July 21, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

One of the big impacts of taking events digital is the change in value for our sponsors.

Face-to-face events have a very analogue approach to sponsorship. It is easy to have a casual conversation with a sponsor over morning tea or lunch. You can casually walk around the sponsor booths with a colleague as you check out what’s going on. A conversation that may start out about something unrelated like football can relatively easily turn into a conversation about the product or service and end in booking an appointment for further discovery or follow-up.

Online events are different.

Online is digital. On or off. Yes or no. Come or go. So you are not likely to click on a link to talk with someone if you are simply having your lunch. You will only go there if you want to find out more and as people often dislike being sold to, you are likely to watch the video rather than chat to the company representative.

So how can we help our sponsors go digital?

Oh yes, that’s right. WE have to help them. Because we need them now more than ever. So we have to come up with a business model that works for them so they can support our events. Oh yes, yet another thing for the event professional to do. Whoop.

The reality is that this is the opportunity we have been looking for. We get the chance to train our sponsors because now, EVERYTHING is different. Here are some thoughts on how to improve the sponsors’ experience.

Have the right person online

The sales person is often the wrong person to have online. You want a relationship manager or support manager. Someone who knows the pain that your delegates are having and can show them how the product or service can remove that pain. Sales people often just want the deal, but sponsors MUST be focussed on the relationship. Remember, this is the time we are speed dating, not getting married. That comes later.

Have a reason to engage

One of the key things our sponsors want is contact details. Privacy concerns and legislation mean they are harder and harder to get. But for the right value, people will hand over their email. The value they want is a solution to their problem. So, sell that. Don’t have it as “Download our latest whitepaper here”. You have to make it attractive. “Discover the five easy steps XYZ company took using our service to add $200k to their bottom line. Download the whitepaper here”.

Have the right giveaway

Too often companies give away alcohol, technology or vouchers as their lucky draw prize. STOP IT! All you end up with is a list of people who want alcohol, technology or vouchers and a lot of wasted time in follow-up. Make your give away something to do with your product or service. A free upgrade, free consulting, free assessments or something that your qualified prospects would want and is of significant value. Yes, you will get fewer people taking the action for the draw but those who do are self-qualified. Twenty people who want to spend money on your product or service are far better than 200 who just want the free stuff.

Leverage the giveaway

In the digital world it is easy to collect information. So, leverage your giveaway. If you download the white paper (and give us your email), you get two entries. If you book a one-on-one appointment, you get five entries. If you actually have a one-on-one during the event, you get 10 entries. All of this allows the sponsor to achieve their goal of getting qualified leads and starting stronger relationships.

Manage your sponsor relationship

Sponsors that I speak to often feel under appreciated. Often, they feel like a cash cow. If you haven’t already, get someone who is responsible for the ongoing relationships with your sponsors. Like all relationships, our sponsor relationships need continual attention and, dare I say it, love. As organisers, we need to make sure we continue to provide value.

Prove the value

As part of our commitment to an ongoing relationship with our sponsors, we need to continually prove the value of their sponsorship. This may require you to ask them smart questions. How many qualified leads did they get, how many extra sales, what was the value of the conversations, what new ideas did they get after speaking to their clientele? Typically sponsors only want to know how many people they could have spoken to and don’t realise the extra value they may have already received. A few smart questions can show them that.