I was recently looking back at responses from an old post-event survey administered by an asset manager, and I was struck by one recurring comment from attendees. The sponsor company had gone to great lengths to make this a value-add event, not a sales event. There was no talk of product and barely any talk of the company itself. The speakers were accomplished and noteworthy academics, the location was on neutral territory, and the topics were brand-agnostic. The result?
Attendees wanted to hear about products! Or rather, they wanted to hear about real, available solutions to the issues introduced during the event sessions. By leaving out product altogether, the asset manager missed an opportunity, and, as it turned out, it was a missed opportunity for the attendees as well.
I’ve seen this issue come up periodically throughout my career in financial services market research. The participants we talk to appear to have sales-on and sales-off mentalities. I know this is true for me personally. If I’m surprised by a sales push, I’m less likely to be open to it, but sometimes I’m in a setting where I expect some sort of sales effort. This happens regularly in the wealth management arena. An advisor may not accept every wholesaler request to visit, but when the visits do happen there’s an expectation that the wholesaler is ultimately there to sell product.
It should go without saying that there is a right and wrong way to do this. Be relevant. Be specific. Know the target audience’s business and requirements. Frame how the product solves a problem. Do be timely. Don’t really be pushy.
But doing it right doesn’t mean don’t do it at all.