by Maria R. Davis
• Providing value
• Generating leads
More and more conferences and tradeshows are being added to the roster of events that compete for sponsor/exhibitor marketing dollars. The event rosters alone on www.Expo-Guide.com, www.TSNN.com (Trade Show News Network), www.10Times.com (biztradeshow), www.EventsEye.com (EventsEye), etc. are proof of how many events, not just in the US but also worldwide, are competing for sponsor/exhibitor attendance. What are some ways to gain new participation and keep existing sponsors/exhibitors interested?
2. Know the 3 W’s -
• Ask When will discussions begin and When will decisions be made for the upcoming year’s marketing budget? This provides an approximate timeline on when next year’s sponsorship offerings must be available for distribution.
• Who (or which department) makes the budget allocation decisions, if not the Marketing Dept.? This information helps determine key contacts for sponsorship decisions.
• What types of exposure have proven successful in generating leads and repeat business for the company? Is it ad space in the program, logo on a giveaway, exhibit booth, a full-blown presentation in front of all the participants, or social media exposure, etc?
3. Be Open to Unique Ideas - Encourage sponsors/exhibitors to share their ideas and suggestions. They likely participate in several events each year making them a good source of new ideas to keep your sponsorship packages interesting.
4. Customize, Customize, Customize - Customizing sponsorships based on budget opens the door for increased sponsor participation and unlimited creativity in generating a package that meets both budget and objective. A few events ago, a potential sponsor expressed interest in sponsoring an item for a specific event I was planning “as long as it was not alcohol-related.” Although there were other non-alcoholic options in the roster, they were just not eye-catching enough for this particular sponsor. With that request in mind, the Ice Sculpture sponsorship was born and has remained one of our more popular items to this day.
6. Communicate - As early as possible, provide logistical information that will help partners prepare for their trip to your event. The information alone with regards to set-up and teardown times assists in determining number of hotel nights booked, flight scheduling, and manpower distribution to name a few planning decisions – all of which affect their overall marketing budget. Also, inquire about any special set-up needs/requests, correct spelling of participants’ names, and keep them abreast of any information that may be crucial to their positive experience while at the event.
7. Make it Fun - If your budget and agenda timing allows, host a Meet and Greet Reception as a way of saying “Thank you for choosing to invest your time and resources in our event.” Make sure to invite your organization’s Leadership Team or Board to stop by, allowing them to personally express their appreciation. As two of our sponsors have shared, “It made us feel valued and welcome.” and “Creates a fun start to the conference … it’s nice to get to know the other exhibitors.” Handing out a small token of appreciation with a note of “Thanks!” or, even just a simple note leaves a positive impression. Building rapport with your partners allows for a more candid exchange of feedback to encourage future participation. How about incorporating FUN sponsor badge ribbons to help break the ice -- Party Animal, Queen Bee, Diva, First Timer, Show Me the Money, I Came Back, My Ribbon is Better Than Yours, etc. If at all possible, use archive photos of sponsors on your website’s sponsor page or social media posts.
8. Return to Sender - Have any leftover sponsor giveaways, logoed items, handouts, etc. from the event? Ask your sponsor if they want them back. This shows conscientiousness for their budget. Since these items cost money, they may possibly want to use these for another event.
9. We Want You Back! - Seek feedback, not just after the event, but also DURING the event when there might still be an opportunity to address a not-so-happy sponsor/exhibitor. Always use open-ended questions in gathering comments. In addition to saying “Thank you,” always make sure to express that “We hope to see you back” at the next event. Offer Floor discounts for next year in exchange for feedback. At the end of the day, it’s their answer to the question - “Was it worth our time and money?” - that will influence future participation.
These are but a few ways one can show Partner Sponsors they are valued and appreciated. What are you doing today to keep them coming back? Whatever it is, make it memorable!
Since 2014, Maria R. Davis, CMP, has served as the Director of Meetings and Partner Relations for Missouri REALTORS, based in Columbia, MO. Prior to this, she worked for over 22 years in Hotel/Resort Sales representing numerous properties in the Philippines and the United States allowing participation in various tradeshows, which gives her a unique perspective on the topic of exhibits and sponsorhips. Currently, Missouri REALTORS® holds six to seven major events supported by Partner Sponsors and Exhibitors. Maria can be reached at Maria@MORealtor.com.