High-Stake Conference Partnerships

Poker Night by Christopher Chappelear, on Flickr

As brands evolve, they are increasingly looking for marketing investments where they can make an emotional impact with a defined target market.

Most of them can do it with or without you (ambush marketing), but most would rather partner and support organizations that are already serving a demographic that matches up with their best customers.

Often, these are the ones that you want to target for potential partnership and sponsorship opportunities.

Choosing the Right Partners

For organizations who have traditionally been autonomous, this new direction is one requiring significant strategic thought and organizational buy-in. Like it or not, partnerships and sponsorships are an implied endorsement. Your customers will judge you based on your choices. Thus, they must be vetted well, transparent in intent, bring value to your customers (in addition to you and your partner) and ideally be big deals worthy of ongoing leadership time investment.

The most successful partner programs include these four business attributes:

  1. Fewer, but bigger investors
  2. Not about eyeballs, logos and impressions
  3. Activation plans that last 90 days or more
  4. A primary focus on improving the experience for attendees or members

Seven Strategic Filters for Partnerships

Progressive organizations interested in growing this revenue and value stream should articulate exactly how your partnerships will be vetted. These seven filters will give you a good starting point for choosing wisely.

1. Mission Aligned

Does this sponsor or partner have the same love, passion and future view for the profession as you do? Are they already modeling it? Is their leadership and customer facing team active with your organization or profession?

2. Elevates Brand

Is this supplier a market leader? Are a significant number of your top member or customer organizations already buying this product or service? Are they fans?

3. In It for the Long Haul

Never strike a deal that doesn’t have significant potential of being a multi-year commitment. One off deals rarely benefit anyone. If you aren’t working with an executive champion on the investor side, the deal will likely be short-lived.

4. Expense Reduction and/or Improved Attendee Experience

Will this sponsor help reduce hard costs that you regularly incur? (This can be done through in-kind or cash investment.) Do they genuinely want to improve the attendee experience or are they looking for an opportunity to toot their own horn?

5. Thought Leadership

Is this sponsor viewed as a thought leader by your industry? Do they nurture their customers and prospects with a content marketing approach (helping over selling)?

6. Amplification

Will this partner help extend your reach, especially with top targeted attendee segments? What communication channels or following have they earned? Do they have the marketing muscle and creativity to benefit both parties?

7. Ease of Fulfillment

Will working with this sponsor be straight ahead and fairly simple…or will it be a nightmare; taxing resources and staff time?

Has your organization started partnering with more strategic sponsors? What filters have best helped you in selecting these partners?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2015.

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