A few months back, we received an email (no phone call, just the email), asking to sponsor/exhibit at an upcoming tradeshow. Because we knew the organization well, we made a strategic decision to exhibit. But had I been unfamiliar with this organization, their appeal that the tradeshow would increase our company’s visibility would not have been enough.
At the receiving end of these requests, it got me thinking: What can associations be doing to engage their potential sponsors better?
1. Engage your members: And then, advise your sponsors. Get to know your members, how they want to be communicated with by your sponsors, and then share the information in advance. Your sponsors will be better prepared to remain relevant. In turn, they will obtain the respect of your membership base, and become more effective in their communication practices.
2. Tell your sponsors about the unique marketing opportunity: Whether your potential sponsors are looking to partner with you for B2B or B2C purposes, demonstrate that you know your membership base (and their business) – via research, or testimonials. As a sponsor, I want to know if they are an influencer/decision-maker, how they want to be communicated with, and what their buying cycles look like. Just offering visibility or industry recognition no longer justifies my spend.
3. Become a Partner: Do not just ask for a cheque. That is not a partnership. Associations with successful partnerships provide access to their members. Sponsors are able to directly communicate with them (which is why your research is key). By becoming a partner with the companies you are looking to have sponsor/exhibit, you should focus on their success. This can easily be done by offering value – help them track their ROI with tracking tools, reporting and member feedback.
4. Become your sponsor’s voice: Your members will listen to you. Whether you are sending an e-newsletter, or through social media, you are in the unique position to be leveraging your sponsor’s ability to solve problems – whether through a product offering, time-enhancing solution, or through research that they have done that will benefit your membership. Associations should be offering to share content through their various channels.
5. Help them build relationships: As a sponsor/exhibitor, being present to members is very important to me, and this goes well beyond the conference. Add value to your marketing plan by offering to introduce the sponsor to your chapters, join a committee, or attend local events.
Understanding your member needs is one thing – but if you also understand your sponsors’ needs, and are able to effectively connect the two – you will both increase member engagement and will keep your sponsors paying for the opportunity to showcase themselves.