Takeaways from the NAED Adventure Conference

Lincoln Smith | August 13, 2019

nashville adventure conferenceThe NAED Adventure Conference

Recently I attended the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) Adventure Conference in Nashville. For those unfamiliar with the organization, NAED is the association for the $72 billion electrical distribution industry, boasting nearly 700 members from all across the country. The annual Adventure Conference is designed to provide “cross-functional collaboration of purchasing, marketing, and technology,” offering opportunities for distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers “to create a positive customer experience to help empower sales.”

I attended the marketing track of the conference, which featured a number of breakout sessions and influential speakers and was chaired by several NAED members including, Claire O’Reilly of Eaton Lighting, whom I’ve worked with for some time. While I could go on and on about the many insights I gleaned from the various industry thought leaders who were in attendance, I’ll just briefly mention some key takeaways that I believe may be of some value to our readers:

  • During the packed opening session, keynote speaker Jay Acunzo, founder of Marketing Showrunners, suggested that in today’s market, where everyone in the electrical industry offers similar products, price points, and locations, it’s important to focus on what’s important to your customers, even if this happens to deviate from accepted industry best practices. In other words, succeeding in a saturated electrical distribution market is about finding what works best for you, searching your company’s own organizational intuition to decide the path and process for how you will better engage with your customers.claire adventure conference
  • Another informative session focused on the key research findings in the building industry’s digital transformation report: “Building a Connected Business.” Mark Simoncelli and Tommy Thompson of Frost & Sullivan highlighted how the electrical distribution industry can enable change, integrate technology, and facilitate strategies to drive growth and better serve customers. The report was recently released to NAED members. A few takeaways include:Gen Z will be a key segment of the workforce as they are more interested in trade professions vs millennials.
    • The growing importance, regardless of company size, of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data insights. One of the main areas of interest here involved building a more connected experience for customers—for example, being able to push real-time ETA notifications for shipments and trucks to individual job sites so that they can be better prepared and thus more efficient.
    • 5G connectivity has taken a huge step in the construction industry. Machine-to-machine communications will be a key focus.
    • The influence of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), technologies that will be used in the future to help companies train and sell, identify interdependencies, detect clashes during the design phase, and enhance builders’ design and onsite capabilities.
    • Potential mega-trends for the construction industry include: the rise of construction tech start-ups, the role of automation, the rise of modular buildings, the effects of Generation Z entering the workforce and how to properly incentivize and attract this group, and Next-Gen BIM (Building Information Modeling).
  • For me personally, though, the most impactful session of the conference was given by Brandi Cox of Sonepar USA. She discussed the importance of changing the way we view the workforce moving forward, and how this change in perspective will ultimately impact marketing. She pointed out that data segmentation will continue to be used to improve marketing practices and strengthen interactions with customers, also pointing out that segmentation should be done not just by sales/purchase volume, but by customer behaviors as well: share-of-basket, recency, frequency, and monetary value. These behavioral insights can then be used for marketing campaigns, incentive programs, etc., contributing to overarching business objectives.


We all know that conferences in general can often be hit-or-miss. I know that I’ve attended conferences where there were simply too many overlapping sessions to attend, not enough networking time carved out in between for attendees, or ineffective and/or ill-prepared presentations. But I have to say, overall the NAED Adventure Conference was definitely well executed, with valuable workshops, engaging sessions, and abounding with great networking opportunities. It’s given me much food for thought, and I know I’ll be taking many of the insights I gained back to my marketing team and our clients.



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