If you had to choose one word to sum up your go-to strategy for ensuring a return on your event sponsorship investment, what would it be?
We chatted with a panel of marketing experts to find out how they leveraged event sponsorship to their greatest advantage.
Based on our conversation, events are clearly here to stay. When done correctly, they are an essential part of the mix for driving marketing returns. So whether you’re a company that has to select just a few events each year or if you have to fill your calendar with events every month, the strategies that you can use for choosing the right events and maximizing returns are the same.
We published another article previously to help you choose the right event, including a long list of questions you can ask the event organizer to make sure it’s a fit for your organization. In this article, we’re diving into two out of a total four strategies that make the events you choose a success.
Savvy Strategy #1: Alignment.
Make sure your goal, your targeted audience and the opportunity made possible by the event format are aligned.
This is sort of a three-part strategy. But the point is that all three of these things must be aligned to maximize success.
1) Determine your goal. Is your goal brand awareness? Is it lead generation? How about pipeline generation? Depending on your goal, how you prepare, show up and follow-up after the event will be very unique.
2) How will you best achieve your goal given your budget and given the titles/number of participants at the event?
3) Is the event format (large/small or digital/in-person) aligned with your goal?
Here are a few scenarios to see how this applies:
If brand awareness is a goal you have, you may pick a very large trade show to build awareness with a large audience. On the other hand, if your goal is brand awareness but your budget is small, and you don’t want to spend your entire budget just to float your logo, you may prefer to do smaller, more intimate events with a very specific audience.
As another example, say your goal is really focused on pipeline generation and finding leads. In this case, a more intimate style of event, like the Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, or a one-on-one meeting type of event would be better aligned. Intimate events can result in more qualified meetings.
If your goal is to stand out from the competition and get uninterrupted time with your audience, you might choose a virtual event and set goals based on participation and follow-through. Virtual events can be great if you want to weed out a lot of the other noise that might come from vendors and competitors in a traditional event environment.
If thought leadership is your goal, the opportunities you choose to leverage at the event might be different than if you have a lead generation goal. With thought leadership as your goal, you’re probably going to focus on getting speaking engagements at the events you attend.
Finally, if your top goal is to reach decision makers and specifically to accelerate the sales conversation, you would look to do more one-on-one type of engagements with executive audiences or seek out options for your sponsorship program that enable that kind of connection. For example, private dinners or think tank meetings where conversations are longer and the stage is set for discussing on challenges, opportunities and solutions.
At the end of the day, all of the marketers on our panel agreed that alignment was their top strategy—making sure that the event type, target audience and the goal are aligned.
Savvy Strategy #2: Ask the right questions.
The better questions you ask of the event organizer, the better your results.
Here are 8 questions you definitely want to add to your pre-event planning meetings with the event organizer.
1) What are you able to do for me in order to connect me with the right people at that event? You want to find out what sort of role the organization hosting the event plays in helping sponsoring companies meet with the right decision makers. Find out if they will go so far as making introductions to key participants.
2) What can I expect as far as the format of the sessions for meeting people? Are you actively trying to pair up people? Are you setting people up at specific tables if you have seated lunches? How are the networking session run?
3) Can I see a list of past attendees (or current attendees) in order to look for named accounts that will be on-site? You want to make sure that if you have a key account in attendance at an event that you have a person from that account team present. You also can make sure that if prospects you have already met are going to be there, that you send the right team members.
4) Is the audience hand-picked to attend? Particularly important at intimate executive events, which seem to garner a higher level audience, you want to know how much attention has gone into the roster of participants. If they’re actually hand-picked to be there, they’re going to be a highly engaged audience.
5) What is the percentage of net new versus percentage of repeat participants? Depending on your goal, you will either prefer events with high return rates so you can deepen relationships, or you will prefer events with a lot of net new prospects so you can reach a broader audience over time.
6) Why are people attending this event? What topics are on the agenda? Analyzing the event content beforehand will help you arrive prepared to have relevant discussions while on-site.
7) How much time is provided for networking during the event? What’s the format of the networking sessions? Are there tables, ice breakers, conversation starters, food/drink, etc. If networking is only at the beginning or end of the days, opportunities to connect may be fewer and less productive. If sessions are sprinkled throughout the day, provide activities that encourage people to linger and get to know one another, you’ll be prepared. It’s really important that the event organizer goes out of their way to make sure that people are able to network in a really natural and fun way.
8) Can I get the attendee list prior to showing up? Not with contact information, just the name, the company name and title, so you know who is going be there and who to look for. If you are at a 250-person event, it’s virtually impossible to know if any one of these people are clients if you don’t get the list ahead of time and you didn’t personally invite them. Once you know who’s there and you finally see them, you can say, “Hey. I’ve been looking for you,” which makes the introduction more personal.
These are some true golden nuggets. Take this list of questions to your next pre-event meeting and get ready to see great returns from your event marketing sponsorship investment.
Next installment, we’ll cover the last two strategies used by savvy marketers to ensure great results.
Let us know in the comments what strategies work best for you!