By Liz Palm, Marketing Director
This blog post is the third in a series that covers some of the ins and outs of how Protech successfully took our Fusion 2020 Customer Conference virtual in 5 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the first post about staff communications and the second about conference technology.
It’s no secret. Trade and professional associations rely on their annual meetings and conferences as a primary source of non-dues revenue. But, during the COVID–19 pandemic, organizations were forced to changed how they host and manage these events.
Beyond choosing virtual technology tools, delivering content and maintaining communication, ensuring value for sponsorships is one of the biggest challenges that association professionals face when transitioning to virtual events.
In April, after making the decision to convert our Fusion 2020 customer conference to a virtual event, the marketing team at Protech was determined to maximize value for our sponsors. Here are a few strategies that you might be able to apply to your association’s virtual (or hybrid) event.
Put Yourself in the Sponsors’ Shoes
Regardless of the environment where the event is taking place, sponsors expect to achieve very specific goals, and not all sponsors have the same goals. Be sure to connect with each sponsor to discuss what’s most important to them personally.
Some will focus on brand awareness with advertising during specific sessions, content on social media, or branding in email communications and newsletters. Others will prioritize lead generation and need options that put them in direct contact with attendees, like video chats, attendee lists (with email addresses) or meeting space. Some sponsors will even go outside the box and host a happy hour or cooking class.
An increasingly popular choice for associations now is a mobile app where sponsors can directly communicate with a relevant audience and leverage more branding options. With more members attending virtual events, sponsors will be eager to get their brand and message in front of your audience, so try to be creative when you build your sponsorship packages.
Set Tangible – And Attainable – Success Metrics
While in-person sponsorship value is clearly tangible in the form of exhibits around the conference hall, that value does not translate well to a virtual environment. Similarly, if the value cannot be proven for virtual sponsorship options, it’s difficult to charge premium pricing for the placements.
You might already be familiar with some virtual sponsorship ideas, but how do you put those ideas into action? And perhaps more importantly to your executive management and board of directors, how can you monetize them?
Sponsors want to know exactly who they reached at your event so they can identify strong leads and calculate return on their investment for your event. Here are a few metrics that you can offer to sponsors to help them better understand the audience at your event:
- Registrations vs. attendance, broken down by individual session and demographics
- Length of time the attendees stayed in each session.
- Mobile app or event community ads: impressions, click-throughs and profile visits.
- Standalone email or newsletter ads: unique opens and click–throughs
- Online community platform engagement metrics: comments, likes, PDF downloads
- Social media sponsored content: likes, retweets, shares, comments
Establish Long-term Value by Repurposing Virtual Event Content
It’s time to rethink single-transaction sponsorship agreements and view them as the beginning of a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. This ongoing partnership provides value to your members through the sponsor’s expertise, while helping the sponsor to further establish their brand.
Since your sponsors can’t network face-to-face like they would at an in-person event, a key lead generation tactic for many companies, you can offer to partner with them on post-event webinars. The registration lists for these mini-events will help generate more leads for the sponsors. The content from the webinars can then be used for blog posts, e-books or an upcoming podcast for your members.
If you continue post-event partnerships with your sponsors, be sure to continue to give them the data on the co-hosted webinars, e-book downloads and digital guides, too.
What’s Next for Sponsors and Exhibitors
The event industry was flipped on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic, but those involved have shown true resilience and adaptability by quickly shifting strategies and innovating with technology to accommodate virtual collaboration.
Events will continue to evolve as society attempts to open back up. It’s become quite clear that the benefits of virtual events may have staying power, resulting in hybrid events gaining popularity.
However, these hybrid events can’t be the same old strategy of live streaming the in-person event. They must be an innovative, exciting, engaged digital experience for the entire audience, including sponsors and exhibitors. It’s an exciting time to reimagine events and create a new normal for the event community post COVID-19.
Want to learn how four technology partners think the future of events will evolve? Check out this on-demand webinar with Association Analytics, Guidebook and Higher Logic: How Virtual Meetings in 2020 are Reshaping the Future of Events.