Visiting the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, March 8-9 for the International Sleep Products Association’s 2017 Industry Conference was everything I’d hoped it would be—blue skies, sparkling water, lush greenery, thought-provoking speakers and lots of fun.
As a person who works from a home office, I enjoy opportunities to see now-familiar faces or meet those I’ve spoken with over the phone. And it’s a pleasure to get to know new people. The sleep products industry is full of good souls. Most are united behind the belief that what the industry does—provide excellent sleep products so that people can get the rest they need—improves quality of life.
The conference provided a relaxed setting to connect and reconnect, as well as soak in ideas on best business practices. The main ideas: be visible and never lose sight of your customers, whether they are other businesses or the consumer who ultimately buys a bed with your components. (See coverage of the conference starting on page 27.)
David Avrin, known as “the visibility coach,” kicked things off with great energy. The Castle Rock, Colorado-based keynote speaker had come the evening before and joined the ISPA Welcome Reception, talking with folks to get a feel for issues in the industry. Gold star for that.
During his keynote, he talked about what makes a business stand out, and it isn’t the typical things companies tout, such as honesty, integrity, experience or excellence. Find out what only you can do. What problems can you solve? For example, the 1984 Dodge Caravan had a feature no one else had thought of before—cup holders. People loved it.
Jordy Leiser, co-founder and chief executive officer of New York-based StellaService, brought his expertise in the customer service arena. Even if your company is business-to-business, customer service still is crucial. Be human. Make sure your frontline team is customer service savvy. Keep learning and growing.
Panel discussions also provided great food for thought. Julia Rosien, brand director of mattress licensing group Restonic, based in Buffalo, New York, led a crisis communications discussion, “Sin and Salvation Within Your Reach.” It’s always best to be prepared for a social media crisis. It can happen to anyone.
Later in the afternoon, Mark Kinsley, staff vice president of marketing for the Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc.’s Bedding Group, moderated a panel discussion on “Positioning the Mattress as THE Most Essential Sleep Product for Consumers.” Retailers reported on the view from the retail floor and what helps them. Mostly, be human.
Trish Mueller, former chief marketing officer of Home Depot and co-founder of Austin, Texas-based Mueller Retail Consulting, ended the day with another customer-themed message. This time the topic was multichannel marketing. But her overarching message was start and end with your customer. Know what they need. Stay connected.
With plenty of breaks and other opportunities to talk through these ideas, conference-goers soaked up useful information and made sure to have fun—whether on the golf course, at the ISPA Women’s Network Reception or during the Industry Reception and Dinner, which had a Parisian flair.
I know I learned a lot and enjoyed myself. Here’s to the next ISPA Industry Conference in 2019! n