TRC, HARDI & the Networking Advantage
After my return from the Heating, Air-Conditioning Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) conference early this month, I found myself reviewing the impact of TRC’s presence. Throughout the year, people will ask me why we attend various conferences. I thought the approaching New Year was a good time to reacquaint our partners, wholesalers and contractors with why we still value and attend select conferences in our industry.
The Message. You might think that after 20-plus years, people would know about Thermostat Recycling Corp. The answer is that we are well-known, but I still bump into people who have an “aha” moment when I explain what we do. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, you cannot remind people too frequently about who you are and the mission that drives your efforts.
The Venue. The nature of networking functions you attend matters greatly. We were at HARDI for a variety of reasons. First, it is our audience. They are the premier HVACR wholesale organization. No one else comes close. Second, we have a relationship with them. Their members are the backbone of our mercury-containing recycling efforts. They also are partners in our annual BMOP contest and allow us to announce the winners during their highly attended Monday luncheon. Third, we had a table as part of the Solution Center. It serves as a terrific pass-through area during breaks in the various seminars. A highlight this year was a late Sunday afternoon happy hour that filled the Solution Center area. Finally, we had a booth during the conference booth program. My observation is that most attendees who attend the show walk the rows of booths at least once. This almost guarantees that everyone who attends the booth conference program will stroll past us and have at least a glimpse of our presence. The audience of manufacturers, wholesalers and even some contractors is key to our success.
Every networking event we attend demands a simple question: Is this an audience that is important to us? That is, are they a group of people that have influence, power or position in the area that we operate. I know of someone who several years ago went through a list of trade shows she attended. She was surprised when it became clear that almost half of them had no real purpose for her organization’s goals. Her response? She dropped the irrelevant shows and then spent time looking for new trade conferences that were relevant. HARDI is without a doubt one of the most fulfilling conferences for us.
The Style. A question that I also hear is “What do you talk about at these functions?” While our goal might be narrower than some, I always look forward to offering, as one person said, “the help card.” That is, if they had any interest or contact, directly or even indirectly, with mercury-containing thermostats, we would like to help them. And the refrain I use, beyond the much-needed reminder of how it benefits us all with a cleaner environment, is that our service is free. It costs them nothing. Some find that both surprising and compelling. Others also realize it provides a public relations plus because it identifies the wholesaler or contractor as being environmentally conscious, which is almost mandatory in today’s business climate.
The Face Time Effect. Whether you’re a TRC representative (like me) or a manufacturer looking for a wholesaler to carry your line, nothing surpasses a face-to-face chat. Like most relationships, the start is often modest. Is it worth it? As one wholesaler who passed by said to me, “We haven’t been as active in our recycling efforts as we used to be. We need to get back to it.”
He had the right idea.