As associations look ahead to the next decade of uniting members and annual meeting attendees, one important piece of the picture is going to look very different: the money.
“Non-dues revenue is where association funds will come from in the future,” Kent Allaway, CEM, CMP, IOM, Vice President, Meetings and Trade Shows, Produce Marketing Association, said during a 2015 Convening Leaders panel on the future of sponsorships.
Organizations are working to outline blueprints for financial stability, and many of them have high hopes for their sponsorship programs. A new survey from GES shows that 56 percent of organizers expect revenues from sponsorships to increase over the next three to four years. However, that growth is not a given. Here are five tips for more creating a more successful sponsorship program.
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1) Show how that money is paying off.
Today’s data-driven business environment allows every organization to track the return of every dollar spent. However, the majority of meeting professionals and trade show organizers are failing to leverage big data’s power. The GES findings show that 82 percent of organizers do not offers their sponsors a report on the effectiveness of their sponsorships.
Measurements matter. Before working to sell more sponsorships, organizations should make sure they have the tools and tracking technology to clearly articulate the results of their existing partnerships. How many leads are they generating from your attendees? How is additional exposure boosting their brand? Is it accelerating chatter about the sponsor on social media? If you can answer some of the questions on each their minds, you’ll be able to encourage them to continue investing your meeting.
2) Know when to say no.
Any offer that leads to more dollars makes sense, right? Not necessarily.
“Be strong enough to turn down something that will be helpful for your association’s bank account,” Karen Miller, Director of Exhibitors, National School Boards Association, said on the Convening Leaders panel.
Miller mentioned that the NSBA had to cut ties with one sponsor due to potentially negative perception the association could have received. Before signing a new sponsorship deal, organizations must make sure the potential new partner aligns with their vision and their mission.
SEE ALSO: 4 Secrets To Securing More Sponsors And Exhibitors
3) Give each sponsor some guidelines.
Sponsorship money can play a crucial role in bringing a meeting to life, but the voices behind that money should not carry too much clout in the organization’s decision-making process.
“Draft guidelines on what the sponsorship entails,” Jim Andrews, Senior Vice President, Content Strategy, IEG, said in the panel discussion. “You want to eliminate the chance that a sponsor will dictate how the meeting runs.”
4) Let the little guys in the door, too.
While many meetings and trade shows rely on a few massive investments from major corporations, that strategy can lead to overpricing levels of sponsorship and turning off emerging companies that lack the ability to write checks with a long line of zeros at the end.
“It’s important to help mom and pop companies become sponsors at a much more reasonable price point,” Miller told Convening Leaders participants.
To make sponsorship designation easier to reach, Miller said the NSBA restructured its program so that an exhibitor booth fee counts toward an overall sponsorship fee. For example, if a company pays $3,000 for a booth and a sponsorship costs $5,000, the company only needs to invest an additional $2,000 to further elevate its brand.
5) Be transparent.
Don’t let thinking about sponsors get in the way of thinking how to satisfy the most important audience: attendees.
As more meetings offer sponsors a chance to speak at educational sessions, the Convening Leaders panel agreed that organizers must make every effort to inform attendees when they might be hearing a biased perspective.
“Everything in the program should be clearly labeled so attendees know what they’re hearing,” Miller said.
While some meetings have hundreds of courses, each of them should not be viewed as another opportunity to earn revenue.
“If you’re looking to add a sponsored session offering, make sure it’s balanced,” Miller said.
Looking for more advice on how to update your approach to attracting more financial support? Check out “7 New Sponsorship Strategies.”