Vendors and conferences and flipping the funnel

I’m going to the Electronic Recruiting Exchange Conference this week. It’s a recruiting industry conference with a trade show floor for vendors and programmed sessions for practitioners. I always have fun at these conferences if for no reason other than networking.

What I noticed this year is EVEN MORE mail (e, voice and snail) from vendors who will be at the trade show letting attendees know who they are, where they are going to be (booth #), etc. To some extent, I think this whole thing is a little backward. I’m not really in the market for anything right at this moment. I’ll walk the trade show floor to see what’s doing, but have never spent a bunch of time there. In some sense, it’s a buyers market…lots of vendors competing for the limited attention of recruiters. Plus there’s so much noise, web 2.0 this and ATS integration that….blah, blah, blah. I don’t have time to care about all of the messages….I don’t even have time to figure out which ones to listen to.

So I am going to flip the funnel, just for fun. Attention vendors: I am going to be at ERE in San Diego. I will reserve three fifteen minute time slots to talk to three vendors exclusively. You can pitch your product, ask me about recruiting at Microsoft or get fashion advice. First come, first served. Drop your name and contact info into the comment section and I’ll contact you offline to make arrangements to meet.

And now I don’t feel so guilty about ignoring all those marketing messages (oh, OK, I never felt guilty).

This is the ONLY time I am going to ask staffing vendors to leave their contact info here : )

Comments (12)

  1. Hey Heather,

    We do allow the vendors at the ERE Expo to mail out a pre-conference postal mailing to the attendees.  It is one of the ways that they can generate a return on investment for their participation in the show (and their booths and sponsorships are what makes professional conferences like the ERE Expo viable as businesses without charging astronomical rates to the attendees.)

    I do want to emphasize though that we NEVER give out phone numbers of our attendees and speakers, so whoever left those voicemails was being overzealous and finding some other way to get in touch with you – perhaps by calling the main Microsoft number and asking for you by name?

    I’m looking forward to seeing you here in San Diego (and if I don’t count as one of your three vendors, drinks are on me!)


    P.S. – The event is now just ERE Expo – we stopped calling ourselves Electronic Recruiting Exchange last year!

  2. I would love to have a 15 minute conversation…please drop me a line at

    I would prefer not to put my cell in here in case it posts 🙂  but I am warning that you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Jeremy Lappin

    CEO BountyJobs

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    David, I know….I wasn’t complaining. That is how things work. And I could tell the calls came through our main switchboard. One of these days I’ll get the name right!

    Jeremy – you got it!

  4. Christine says:

    Hey Heather,

    I’m not a recruiter but fashion advice would be welcome!  😉


  5. Dennis Smith says:

    I’m with Christine….I’ll take the fashion advice ; )

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Dennis, you got it…. : )

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    So this ended up being a pretty interesting experiment. My initial intent was to figure out if vendors (the staffing variety in this case), who were accustomed to programmatic marketing ("ERE is next month, let’s get our booth and send out our marketing cards") would market outside of the box (oh yes, I did just say that phrase and I am already sorry I did it). Seems that corporate staffing departments are trying to reach their customers (prospects or candidates) in new in different ways, yet staffing vendors? Not so much.

    Turns out that most vendors want to market on their own terms, which is fine except for the fact that their products are going to have to pretty much walk on water (or something) to get my attention (signal to noise ratio or something like that). For someone like me, all their products blend together to form one big pulsing, tentacled  blob of web 2.0.

    Oh, except for Jeremy’s product. First off, Jeremy created somewhat of an evangelist out of me simply because he took me up on my offer. Also, considering that he told one of my co-workers that he heard I was "tough" and still went through with it, props to him : )

    Not for nothing, his product is pretty dang cool. And yeah, I am going to share my feedback on it with other Staffing Managers at Microsoft. Because what Jeremy was able to do with his product is essentially flip the company/agency engagement model (not sure what it is with me and "flipping" these days) and it’s brilliant. And he’s an opportunist…in a good way. And I like that.

    And he was the only one. At this conference, I spoke on a panel about blogging and what we are still finding is that many companies fear bloggers (what our moderator, Jim Durbin, referred to as perceived "angry letter writers", I think, in the minds of the companies). They don’t want to engage because they can’t control the bloggers. Fact is, it’s a huge opportunity. For the staffing vendors (or any company), if they are fortunate or unfortunate, bloggers are going to talk about them. You can let the bloggers sneak up on you when you aren’t looking or you can face them head on and control your message. If you close your eyes real tight, they aren’t going to go away.  And when a blogger serves up that opportunity to pitch yur product and create an evangelist out of them on a silver platter? One taker. Thanks for your time Jeremy and good for you!

  8. Heather,

    Thanks for the kind words.  How could I resist an invitation like you gave me…15 minutes to pitch my service to a great recruiting blogger? Didnt have to think too long about that…  

    The biggest challenge that we have as a company is getting through the noise of vendors calling on the same companies.  Once we get someone’s attention, they are always blown away by what we have built but more importantly, they are blown away by the results that our marketplace provides.

    But seriously, thanks for the rave reviews, it is such a pleasure to show my product to someone who "gets it" so quickly.  

    See you next year…

    Jeremy Lappin

    CEO BountyJobs

  9. Neil Hohmann says:

    My son Mark Hohmann works at bountyjobs with Jeremy and I try to find information on the web (only way I can) about what he is doing.

    Thank you.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Aww, that’s nice. From what I have seen, they have a great product so you should be proud of your son!

  11. Kris Rzepkowski says:

    First let me thank you for attending the conference and talking about blogging. It encouraged me to enter the fray.

    As for those of us who buy staffing products, perhaps flipping the funnel is as much about clearly articulating the business challenges we are facing in a more transparent way. What you are going through at Microsoft is different than what I go through as a marketing manager at Hudson.  Unfortunately, that sort of information may be too privileged to share in any way publicly. If it weren’t, vendors could review our situation and screen themselves out. Those that don’t would have to leave a comment on your blog before getting an actual meeting with you. Then your peer network could review the vendor’s pitch, and help decide whether it is worth you taking a call or meeting.

    The problem with the way we get marketed to today is how little targeting there truly is. Everything of value that we buy must be based on a consultative sale. Yet we get marketed to like the products are TV’s that we can buy off the shelf. Maybe there is a way to enable vendors to consult better and to get the irrelevant ones to leave us alone. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had enough information not to have to "do discovery", and actually offer solutions to our problems rather than inventing problems for their solutions?

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Kris – good comments. I should just reiterate that my role in the scenario wasn’t as a buyer but as an influencer of other buyers (since I am a blogger). So it wouldn’t necessarily matter if the product met my needs (I don’t work with agencies in my role, so Jeremy’s product, for example, wouldn’t meet any current needs that I have).

    So in a way, what I proposed actually does allow the vendors to target better; they would be targeting readers of my blog. I don’t write specifically FOR recruiters but I have been told that many recruiters read my blog (some for fun and some to understand the medium better). I have to imagine they are the highly intelligent and good looking target audience that all staffing vendors are looking for : )