Sponsorships, along with exhibitions, are a key revenue streams for most associations. But giving sponsors mere visibility among their key customers is no longer enough. To get those sponsorship dollars—and keep them coming in year after year—it’s not enough for associations to offer measurable opportunities. They have to be able to help sponsors do the actual measuring as well.
Does your sponsorship opportunity list read like the 20-page menu at The Cheesecake Factory? If so, clean it up! Long lists of potential opportunities can be overwhelming to potential sponsors, said Donna Kastner, director, expo/sponsor sales and activation, Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, during Cvent’sSummit in Las Vegas June 18–20. Here are her eight tips for promoting, selling, and delivering sponsorships:
1. Find the Value for Attendees
Filter every sponsorship decision through the lens of attendee experience. Figure out what the value is for attendees. If it has value, keep it. If not, lose it. If it has some value, see if you can bundle it in with other opportunities.
2. Get Straight to the Good Stuff
Think about how can you use sponsorships to make the best parts of a meeting—things like the opening general session speaker, or an evening reception—better. For example, most organizations use the time leading up to the opening session speaker to thank a laundry list of sponsors, then have a sponsor talk about their products and services before introducing the keynote speaker, said Kastner. Instead of generating excitement and interest in the speaker and the sponsor, this trains attendees to show up a half-hour late so they arrive just in time for the good stuff—the speaker.
“What if you got straight to the good stuff?” she said. Then, at the end of the keynote, you could have the speaker thank the sponsor for making their session possible, and provide even more value by telling attendees how they can download a sponsored whitepaper on the topic. Better, right?
3. Brighten Up the Bad Moments
You also want to see how you can use sponsorships to make the worst parts of a meeting better. Most people would agree that one of the least fun aspects of a meeting is the travel to get there. Attendees often arrive at the meeting venue tired, grumpy, feeling hassled, and likely with a dead or dying phone or tablet. Kastner called Cvent’s welcome gift—a logoed pre-charged portable charger—a “brilliant example of how to make one of the worst parts more tolerable.” Technology in general is a good sponsorship area, she said, because it provides high value and generally has fairly soft costs.
Making the Sale
4. Sell Selectively
Organize your sales efforts around your best customers and their goals, not what you’re selling. “The trend is toward fewer, more expensive sponsorships,” she added.
5. Use Your Leaders
Focus the majority of your time on the top 10-25 companies who have the most to offer. Kastner suggested tapping board members and your organization’s leaders for help in finding the right person at these companies. They probably know someone in those top 10–25 companies and can make introductions for you: “Match power with power,” she said.
6. Make a Customized Pitch
Keep the conversation strategic. “These people won’t buy off a menu,” said Kastner. Ask what they are they looking to accomplish this year. Understand their objectives, then come back to them with recommendations for three premium bundles that will help them accomplish their goals. Choose one of the three that you believe would be the best fit, and explain why. “Make it about them first, and you much less and later.”
7. Prove Sponsors’
After the signage comes down, you don’t get to rest until it comes time to sell next year’s show. Tell them why their sponsorship was a smart investment, and what they got out of it. Give them ROI metrics to demonstrate proof of performance—how many people downloaded their white paper? “Agree ahead of time how you will measure success, then do it,” Kastner said.
8. Make Sense of the Numbers
Don’t just print out a pile of data points and dump it on your sponsors. Take the time to analyze the data for them and give them a high-level summary. That two- or three-page report that they can take up the ladder to the C-suite may just win you their sponsorship loyalty for the future.