Industry Conferences and Lean ThinkingA Lean manager walking into an automotive aftermarket industry conference might feel like a fish out of water. Rows upon rows of booths, staffed by more employees than are necessary, giving out free merchandise, indulging in unproven marketing concepts… It is hardly conducive to Lean thinking! If you want to attend industry conferences, but are concerned about waste, try these strategies.

Look for Past Successes and Efficiencies

How many sales were made last year for every 100 leads generated by the same conference? Did strategic partnerships result from networking opportunities? How much “swag” was distributed, and did you see a boost in name recognition? Was media coverage generated?

Scrap past strategies that cannot be connected to sales or other benchmarks of success. Call past conference attendees into your office and ask them to help you locate efficiencies. Reward employees who find ways to save.

Set Firm Benchmarks for Success

It is easy to get distracted by the fun and glitz of an industry event and forget about sales goals. Set benchmarks in stone and go over progress every morning. Every person attending should be accountable for meeting a daily goal. Whether it is a lead generation number for a salesperson or a targeted increase in your company’s Twitter followers for a marketer, ensure that each attendee takes ownership and follows through.

Teach Lean Thinking

Industry events offer an excellent opportunity to teach young leaders how to think Lean in a rapidly changing environment. Walk around the exhibit hall with a young employee and ask him to identify five companies that are wasting money, time, or labor at their booths. Encourage employees to ensure that wasted motion and wasteful overwork do not occur.

Submit a Speaking Proposal

Consider what you have to offer and how you can present it in a compelling way. If you are able to speak at an industry event, you have increased the value to your company of your attendance, and you will enjoy unique professional networking opportunities. Attending a conference without at least submitting a speaking proposal is like turning down free advertising.

Continuous Improvement

Take detailed notes throughout each industry event. Whenever an idea works well or poorly, make a note, even if it is as simple as the tone an employee uses to approach a booth visitor or the color of the t-shirts you choose to give out. Do not rely on yourself to remember each day’s successes and failures. Take notes as you go, so as not to lose valuable information.

Let Customers Track Your Efforts for You

A number of options now exist to monitor the success of a particular campaign. For instance, a unique QR code can lead to a special discount for conference attendees and data for you. If you sell primarily in-store or by phone, make sure that your employees record any conference-specific coupons or codes. Any discounts you offer at an industry event should be accompanied by a tracking method of some sort.

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