A trend we’re seeing is that exhibitors are requiring less square footage and shifting dollars to other sponsorship opportunities.
Conference organizers need to think about how to convert exhibitor’s marketing dollars into sponsorship opportunities that benefit attendees.
The Shift From Exhibiting To Sponsorships
This shift requires a more strategic and consultative sales approach.
Many conference organizers confuse sponsorship with advertising or promotion. While a custom sponsorship bundle may include some of both elements, the most beneficial opportunities are those that attendees value and need. Sponsors will favor investments that give them visibility and access to your audience across a longer stretch of time — from the launch of registration to beyond the close of your conference.
Three Strategies To Help Sponsors Stimulate Their Dollars
In order to capitalize on increasing your sponsorship revenue and your partners’ return on their sponsorship dollars, consider implementing these three strategies.
1. Clean up your menu.
Looking at each item on your sponsorship menu, ask: “Does this sponsorship item add to the attendee experience?”
If the answer is questionable or is a definite no, eliminate it! No matter how much revenue it may generate. To get you started, here are some things that are a waste of sponsor dollars and of no value to attendees: registration bag inserts and hotel key cards.
Look out for the best interest of your sponsors and help them shift their spend to more meaningful investments that benefit attendees. Attendee valued investments include sponsoring keynote or breakout speakers paired with book signings, e-book downloads and live-streamed content to a wider audience.
2. Develop customized packages.
It’s a good idea to create a prospectus as a sales tool for generating interest, initiating conversation and leveraging the signed list of sponsors. However, don’t let the menu limit your options.
The savvy organizer will ask prospects to identify their marketing objectives in order to develop a customized, bundled proposal that addresses those priorities. They’ll also tap their best sponsors for new, creative ideas.
3. Help your partners activate or leverage their investment.
Sponsorship is the medium and without an activation plan, the sponsors’ results will be minimal. Some experts recommend that for every dollar a partner spends on sponsorship, another dollar should be set aside to leverage that investment. This guideline serves as a reminder that investment alone may not yield desired results.
Your sponsorship packages should include elements that help provide thought-leadership messaging before and after your conference. e-Zine articles, pre-conference webinars and videos that can be shared with their customers and prospects are some suggestions.
Sponsors and exhibitors should use their marketing plan elements to ensure that they leverage their investment with their existing clients and prospects. Customers like partnering with companies that support and help their industry. A growing trend is for sponsors and exhibitors to build a microsite or conduct a Facebook campaign around their event participation. Savvy marketers will adapt their ads to draw attention to their industry support which is another way to leverage those sponsorship dollars.
Sponsorship Activation Explained
The concept of activating sponsorship is confusing and complex. Yet it is critical to protecting and growing this revenue source as well as helping sponsors get the most from their investment.
At its core, an activation plan mirrors the shift to content marketing. Content marketing is the creation and sharing of content in order to engage current and potential customers. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. So does sponsorship activation.
In-your-face sales and marketing tactics, including plastering logos all over the place, have lost favor. If you help your sponsors and exhibitors to leverage and activate their sponsorship, the money will surely follow.
What are some sponsorship tactics that annoy you as a conference attendee? When do you appreciate and notice conference sponsorship dollars at work for your benefit as an attendee?
Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2012.