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What We Learned From Sponsoring SourceCon

We’re back from Redmond after sponsoring our first industry conference, SourceCon. This was the first industry event we have ever attended and by far the largest marketing expense we’ve had in our history. To recap, HiringSolved is growing fast. We started this year with a major pivot that left over 10,000 lines of code on the cutting-room floor and refocused all our efforts on building the best social sourcing tool available. With our new focus and our recent growth, SourceCon seemed like the perfect fit for us. Since we haven’t done much marketing (we mainly do email campaigns that cost about $30 each) and have never even published a press release, we decided to make a big splash and use this event to announce ourselves to the world. After living for a long time on so little, writing a big check to be a major sponsor was scary.

Leading up to the event I felt under-prepared and worried that the expense wouldn’t pay off. For the TLDR crowd, it “felt like a movie”. We had an amazing time. Better than we could have hoped. Best of all we already have a 10X return on our investment in  booked revenue. We’ve already closed business with customers we met at the event. Here’s how it all went down:
2 months prior to the event, we worked on creating easily digestible marketing content which would clearly differentiate us from our competitors. This was a grueling process that took a large amount of time. Finally, a few days before the event we had a solid differentiating message: “HiringSolved is the only sourcing tool that let’s you find talent for all skill sets, anywhere in the world.” and we had a quick video which conveyed this concept. Since many of our emerging competitors, including Gild, Entelo and TalentBin, who were all present at the event, focus almost exclusively in the U.S. based software engineering market, this turned out to be a powerful message for us.

In exchange for our sponsorship dollars ($15,000) we were given a 6ft x 2ft table placed right in front of the exit doors in the main conference hall. We also rented 2 42″ LCD displays on 6ft stands placed behind our table so that we could do live demos. But what about Shwag? We needed something to give away at our table right? I actually hate schwag… I’ve seen too many conferences where vendors give away USB sticks and keychains with their logo, only to guilt you in to talking to them about a product you could care less about. That said, Jenny found some schwag I couldn’t refuse. Branded glasses with our message on the lenses, and branded knock-off Raybans with EL-Wire blinking in HiringSolved Blue! We spent about $1400 to buy 100 of the lens-message glasses and 50 of the coveted blue EL-Wire glasses. Cheap considering the payoff; within a few hours of busting the glasses out, we had pictures of our competitors wearing them!

We also printed up some T-shirts ($900 for 120) which I designed last minute. The shirts turned out to be a hit. They say “I am a hunter.” on the front and HiringSolved on the back. We spotted people wearing the shirts on the 2nd day of SourceCon and that weekend! The glasses were even bigger… Trevor, our CTO was being chased around during the afterparty by crowds wanting our glasses. We overheard people saying “The guy with the beard has the glasses, grab him!” several times during the night. It was awesome to see some of the best sourcers in the world wearing our glasses. The week after SourceCon was HR Tech in Chicago… we didn’t make it to that convention, but our glasses did!
Other things we learned during the event:

  • Sourcers are basically hackers.
  • Sourcers can sing!
  • Sourcers know HEX Color codes –our #038fd8 Champagne riddle was not challenging for them.
  • Sourcers really love new sourcing tools like HiringSolved 🙂

The event has already paid for itself many times over. Before committing as a sponsor, we thought about going “guerrilla” and just buying tickets and bringing our schwag, which would have worked because our schwag was awesome. However, having a booth with big monitors displaying our sourcing tool, and watching a huge crowd of great sourcers gather around our booth during each intermission, was well worth the extra cost of sponsoring. Jeremy Roberts and all of the SourceCon organizers have been amazing to work with and took extra time to connect us with people at the event. Overall: #WINWINWIN!!