If you’re like us, you spend way too much time thinking about finding new prospects.
Here are a couple of ways that worked for us, that we wanted to share.
If you’re reading this, we’re confident you know what upstream and downstream mean (we all know what it means in a ‘river’ sense). I’m talking about a business sense!
I’ll explain anyway — in a distribution channel, upstream means closer to the manufacturer and downstream is closer to the end user. If you’re a food manufacturer, upstream means growers, downstream means wholesalers. As a wholesaler, upstream from you are manufacturers — downstream are retailers. Upstream usually means the people you buy from, and downstream means the people you sell to.
But upstream also works in terms of levels of decision-makers, and the conferences and trade shows they gather at.
Let me explain; in my world, we work with companies in the college foodservice industry.
For these companies, we attend and exhibit at conferences for college foodservices pros — dining services directors and executive chefs. They are the immediate decision-makers for foodservice products for their colleges. The organization for these folks is called NACUFS (National Association of College and University Food Services).
But we also work with the influencers of those college foodservice pros, who are the people they report to; the college auxiliary services folks. And they have their own associations and conferences. In the case of the college auxiliary services that organization is called NACAS (National Association of College Auxiliary Services). Note: In higher education, auxiliary services are all the service functions that support a college — dining, housing, bookstores, facilities, etc.
We haven’t done the research — hey we have actual work to do (!) — But we expect this type of ‘upstream’ thinking can apply to many industries; the associations for the folks who influence the folks you usually sell to.
So, idea # 1: Go upstream and find the associations of the people who influence the people you usually sell to.
Downstream Works Too
Going downstream works too. In the way we’re using the word, downstream means going local. National associations often have regional chapters.
In the examples above in college foodservice, both NACUFS and NACAS have a national organization, conference and tradeshow. And both also have several regional conferences and shows. We’ve seen this with many other business associations also.
Guess what? In our experience, regional events can be even more useful to meet prospects. They’re smaller and more intimate — you have a higher chance of meeting the right folks. And you’re less likely to get lost in the crowd.
And because attendees are from the same region, everyone generally knows each other. Which can make networking that much more fruitful.
Idea # 2: When you’ve found the right associations for your industry, find the local chapters also — they’re worth hanging around in, too.
A couple of simple ways to expand your tentacles. Upstream to find layers of influencers above your usual ‘suspects’. And downstream, drilling to the more local level conferences and associations to meet folks more intimately.