“Finish Strong!” read the email’s subject line.
It was from one of my old bosses, and addressed what our conduct was to be at an upcoming conference. Specifically, he heard some folks didn’t have many meetings scheduled on the final afternoon of the show, and some were even cutting out a day early. It went on to condemn such lax behavior and concluded with a repetition of the subject line.
Perhaps because of his earlier admonitions, we were not rallied.
About a week before, this same gentleman had berated the editorial staff specifically for not having enough vendor meetings (the 30 minute meet and greets that have become such a ritual at trade shows). The thinking being that such sit downs ultimately turned into advertising dollars.
He wanted us to have these half-hour meetings every half hour for the entire duration of the show (four days). Memory may have failed me, but the goal number of 30 keeps coming to mind. I pushed back hard.
“After a half-day of this, we will be in such sorry shape that the meetings will do more brand damage than good,” I pleaded. “We are not robots, and if the goal is to leave a favorable impressions, we can’t do this many.”
But the boss was focused on hitting a certain number, no doubt because he’d boasted of it to his betters. For some strange reason, he didn’t seem to care about how the high number of meetings might negatively affect the quality. I had to wonder — was the goal to have meetings or to have good meetings?
I thought about this last year when onboarding Nancy. Throughout her whole career, she had continually been instructed to simply “book meetings.” And so that’s what she did — book meetings in order to hit her overall goal, to fill her calendar.
“Can you come along,” Nancy asked me in regard to one meeting she’d booked last year, “They’ve asked.”
“Why do they want me there?” I questioned. “The meeting is about you explaining our advertising/marketing programs to them.”
“Yeah, well, we usually we leave these things vague to help get the meeting booked,” she said.
“Let’s do things differently. The goal of your meetings is to sell stuff, so let’s make sure those you are sitting down with are potentially interested in buying, or at least learning more. So nobody should ask you to bring me along because the point of the meeting will be crystal clear. If they don’t take the meeting fine, but if they do, it will truly be a good meeting with sales potential,” I advised. “Nobody will be wasting their time.”
And wasting time is exactly what I see going on all over HIMSS as organizations vie for traffic at their booths and bodies at their parties, with the biggest giveaways indicating the largest misunderstanding about exactly what constitutes success. It may feel good to have lots of folks lining up to get something stamped at your booth, but does not their parting with nary an inquiry about your offerings leave you feeling hollow? It should.
There is an ROI to be figured into everything, especially when it comes to marketing. And if handing out a $250 AMEX gift card — or the equivalent value of glow-in-the-dark yo-yos — attracts a crowd of whom the vast majority have neither the interest nor wherewithal to buy what you’re selling, what’s the point? Keep in mind, expending marketing dollars without resultant sales isn’t treading water, it’s drowning.
The lesson here for leaders of any variety? Be very careful when crafting orders for your troops, because an error or omission can mean all the difference in the world. Make sure your folks know that you don’t just want them going through the motions, but creating real momentum. And that can only happen when they understand the desired outcome, and share that information with the other party.
Finally, realize that quantity almost always impacts quality, and know that pushing your folks beyond a certain point of endurance reveals your lack of concern for their well-being, which I guarantee has a negative ROI. I’d rather have my team take fewer meetings but impress the heck out of every single person they meet. To me, sometimes the only way to finish strong is to finish early.