There was a session at Affiliate Summit East 2011 with candid advice from past attendees on representing your company at a conference or tradeshow.
Here are the speakers from that session…
- Tricia Meyer, Owner, Sunshine Rewards (Moderator)
- Robert Adler, President, The Link Builders
- Brandon Hoffman, Chief Hustler, Ad Hustler, LLC
- Kim Rowley, Owner, Key Internet Marketing, Inc.
The panel originated from Robert Adler’s article in FeedFront Magazine titled, “Properly Pitching Your Network at Affiliate Summit.”
The article resulted in so much discussion that we decided to bring Robert Adler together with a few other folks in the industry to further discuss how to best represent your company at a conference.
The following is a summary of the panel discussion.
Don’t Look at Their Name Tag – Introduce Yourself
ROBERT ADLER: Very simplistically, if you go up to a booth or you’re working a booth, someone comes up to you, please for the love of God, don’t look at their name tag to get their name. Ask them for their name, because you’d be surprised how many people will actually just go straight for the name tag, but then you scan and see, “Oh, they’re not an affiliate, they’re an agency. He’s not that important or he’s a network instead of an affiliate. Oh, he’s not that important.”
Always go after who they are first, because you never know what they’re going to do a year from now, two years from now, six months from now, a month from now. The person that is working for a network now might be an affiliate tomorrow. You never know. The fastest way to kind of set things of in the wrong direction is to assume that they are something that they are right now, instead of what they might be in a week, two months, six months, whatever it maybe.
More importantly, just introduce yourself. Business is supposed to be personal to a point, so don’t go off from just what they’re handing you. Go off and actually get to know them; it will help you out in business a lot better.
TRICIA MEYER: You will find that a lot of people who are here wear different hats, so it maybe that their tags says that they are merchant, but they actually also has some affiliate sites, too, or vice versa, so there are a lot of people here that do a lot of different things at the same time.
Don’t Look Over Their Shoulder for Someone Better
TRICIA MEYER: What about when you’re standing and you’re talking to someone and they start looking over your shoulder like they are waiting for the next person to come up behind you?
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I don’t like that. I actually had that happen once with a company. I think it was at Affiliate Summit. The guy, he’s really rude, I don’t know why he’s rude to me. I don’t know. He started talking to somebody else while he’s in the middle of talking to me. I remember after that, the guy wanting my business, I told him, “You’re rude to me.” I was like, “I’m not going to do business with you.” He’s been pursuing I think for the last six years. He’s trying to do business with me ever since, I’m still not wanting to talk to him.
TRICIA MEYER: You may feel like you’re just looking over our shoulders too, assess the traffic, see how many people are waiting in line so you can hurry up the conversation, but to us it feels like you’re looking for someone more important to talk to rather than talking to us in that moment.
KIM ROWLEY: I have to admit the ones that look at my name badge quick, I don’t even bother to talk to them, because I think it’s rude.
Never Judge a Book by Its Cover
ROBERT ADLER: A lot of people especially if it’s your first time here, even if just looking out, you can kind of see it. Some people will dress up in a full suit, some people will dress up in a bottom down, some people just really don’t care, and then others will do what I do, which is pretty much a t-shirt and shorts.
Never think that the way someone dresses equates to how much money they make, or how much they can help you, or what they can do for you, because that’s probably the number one thing that lies the most. No one ever really gets that if it’s their first time here, but after that they slowly learn over and over and over again that it does not do anything to equate to your skill level, what you do, how you do it, or anything in between.
I’ve met people that literally will walk around in a t-shirt and shorts, or walk around in something a lot more casual than that, that make a lot of money doing what they do, but no one even knew that time of day, because they think that they’re not serious, or anything along those lines. Never judge based on that. Always get to know them for who they are.
KIM ROWLEY: I agree with the gender bias. I still think a lot of some CPA networks are, they go towards the men not the women thinking the women can’t drive the leads, but we can.
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I know nobody would expect that somebody would think that I would not be professional. The truth is, I may not look professional, but I’m probably one of the most professional people that you could deal with, so don’t judge the book by its cover.
TRICIA MEYER: Mine is a little bit different. I tend to get the “You must be the PR Person for the business or are you here to hand out treats or something like that?” I actually get, “You’re either one that does the SEO and the programming, and can we talk to somebody else in your company, the owner or something like that?” That is me, me, all of those things.
So yes—you never know who is it that you are talking to, it can be really be offensive if you assumed that they are the assistant, if you assumed that they’re just there working in the booth and it could turn out that they are the owner of the company and you completely ruined your chances of working with them.
Don’t Make False Claims about Your Business
TRICIA MEYER: Has anybody ever heard one of the networks say that they have the highest payouts or exclusives that no one else has, because that seems to be kind of a big pitching point? We’re actually looking through the exhibitor guide. We’re not going to name names, but you all know who you are, you 7,500 out there that all have the highest payouts. 99.9 percent of you must be lying.
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I agree. It’s very obnoxious, the highest payouts, the best offer, all that kind of nonsense. The truth is any affiliate network can get pretty much any offer, and any affiliate network can get most any price, and they can make up the price anyway, because they can just scrub the leads. The price doesn’t really matter how much they’re paying out on the lead, it’s more about the relationships.
I have affiliate networks that I like to work with and I really don’t care necessarily what the payout is that they’re putting out on the street or what offer they have, because I could always just ask them to get the offer I need at the price I need, and it’s either going to covert as well as where I’m running it somewhere else or not, so it’s just all nonsense.
Develop a relationship with an affiliate, make them trust you, do right by them and it won’t really matter if you have the best payouts or the highest, the best selection of offers or whatever it is, because you’re going to have that relationship regardless. They’re going to come back to you every time. No other networks are going to be able to steal them by saying they have a better payout on some dating offers or something, so maintain the relationship.
KIM ROWLEY: I agree. In fact, I’ll run some offers that pay less just because I like the network that they’re on, and I know that I’m going to get paid. I like the relationship.
Differentiate Yourself from the Competition
TRICIA MEYER: We were kind of playing a little game before we started here going through the exhibitor guide and Rob was reading off the descriptions of the companies. It was amazing to me that company after company, when he read the description, I couldn’t tell you who it was because every description sounded the exact same.
If what you’re pitching sounds the exact same as the people next to you, the next booth over, no one is going to remember who you are. You have to pitch to us what it is that’s different. You may think using those buzz words about exclusive and highest and percentages and things like that are different, but the reality is that those are the exact same things that all the other people that we talk to this week are going to say to us.
There has to be something that’s unique about you, whether it’s unique about you as a person. If it’s unique about your company, about where you’re located, your mascot, whatever it is that’s unique about you, that’s what you have to get across to us, because those are the things that we’re going to remember when we get home and we’re flipping through all those business cards and throwing 99 percent of them away.
TRICIA MEYER: Name one thing that we’ll make you walk passed an exhibitor faster than anything else?
KIM ROWLEY: Booth Babes! Not so much that they are not nice to look at, it’s that they don’t know what’s going on, what if you have a question about the company, but they hired somebody to stand, some pretty gal to stand there to hand out cards, what if you have a question and she has no idea about your company to answer any of your questions.
BRANDON HOFFMANR: I am going to agree on the booth babes. I have other things that annoy me too. I like looking at hot chicks as much as anybody else, but I really just don’t need them in an Internet marketing convention, because unless they can answer some questions that I have to ask. I just find it obnoxious. They look pathetic to me. You’re not going to attract any true performer with the booth babe. I don’t think, because if they’re true performer they can buy their own girl, they don’t need to walk over here and look at the ones at your booth. I wasn’t joking.
Show Interest in Your Own Product or Service
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I really hate when people that are working at the booth look disinterested. I can remember I think it was last Affiliate Summit East, I guess, and there were somebody like an old looking chap sitting in at a booth like sitting on the highest chair with his legs cross reading a newspaper. I’m like, “I’m not going to approach your booth and I’m just not interested in whatever it is that you’re selling if you’re not interested in what you’re selling.” I need to see your excitement for me to get excited.
Don’t Be Aggressive
TRICIA MEYER: I don’t like that aggressive like sales mentality of trying to put something in my hands to get me to talk to you, when you’re standing there and you think, “If I can get her to hold on to the pen or hold on to whatever, then I got her standing here and talking to me.” That might work in retail sales, but that doesn’t work in affiliate marketing. It’s a different ball game.
If I see people that are standing there and I see them doing that to other people, I kind of scope out the aisle, and if I see those people that are standing there like trying to get you to take the magazine, so they can get you hook and then reel you in, I’ll cover up my badge and run really fast passed them so that they don’t have to stop.
Because I don’t want to feel trapped. I want to feel like you’re approachable or you as a person approachable. If you’re sitting at practice for lunch, whatever, I don’t want to feel like you’re trying to trap me, because if you’re having to trap me then it probably means whatever you have isn’t interesting enough to make me want to stay without that.
Know Your Product or Service
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I think that knowledge is the best sales tool at a conference like this. Not really “salesy” kind of things, because everybody here is a sales person when you’re really think about it. When everybody here is a marketing person and knows how to sell, they can spot like cheesy sales guy staff from mile away, but if you’re knowledgeable and you can answer questions about your product and make me really educated about what you’re selling and make me interested, that’s the best sales tool you’re going to have.
Don’t Spam Business Card Email Addresses
KIM ROWLEY: Don’t spam me. On my business cards, I use a specific email address, so I know that it’s from my business cards and I cannot believe how many lists I get added to with that email and instantly that’s a turn off that I don’t want to do business with you. But if you want to send a follow up email like, “Hey, I meet you at Affiliate Summit.” That’s fine.
TRICIA MEYER: I think that’s a really important point about the follow up, something that we don’t have a place to talk about in any other place, but the follow ups afterward today. Obviously, you’re going to meet people today, tomorrow is Tuesday and there’s going to be that travel time of Wednesday, Thursday.
I think if I don’t end up following up with somebody, usually within a week, maybe, of when I’m in a conference, that person falls way to the bottom of the list, and I end forgetting about the conversation that we had, or something else becomes more important at that time.
So you have to continue that pitch though, not incredibly aggressively like emailing and emailing and calling until they respond, but at least that initial, “Hey, we meet at the Affiliate Summit, this is what we talked about.” A little reminder to me about what we talked about, then I’m more likely to be able to take the time to work with you after that.
Standing Out on the Exhibit Hall Floor
KIM ROWLEY: I think a good example of being different would be not necessarily the swag, but let’s says all of your people wore green capes, and then you either handed out green capes, so you followed up and you said in your thing, “Hey look for us in the green capes and then maybe you even want to send the green cape later.” It’s like “Oh, I remember them.” You want to be memorable.
Bad Experiences at Booths
TRICIA MEYER: Let’s talk bad experiences. Anyone had a bad experience at the booth that you’d like to share?
ROBERT ADLER: I got one. For the exhibitors that purchased the ability to use the little scanner gun on your pass, don’t snipe me as I’m walking down the aisle. I’m not even joking like, “She must have been paid on commission or something for everyone that she scanned.” But she was literally just standing. They’re going like this and just scanning every single person walking down the aisle. She must have like 6,000 email address at the end of that, but that’s why I now block the scanner code. The scanner gun can be probably one of your best assets if used correctly, but if you don’t use it right, I won’t even stop at the booth. That is just pathetic. At least, that’s my opinion.
BRANDON HOFFMAN: I don’t like when I get to a booth and when I decided to actually asked a question or talked to somebody and they can’t tell me what they do quickly. I just want to hear what you do quickly. I don’t need to talk to you for half an hour. Sometimes, these guys they won’t let you go and you just have to almost get rude with them to leave. I think that you just got to be respectful of people that are walking around, of affiliate’s time and make sure that you’re just getting your point across and letting them go, not trapping them at your booth, unless they want to be trapped at your booth, but they’ll stay there though.
TRICIA MEYER: I think the worst experience I ever had was someone who trapped me at their booth, and what they did had nothing to do with what I do. There was no way that we could work together, but they kept me there for like a good ten minutes going on and on and on, and finally at the end when I could get a word on edgewise, I kind of indicated, “I told you what I do and you told me what you do and we have no synergy or anything, whatsoever.” He said, “I know, but I’m really new to this so I’m trying to practice my pitch.”
BRANDON HOFFMAN: Try it on someone else.
TRICIA MEYER: I just thought, “Oh, all right. Thanks though. There’s the ten minutes gone and your name is mud.” There is a level of honesty to have with the people that you’re talking to, if you don’t know the answer to a question, even if it’s about your own company, you want to be honest about that and say you’ll get back about that, but that’s something you don’t know that the person asked. There is a certain level of honesty that you want to have, so that you can start building that relationship. I think also in some cases, there can be a little bit too much honesty.
BRANDON HOFFMAN: To her point about the questions, if I asked a question, I want an answer. I want an answer to the questions that I asked, not an answer to whatever your agenda was to tell me about. I don’t think most of the companies here could actually answer a question, when you asked them a question, because they just go off talking about whatever it is they want to talk about and you’re disinterested. If asked a question, answer that question. That’s it.
Good Experiences at Booths
TRICIA MEYER: Being the sunshine girl that I am, let’s go positive. What are some good experiences that you’ve had with companies pitching you, either over lunch, or at the booth, or something like that at conferences?
What are the things that have been good, like meeting somebody that made you follow up with them afterward?
BRANDON HOFFMAN: Usually for me, if somebody is intelligent, I really feel like they know what they’re talking about, and they’re an expert in whatever it is that they do makes me want to work with them, because it gives me confidence that I can learn something from them or that I’m working with the best. If they are some random affiliate manager and affiliate network, I don’t have a lot of confidence, but if you’re well known affiliate manager, and if you’re telling me things that I don’t know, and they sound like they’re interesting. You really have to pique my interest and sound educated. If you don’t sound educated, you’re done with me. I want you to be the expert of whatever it is you do. I don’t want to know more about what you do than you do.
TRICIA MEYER: For me I like when the person who’s pitching their company to me isn’t just pitching their company to me, but they are listening to what I’m saying about my company, so that we can start brainstorming together off of that. You met that person at lunch and they tell you what they do and you say what you do and they say, “You know what? We have this then maybe we could together on it.” They say, “Tell me more about this.”
And you can tell that they’re actually listening to you. You can tell that they’re listening to what you’re saying, and what your business model is and their mind, they’re thinking how to put those pieces together and you can work together. By the time I leave that conversation, I’m energized about that relationship and I’m thinking this is somebody that I really want to follow up with, because now in my head I’ve already gone to the next level, not just I will follow up and exchange business cards.
I’m thinking, “Yes, I could launch that. I could put that on my site. I could blog about that.” That will be something that would be great for my company. That is something that my members would love. As we’re having that conversation, and I know that you’re interested, truly interested in me, because you see a possible business relationship between us, you can really feel that from people.
KIM ROWLEY: I have a shoe blog and so when people ask me what my site is, I say, “I have a shoe blog.” and if they have a shoe client, “Can we send you a pair of shoes to review? Plus, we offer this commission and we’ll give you a higher commission for higher placement.” Yes, so then when I get the shoes in the mail, I’m definitely going to blog about them.
ROBERT ADLER: Mine is very simplistic—just don’t lie to me. It’s honestly just that easy. If I sit down with someone for lunch and at the end of the lunch they literally look at me and say, “I cannot think of one way that we can work together.” Okay, cool. I’ll take your business card and when you can think of something when I shift into another niche or something, I’ll make it happen, because I trust you and you didn’t lie to me and say, “We can bring that in. We can do that for you. We can do this. We can do that.”
Meanwhile, he’s thinking at the back of his head, “I have no idea where you get that offer. Or I have no idea where to get that product. I have no idea what company I could bring in for him.” Whereas, at the same time, I’m sure down the road I will be doing something that will go with whatever they have. My big thing is don’t lie to me. If you’re honest, I’ll work with you eventually, but if you’re not honest, I will never work with you, ever.