Insights offers valuable learning opportunity

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The Insights Experience isn’t just for furniture store owners, CEOs or even Home Furnishings Association members.

The theme for HFA’s Insights Experience in Portland, Ore., June 17-18 was “Branding Your Business,” so HFA Education Director Kaprice Crawford wanted to attract furniture stores’ marketing and social media managers in addition to top executives.

“This was the event for them,” she said.

The effort was successful, as the evening-and-a-day session drew a good array of professionals from Pacific Northwest furniture businesses – a mix of ages and job titles. Attendees also came from different levels of digital engagement, although all were able to learn a lot.

“For those who don’t use social media as part of their marketing, it was a great 101 tutorial on why you should be doing it and how to make it work for your business,” Crawford said. “For the marketing people, it was how to do it better.”

Program’s parts complement each other

The presenters were not the usual speakers for a business conference. Aaron Draplin is a ballcapped, bearded graphics designer, whose use of social media in branding elevates his clients’ image in the marketplace. Cait Pearson, author of the “She’s Hungry” blog and podcast, is a young woman who’s making a name for herself in Portland as a social media and women’s empowerment influencer. The group also visited McMenamins, a family owned chain of breweries, wineries, brewpubs and historic hotels, to discover its multilayered model of branding that draws from art, history and entertainment.

Angel Coleman, a young graphics designer for the Home Furnishings Association, found that the elements of the program complemented each other, forming a complete and colorful picture. Draplin’s message especially resonated with her.

A business doesn’t get a chance to use many words when promoting itself, she observed. Draplin finds ways to use an image or even a color to get a viewer’s attention. Once that happens, the artist has a chance to convey his message. The process is subtle, rather than shouting, Coleman said.

Pearson was effective in showing attendees how they can best promote their businesses using the right social media tools for a particular audience, Coleman said. And the lesson learned from McMenamins was that it’s important to tell your story to customers, relating to them through history and experience. It all generated good conversations about marketing, she added.

Insights mixes education with networking and fun, Crawford said. In Portland, participants spent an evening with “Brewvana,” a bus tour of breweries, introducing them to some of the city’s best food and drink. They made new friendships and connections. Although some of the furniture store folks might be competitors, they freely shared ideas that can make all their businesses better, Crawford noted.


On to Cleveland Aug. 14-15

The next Insights Experience visits Cleveland Aug. 14-15. The theme is leadership, but that hardly means it’s geared just to CEOs. The program will benefit “any key manager or anyone who leads a team or has a department or is a leader in the organization,” Crawford said.

And, naturally, participants will rock the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Register for Insights Experience Cleveland here. For more information, contact Crawford at or 916-960-0346.

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