During the most recent challenging economic times, which impacted marketing and T&E budgets, both sponsors and attendees questioned whether face-to-face events best served their need for education, networking and lead generation. This spurred event innovation with some event producers creating updated models to include regional events, which reduced travel costs and allowed attendees to build and expand their local network. The transition of bringing the events to the customer has been very successful for vendor/customer relationships as well. The regional and local event strategy has grown tremendously. This networking is essential, especially among IT professionals. Recent research from Forrester and IDG Enterprise highlights that more than one-third of IT decision-makers rely on events to stay informed, as well as influence their purchase decision-making process. For Heads of IT¹–those who approve/authorize IT purchase decisions–events play an even more important role.
Marketing dollars require a return that directly impacts the organizations revenue. This need for ROI has moved dollars into the field marketing channel. With the variety of face-to-face events options—specifically local and regional events—this channel should be an integrated part of marketing campaigns, as they provide the full spectrum of benefits from branding, relationship building and lead generation. The face-to-face time allows for open dialogue between attendees and sponsors where objectives, challenges and solutions can be discussed. This provides a great opportunity for field and national teams to build relationships and drive revenue. The familiarity this interaction builds can help shorten purchase cycles since the purchase process with a prospect familiar with your company can take an average of three months less than if he is not familiar with your company¹.
Event producers work incredibly hard to create the proper setting to drive relevant and sophisticated content, gather the appropriate qualified attendees and ensure that sponsors have an opportunity to engage with attendees. Once that stage has been set, it is essential that you, as a sponsoring company, come prepared to speak about your solutions, get engaged, and become a relevant part of the conversation. Here are four key recommendations to creating a successful event sponsorship:
1. Send the right people: If you are sponsoring a senior-level conference, send senior-level team members that can speak on a peer level and explain the strategic benefits of your solution. For example, it is very common for sponsors of CIO magazine events to bring their CIO to have a true peer-to-peer conversation. If you are participating in a more technical event, have people on hand that understand the technical aspects, but who can also still speak to the business benefit and value.
2. Participate/Be present: Visibility at any event you are sponsoring is crucial to your success. Staff networking areas during breaks, approach attendees, engage in conversation over meals, etc. Attend sessions where applicable so you hear what is being discussed and join the conversation.
3. Be relevant: Whether you are speaking during a conference session or to individuals, don’t just pitch your product. Showcase your product’s business value through a customer case study by illustrating how you meet a specific need. Better yet, invite that client to join you on stage during your session. When you are not speaking, listen. You will hear prospects’ challenges and objectives, giving you an understanding of their business. This will allow you to engage in conversation to showcase the type of solution that works within their organization and fits into their budget. This approach allows attendees to view you as a thought-leader and partner who they could reach out to in the future.
4. Continue conversations: Emails, phone calls, social media forums…the follow-up methods are numerous. The growth of social programs, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Connect provide a platform where clients, prospects and the sponsor can share best practices, view White Papers and case studies and engage in a dialogue, deepening the user experience. As a marketer, you need to decide the best way to continue the dialogue and flow of continual information to keep yourself relevant and your prospects engaged.
Events have many variables, but when they are produced correctly and sponsors optimize their experience, both sponsors and attendees walk away with a stronger relationship and a mutual education of challenges and solutions.
¹ 2011 Role & Influence of the Technology Decision Maker, IDG Enterprise, June 2011