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Small Booth
A Juicy Theme
Glassdoor Inc. increases booth traffic by 90 percent using 3,000 fresh peaches.
By Claire Walling
he job market is evolving rapidly, and few people are keeping a closer eye on the evolution than human-resources managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that millennials will comprise 50 percent of the United States' workforce by the year 2030. And according to Jeanne Meister, author of "The 2020 Workplace: Preparing for the Future," 91 percent of millennials expect to hold a job for three years or less, leading to a high rate of turnover for employers.

As a result, those in the recruiting game are playing catch-up. Increased job hopping means more

The company decided
the perfect vehicle
for generating traffic
to its obscure spot
on the show floor
was an integrated
theme that would
hopefully get
attendees talking
and tweeting.
positions need to be filled more often, and HR managers are scrambling to find better candidates to fill those slots while spending less resources on the hiring process. Concurrently, savvy job seekers, not content with having their only inside look at a company be a walk from the lobby to the interview room, are more likely to launch their own fact-finding missions online.

Sausalito, CA-based Glassdoor Inc., a social-networking company with a website boasting more than 18 million users, sought to change the closed-off mentality of hiring through social recruiting. A job-hunting version of Tripadvisor LLC, Glassdoor's site allows current and former employees, as well as job candidates, to anonymously share salary information, company reviews, and feedback on interview experiences. Listed companies can also edit basic information for free, or advertise employment perks and job postings for a fee.

To promote its offerings, Glassdoor had exhibited at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition (SHRM) four times since the company was founded in 2007. But each year its booth lacked a cohesive strategy, and garnered mediocre results at best.

Knowing that its previous tactics led to lackluster results, the marketing team decided that the 2012 edition of SHRM – a show that attracts 15,000 HR professionals yearly – was the perfect place to revamp the company's exhibiting strategy.

Glassdoor didn't have to sell the
farm to make its peach-themed exhibit
happen. It simply gave its 10-year-old
property a makeover.

BEFORE

AFTER
To stay within budget for the Society for Human Resource Management show, Glassdoor reused its old 10-by-20-foot exhibit, reskinned it with new graphics, and added peach-themed messaging.
But with a pint-sized 10-by-20-foot booth in a less-than-ideal location on the show floor, a modest budget of $14,000, and pressure from upper-level management to justify the cost of exhibiting, the team needed to plant the seeds for a fruitful program.


Flower to Fruit
Thanks to SHRM's social-media presence, Glassdoor knew attendees were adept at posting and pinning.

It also knew that those attendees weren't using social media to recruit prospective employees. Thus, the company's strategy was twofold: 1) Create outreach programs customized for decision-makers, and 2) educate HR managers about how Glassdoor's tools can help them recruit job applicants.

In 2011, Glassdoor's booth attracted 1,054 attendees. For the 2012 show, the company hoped to increase that figure by 50 percent. After considering that SHRM attendees would be mostly middle-aged women more likely to be drawn to an imaginative exhibit, the company decided the perfect vehicle for generating traffic to its obscure spot on the trade show floor was an integrated theme that would hopefully get attendees talking and tweeting.

According to Samantha Zupan, Glassdoor's corporate communications director, the company sought to create brand evangelists out of everyone who is impacted by its product.

That mind-set meant that every booth visitor represented a lead, whether as a decision-maker or recommender for a prospect, or as a potential user of the site who might contribute reviews and salary information. While the sales pitch would vary according to each attendee's role, a theme that would help create buzz and drive traffic to the booth was critical.

With high expectations, Glassdoor looked to the show's host city, Atlanta, and Georgia's moniker as the peach capitol of the world, for inspiration. And their search for an applicable theme was a fruitful one. SHRM's late-June date coincided with peach-picking season, which meant it would be possible to have fresh, local peaches delivered to the show floor. Lest attendees leave Glassdoor's booth


Given the show's Atlanta location, Glassdoor opted for a peach theme.
happily snacking on a fresh peach, but clueless as to the company's products, the marketing team tied the theme to its product through creative messaging such as "Fresh Approach to Social Recruiting," and "Sweet Recruiting Solutions."

"We knew that we would have to take a creative approach if we wanted to stand out," Zupan says. But Glassdoor's marketing team also knew the difference between a gimmicky booth theme and a well-integrated one was as thin as a knife's blade, so they enlisted the aid of Judi Baker Neufeld, president and founder of TradeShows Plus, a Pittsburgh-based trade show consulting firm.

"HR conferences tend to have a higher percentage of females than males. And in my experience, females are more interactive than males. When they come to these shows, they want to be fed information in an entertaining environment," Neufeld says.

Since Glassdoor's goals went beyond driving traffic, the company also needed a strategy to foster more contact time with its top prospects without distracting from its booth. For its marketing team, the solution entailed sponsoring two conference events: a TweetUp and VIP party, and a panel discussion on social recruiting.

The TweetUp wasn't just a chance for attendees to sip on cocktails and bury their faces in their smartphones. Rather, it was an opportunity to create real-time connections with people that Glassdoor had previously only engaged with online. While TweetUps are typically informal occasions, Glassdoor upped the ante to create an all-out bash, which also functioned as the conference's main reception. Sponsoring the event allowed the company a chance to increase brand awareness and invite attendees to visit its exhibit. Furthermore, it allowed the company to host its own VIP event in conjunction with the larger event.


A 7-foot, 4-inch-tall peach farmer agreed to don a costume, pose for photos, and direct people to the booth.

But Glassdoor didn't want the events portion of its plan for SHRM to be all about wining and dining; education would be a part of the mix as well. So the company arranged for cofounder and CEO Robert Hohman to debate the effectiveness of social recruiting on the show's final day with three of his industry peers: Oracle Corp. director of talent management Steve Boese, HRExaminer CEO John Sumser, and Expedia Inc. program manager for global brand and talent attraction Jeremy Langhans. The marketing team hoped that the additional touchpoint would allow Glassdoor to not only position itself as a thought leader in the evolving recruiting scene, but also remain fresh in attendees' minds as they left SHRM.


Peaches and Theme
Through frequent tweets and blog posts in the days before SHRM, attendees got a taste of Glassdoor's juicy theme before they stepped into the exhibit hall. In addition, pre-show e-blasts sent to 1,500 top prospects invited recipients to the TweetUp and panel discussion, and hinted at the peachy goodness awaiting them on the show floor.

Once in Atlanta, attendees got a big introduction to Glassdoor's theme. While the fruit was being delivered to its exhibit, booth staffers had discovered a 7-foot, 4-inch-tall peach farmer, who agreed to wear a peach costume, stand in front of the exhibit hall when the show floor opened, pose for pictures, and hand out fliers inviting attendees to the booth.


Staffers wore branded aprons to reinforce the exhibit's fruit-stand aesthetic.

Their attention piqued, attendees scurried past the behemoth booths of Glassdoor's competitors to the company's 10-by-20-foot in-line exhibit, tucked away in an obscure part of the show floor. When they arrived at booth 642, they saw an exhibit that looked more like a stand at a farmer's market than a booth at a trade show. Graphics emulating the wood signs one might see sticking out of a bushel of produce gave attendees an at-a-glance tutorial on the company's offerings while adding to the authentic farmer's market feel. Thankfully, Glassdoor didn't have to sell the farm to make its peach-themed exhibit happen either – it simply gave its 10-year-old property a makeover. The previously ho-hum 10-by-20-foot booth was reskinned to resemble a fruit stand, with rented counters, tables, and displays added to complement the theme.

Each visitor to Glassdoor's booth was greeted by a staffer wearing a customized apron and, after learning about the company's products, received a fresh peach and his or her pick of an assortment of peach-flavored candies. Before leaving the booth, attendees were also invited to tweet about their unique experience. But instead of urging booth visitors to tweet canned messages, staffers encouraged them to tweet something they'd learned about social recruiting, using the conference hashtag (#shrm12) and the company's Twitter handle (@Glassdoor).

With all of the show-floor excitement its exhibit was generating, Glassdoor wanted to make sure its events weren't overlooked. So it sought opportunities for the events and exhibit to work symbiotically.

The company invited its top 100 clients and prospects to join its staff an hour before the TweetUp reception for appetizers, cocktails, and more one-on-one time, but opted out of mailing VIPs their credentials to the event. Instead, they were available for pickup at the Glassdoor booth.

Conversely, staffers invited booth visitors who were interested in the company's product to attend its panel discussion on social recruiting to learn more.


Just Peachy

Staffers treated visitors to fresh peaches and peach-flavored candy.
Slicing and dicing its strategy at SHRM yielded sweet results. Glassdoor netted 2,000 booth visitors, and those attendees consumed 3,000 peaches and several pounds of peach-flavored goodies. Booth attendance exceeded the previous year's result of 1,054 by 90 percent, easily eclipsing the company's goal. And all this was accomplished with the same budget and booth size as the 2011 show.

Glassdoor's events were equally as sweet. The TweetUp drew more than 850 attendees, bettering its goal for attendance by 113 percent. And two days later, Hohman debated the merits of social recruiting with three other industry leaders in front of an audience of 200, double the company's goal of 100 attendees.

The strategy contributed to an increase in booth traffic and two events that far exceeded their expected attendance figures, creating returns in brand awareness by the bushel. "The strategy was successful because it was different, but it also delivered important information about a product whose time had come," Neufeld says. With a whimsical theme that drew attention and increased leads, Glassdoor's exhibit helped the company's marketing message take root, providing a solid foundation for its exhibiting program to grow and bear fruit.

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