Well, this is my very first blog and I feel the need to confess, I’m not much of a writer. I write like I speak, so hopefully I will keep your attention despite my lack of abilities. Working in an environment surrounded by skilled writers, one can feel at times somewhat intimidated. But lucky for me I have a few skills of my own. Mine are in the areas of marketing, business development, negotiating, and sales. Not sales in the traditional sense but more in a non-traditional way; being 100% customer centric, helping them, if I can, to build their business. Now that sounds good to say (or in this case, write) but genuineness is the key. I have a curious nature so I am naturally wired to be inquisitive. I’m curious about people, how they tick, who they really are, and how I might have a positive impact, how I may be of service. It may sound corny or cliché but it is my truth.
So why am I writing a blog and why should you read it?
For almost a decade I have been fortunate enough be associated with and working for a great local company, Ottawa Business Journal. I’ve had four different roles, through three different ownerships, and learned a little along the way about OBJ’s value proposition and the audience we serve.
OBJ’s audience is comprised of managers, owners, professionals and executives in the small to medium-size enterprise space. We affectionately use the acronym MOPEs.
My role for the past seven years has been “Chief Revenue Catalyst” (newly created title in 2012, we’ll talk about that in another blog LOL) aka Director of Marketing and Sales. My responsibilities are many... with particular focus on customer solutions. In the past decade, I’ve met with and worked with literally hundreds of small to medium-size businesses and the M.O.P.E.s that run them.
OBJ’s value proposition is visibility in front of that audience. If you are a business in the B2B space or have a great product or service designed for this type of consumer, OBJ offers you four different platforms to reach them and the freedom to be creative within those platforms: web, newspaper, magazines, and interactive business events.
It’s the interactive business events I want to specifically address in this first blog, with the intention of delivering you some value and, hopefully, helping you to maximize your sponsorship investment.
In chatting with my colleague about this first blog topic he said he’s a big fan of the “Top Ten List” so I thought I would give that a go and develop a check-list for you of the “Top 5” (I’ve kept it simple and concise with just 5) things I believe to be key in sponsorship marketing. This will hopefully be helpful in evaluating a possible sponsorship you may be looking at or, if you are already sponsoring an event (maybe one of ours), you can use this as a tool.
1. Is it the right fit?
The first thing to determine is: are the attendees your target market? Do your research! Are the people and companies in attendance ones you can do business with? Are they potential clients? If this is an annual event, ask for a list of companies that attended last year. Ask for referrals from the event organizers, speak to other sponsors and make sure it feels right. It’s all about the “right fit.” That’s actually true about everything in life, right? ;-) (I hope you don’t mind my occasional use of emoticons. When I need to emphasize a point, I find it helpful to bring a little right-brain action to the table LOL.)
2. Are you getting enough value?
You have determined that you have the right audience, now it’s about value for your investment. Benefits vary with the amount of investment. Lower-level sponsorships at $1,500-2,500 usually provide very basic branding opportunities: logo impressions on marketing and signage, tickets to the event and maybe some table-top or an exhibitor booth display. The higher the sponsorship investment the more you can negotiate and tailor to your needs.
When I evaluate and negotiate events that we sponsor, there are key benefits that I look for. I look for event organizers who are flexible and allow me, when possible, an opportunity to speak to the audience. I believe one of the key things at an event is to connect your brand to your people. A speaking opportunity, or any interactive and creative ways that organizers can help integrate your people and brand into the event, are key to maximizing your investment.
3. Do you have a strategic plan?
One of things I like to do is strategize with the sponsor representatives who will be attending the event. We bat around ideas on how to maximize their presence and focus on their biz development strategy. I love this exercise; it’s my favourite part. Some of the best ideas come out of these “think tanks.”
What’s your objective? How many leads are you going to generate? How will you work with the event organizers to collect them? What’s your follow-up plan? Where will you strategically place your people at the event?
A great way to generate good leads is to create a unique reason for attendees to visit your info table. One of our clients, Howard Jewelers, who have sponsored our Forty Under 40 Event for many years, once offered free on-the-spot jewellery cleaning at the event. Another year, they had a contest to guess which diamond was real. These are two creative and engaging ideas that connected the audience with Howard's people and brand.
4. Are you a player in the game?
As a sponsor, YOU are working the event and should be making notes on the people you meet for reference later. Make notes about the highlights of the event for discussion with your potential prospects in a follow-up email exchange or, better yet, schedule a face-to-face meeting. Look for opportunities to be of value. Invite clients and prospective clients to attend the event you are sponsoring. If you can, invest in buying tickets for them. Work with the organizers to negotiate a special rate for additional tickets. You are a sponsor and this is a caché that you should be leveraging with your clients and potential clients.
Make sure you are connecting with your host at the event. They are your ambassadors and should be focused on helping you maximize your exposure. A good ambassador will help you connect with potential business prospects throughout the day or evening. Do the same for the guests you invite. Deliver value to them, be of service. How can you help them connect? This is the power of event marketing: CONNECTION.
Demonstrate your value to the audience. Why should they do business with you? People will remember how you help them...how you focus on them and not on yourself. As a player in the game, you should be thinking about every move and using all your strengths to maximize your sponsorship. Play to win!
5. What’s your next step?
This is perhaps the most important step of all. If you skip this part all is for not, and that would be a shame now wouldn’t it. The pre-event and post event plan take time and effort, if you are not prepared to do what it takes, save yourself the grief and don’t choose sponsorship as a strategy. It’s not a passive game. If done right it’s the most powerful marketing tool in building business relationships and profitability.
What’s your follow-up plan? Don’t make it a pitch whatever you do. What I’ve found works best is when you can continue to deliver value. Craft a piece with some tips and invite your prospects to sign up for a newsletter. In your post event marketing piece, write about what you loved about the event. What you learned from the speakers, presentation, and/or the content of the event. Your objective should always be to engage and deliver value, not to sell.
It takes time to get the hang of it. Each time you sponsor an event you should be upping your game in all these areas. Be creative. Work it and it will pay off.
I hope this blog is of value to you. If I can be of service in providing further details or some creative ideas please reach out.
Susan Brigitte Blain is vice-president of Ottawa Business Events. My phone 613-238-1818, ext. 232 and email firstname.lastname@example.org