all that helpful. Would you ever give a general marketing piece to an actual targeted client?  Probably not.

Take a little time to better understand the end audience.  Then create or send materials that meet their needs and pain points.  The supplier diversity people are there to help WBEs connect with internal buyers. They have every reason to make sure you’re set up for success, including protecting their reputation and the reputation of the SD program at the company.  So ask. Try to get answers. And create and send something meaningful and helpful.

Basic best practices for everyone:

Think about how you create your best relationships.  They don’t just exist twice a year at an event or via email.  Every person at the WBENC Conference is a potential LinkedIn contact, someone to follow on Twitter or Instagram, and someone to send (targeted) emails.  Think about ways that you can connect with these new colleagues and friends in person or online throughout the year. This will be much more effective than just sending a capabilities statement.  

A bonus idea:

The closest thing to meeting in person is communicating via video.  It’s an opportunity to showcase your energy, personality, and likeability.  After all, people like to work with people they like. Think about creating a custom video for your top three corporate prospects.  Speak to the end customer you’re trying to attract. Share it with your supplier diversity contact and ask for feedback. This will certainly help you stand out in a very crowded market.  It may also make your supplier diversity contact’s job a lot easier. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

If you want more tips and insights, check out our new eBook that we recently published with fellow WBE, 12PointFive.