Vocalink is a Minority Business Enterprise and a member of the South Central Minority Supplier Development Council (SCOMSDC). This organization is an advocate for Corporations and MBE’s. The mission of the SCOMSDC, simply put: ”to provide connections to business opportunities between MBE’s and the corporate supply chain”. One of the ways the SCOMSDC helps the MBE market themselves to the corporations is by their annual opportunity fair, the OBOF.
Attending the OBOF is an annual opportunity for our company to market ourselves to the corporations and to get face-to-face with the buyers. At the 2012 OBOF our involvement included attending, exhibiting, sponsorship, and volunteering. Vocalink stepped out into the MBE spotlight with the SCOMSDC by offering sponsorship of one of the holes for the golf event, exhibiting at the trade show, volunteering at the trade show, volunteering at the golf event, and by having one of our team play golf with a corporate buyer.
I would caution the MBE from jumping in too fast to these events; I recommend a step-by-step approach strategy over a three year period. As a new MBE, you might want to start with attendance to the trade fair only. Maybe your 2nd year you could volunteer your time in addition to attending. In your 3rd year maybe you could do sponsorship or exhibit. This allows the MBE to become visible to the corporations by showing their support of the council’s efforts, which is a key component into developing the relationships that lead to contract opportunities.
As with every marketing effort… you have to do the follow up. Remember, that attending these events is an opportunity to meet the key people and develop the relationship. You MUST do the follow up to learn about the corporation’s need, identify your value add, and work with the supplier diversity manager to introduce you to the category/commodity buyer. As you meet the buyer, understand the timeframe for the opportunity and do what needs to be done within the corporation to position yourself to compete.
A final comment about ROI – you will spend money to attend this marketing event. You must do the required follow up with the contacts; keep track of which contacts turn into contracts. This style of marketing is expensive and could take 1-3 years to gain entry. Stay focused, do the follow up, build the relationships, support the local council, understand the corporations and their needs, and in time, you will see the ROI.