On average, 60 percent of invited guests will show up to a party. If you invite closer friends only, about 75 percent will come. - Epicurious
What happens when you invite strangers? To a business event?
Having spoken, trained and attended numerous events over the last several years, hosted by public and private agencies, we decided to conduct our own informal poll and found the numbers to be even worse. Not only were there a smaller percentage show up to the event, but there were very few of the people we were really trying to reach in the room.
We found that 90-94% of the room consists of government employees hosting the event or speaking and service providers looking for clients. Only 6-10% of attendees were actual exporters - the people we were trying to reach.
So we’re asking why are there no exporters at exporting seminars?
Maybe we haven’t heard about it because no one wants to admit that they have the wrong people in the room. It’s easier to say, “we had 30 people” or “a great turnout” rather than adding “but they were the wrong people.”
Exporting, tariffs and international trade are a big deal in U.S. business and search for these terms are on the rise. So, why are organizations - both public and private - struggling to get exporters into the room?
Now before I go further, there are exceptions. When export training is mandatory, such as with the Bureau of Industry and Security, there are ONLY exporters in the room. Who else would voluntarily suffer this inhuman form of torture and Death by PowerPoint? There are also trade groups whose mission solely focuses on export/import and of course, their audience is interested exporters.
So, why are we struggling to get the exporters into the room?
- Marketing. Unfortunately marketing from government groups is designed by people who know exporting, but don’t understand business marketing. An entrepreneurial mind thinks differently. So a government approach to a marketing campaign and education will not work (or at least it hasn’t yet). The possibility to recession-proof a business (one of the biggest perks of exporting) should get anyone’s attention, yet it falls on deaf ears because the message is lost in a bunch of government jargon.
- Connecting. The powers that be, federal or state, may think a slew of tired blah, blah, blah marketing, impersonal emails, and links to training will cut the mustard. Doesn’t work!
- Boring training that is the same old, same old. All export seminars today (except The Riddle of the Exporter™) are painfully boring and offer a slow Death by PowerPoint - which I personally believe falls under the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The latest approach is sending new exporters to watch hours upon hours of videos. Doesn’t work!
So, how do we fix it?
- These are smart, sharp people.... treat them that way. At The Riddle of the Exporter™, we don’t want to show them how smart we are, we want to show current and future exporters how smart they are. These are sharp business people that have handled challenges a lot tougher than exporting. Once we show them the steps, they realize that if Betty Sue from Gun Barrel City can export, they can export. Touching their passion and showing them there is an easier way to understand a tough topic that has great benefits is our goal.
- Change the mindset at the top. The solution to the problem does not lie with the individual government agency employees. The people of the USEAC, SBA, EX-IM, BIS, Census and state international trade specialists are full of knowledge and eager to help. You can actually reach these people by phone and they return your calls! The solution lies with the mindset at the top.
- Deviate and do the uncommon. We subscribe to the theory of “Positive Deviance.” Positive deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change based on the observation that in any community there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and having no extra resources. The Riddle of the Exporter™ is definitely uncommon in the world of export training. We take hard-core information, apply proven adult learning techniques and make edutainment-an entertaining, interactive, compelling learning scenario that works.
Will things change? We believe they can. What do you do that is uncommon? Any new ideas on how to get exporters into the room and people to the party? Please share.
Let’s get people excited about exporting!
The Riddle of the Exporter™
Export Training For Entrepreneurs By An Entrepreneur