General Session Speakers Excite, Educate Expo Audiences

Last week at The PPAI Expo 2013, attendees were treated to three general session speakers whose ideas, insights and lessons left them with plenty to take home.

(Left) Lynne Lancaster and Seth Mattison during their general session presentation on generational marketing. (Right) Ken Schmidt shares his presentation on the importance of having a story to tell.

Tuesday’s General Session looked at one of the 21st century’s great challenges: For the first time, four generations co-exist in the workplace. Generational experts Lynne Lancaster and Seth Mattison, principals at BridgeWorks, LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in educating organizations on the unique traits and skills of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials, shared key trends that will help promotional products professionals adapt to generational needs and habits as co-workers and as salespeople.

“While generational differences aren’t the source of every conflict, being aware of them can make anyone more effective in the workplace and the marketplace,” said Lancaster.

“Each of these generations has their own unique views and value systems that dramatically impact how they want to be engaged,” said Mattison.

When it comes to hiring for promotional products sales, Lancaster says every generation has potential strengths for the task. “Every generation can be great at sales and marketing,” she said. “Millennials, for example, have grown up helping their parents with technology, so they are ideally suited to consult to Boomers and Traditionalists in the marketplace.”

Ken Schmidt, Wednesday’s General Session speaker, roared onto the stage on a Harley-Davidson 1200 Series Sportster and spoke to a packed ballroom about the importance of having a story to tell. “You guys have a story yet?” he asked. “No demand is created in a world where stories aren’t told.”

The content of that story is where great branding is born. During his tenure as communications director at Harley-Davidson, Schmidt not only orchestrated a legendary branding turnaround that restored the near-bankrupt company to a brand that’s not only outselling Honda 10-to-one in the U.S. but also created an experience that’s become a lifestyle for Harley disciples, as Schmidt calls them. There’s a huge chasm between disciples and customers. “A disciple is someone who feels so good about something they’ll tell another person about the source of their joy.”

He told the audience if their clients haven’t told others why they do business with their companies, zero demand has been created. Without creating experiences for clients through company stories, the relationship is based on a commodity. “If we have zero differentiation, we are creating zero demand for what we do,” he added.

The customer’s ego is the single-most important lesson sellers and their companies can learn. Sellers, he said, need to create differentiation that engages human beings and allows them to feel good about themselves. “We are all selling the same thing,” he ranted. Differentiation demands creativity—and when that happens, price becomes less of a concern. Click here to view an on-site interview with Schmidt.

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