An Exciting Way to Connect with B2B Customers – thank you IFF International

The boatPosted by Ray Poynter, 17 September 2019

How should a B2B organistion develop its relationships with its clients? Are there alternatives to stands at conferences, user groups, site visits etc that can create human-to-human relationships that will be beneficial to all parties? Here is a description of an attempt to do exactly that.

I have just spent an amazing three days on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa as a guest speaker at an event organised by IFF International (check out their website here). IFF’s heritage is in CATI, but they are expanding their business in interesting ways (more on that below).

The trip was organised by Ennio Armato who heads the Italian branch of IFF International, and the attendees were IFF customers from Italy, Germany, Spain and France. Note, IFF only sell to institutes and agencies. This did mean that all of the attendees were potential competitors, but this turned out not to be a problem.

Images of Lampedusa

Lampedusa is a tiny Italian island to the South of Sicily (see the map), indeed it is the Southmost part of Europe. These days Lampedusa is probably most famous as a landing spot for people fleeing dangers in their country and heading for Europe. But it is a beautiful place in its own right, and I would definitely recommend it. Check out the picture of Rabbit Beach, where we swam, snorkeled, and listened to Ennio talk about using Alexa for market research.

The Presentations
We arrived in Lampedusa on Thursday evening and went for a wonderful welcome meal at a local restaurant before checking into our locations. I stayed in a lovely villa with Ennio and Tom Abele (the founder of the IFF International group). On Friday we were on a boat for the whole day, sailing to the island of Linosa, swimming, eating, talking, `and watching dolphins, before sailing home in the evening. Whilst we were sailing to Linosa, I gave a presentation about the global trends facing market research. This created an interesting set of challenges, no projector, no microphone, background noise, the wonderful scenery as a distraction, and in the case of some of the attendees a bit of seasickness. Luckily, with the willingness of the audience the presentation seemed to be a success – as judged by the Q&A and later feedback.

The next two presentations were on Saturday. In the morning, while we were visiting Rabbit Beach, Ennio gave a version of the presentation he gave to ESOMAR Congress, about using Alexa – again with no microphones, projectors, and with masses of distractions. Not only did he hold his audience, but he attracted some other users of the beach!

In the afternoon, back at the villa where Tom, Ennio and I were staying, and after enjoying a good lunch and another swim, Alessandro Imborgia gave a presentation on a tool they have developed for seamlessly collecting surveys via Facebook. The orange towels you can see were branded with the company logo and had just been used by us to dry ourselves from our latest swim.

The Key Learnings?

I hope this form of marketing and client development proves to be successful because it is a lot of fun and treats people as people. (It was also a lot of hard work for the people creating and running the session).

It was really good to see that after a few hours it became impossible to see which client was from which company, as we swam, talked and ate together. Because the attendees came from six countries the lingua franca was English, which was embarrassing for me, but aided the breaking down of barriers between the attendees. People did not sit in company or language groups at the tables, on the boat, or in the water.

All three presenters learned that you have to adapt your presentation to the circumstances. On the plus side, there was a lot of goodwill, on the downside the distractions were high and aids were few. The main thing that helped the presentations work is that we all knew our stuff, which meant the aids were only ever going to be aids and could be dispensed with.

The original programme was probably too ambitious. Whilst people like to do nice things, they also want to spend quieter time, just talking. Ennio and the team adjusted to this during the session, but I think a future event could be more relaxed (and still include the three presentations).

If you are planning to do something similar, or even just to attend something similar. Assume that things will go wrong, cars will break down, phones and glasses will be lost, people will scratch their legs of sharp volcanic rock. If you simply deal with the problems and move on, the core benefits are maintained. If you worry too much about the problems, it is the problems that become the memory – my Italian is very limited but it now includes “nessun problema” – no problem.

The Verdict?

I think this sort of networking event is a great idea. It should make the relationships between IFF International and its clients more robust and more human (which will help when things go wrong – and things always go wrong sometimes, in the long run).

This was not the first of these getaways that IFF has run, and it will be interesting to hear about how they feel it has impacted their business in say two to three years.

So, thank you Ennio, Alessandro, Rosaura, and Tom from IFF International, it was a great experience.

If you would like to hear more about the services IFF International can offer, email Ennio Armato

2 thoughts on “An Exciting Way to Connect with B2B Customers – thank you IFF International

  1. Ray it’s an interesting idea! The blend of intensive exchange with white spaces to think is great. Organizing with intentionality to create an experience would be rewarding for both the Organiser and the participant. I’d be interested in understanding how it impacts the ongoing relationships.

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