Events are back after an extended hiatus—and organizers and convention centers are ecstatic.
After losing $30b during the pandemic, marketers are ready to make their grand return.
In fact, more than half of respondents to a study by The Event Participation Index said they’re extremely likely to return to in-person events by the second half of 2023.
We’ve covered trade shows and live events in the past, including an article about why you should host a trade show in which we reported that 95 percent of marketers think live events provide attendees are a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.
In a follow-up post, we looked at some simple things you can do to facilitate networking at your event.
But there is another critical element of hosting an event or trade show affecting both revenue and long-term relationships: event sponsors.
You’ve convinced brands to participate in your event, sponsoring a booth or a lounge or a networking event.
But what about after the event?
To get sponsors to return, you must show them a return on investment (ROI).
Here are two tips to get you on the right track:
Communicate About Expectations Throughout the Process
Ask your sponsors what they hope to get out of the event.
While ‘more sales’ is typically the underlying motivation behind most event sponsorships, brands should be able to express their goals in more specific terms—and you should be on board with helping your sponsor meet that goal.
Ronnie Higgins at Eventbrite suggests that sponsors narrow their expectations to a singular goal:
“What is the ultimate goal of your event? To generate qualified leads? Attract new employees? To build awareness or launch a new product? After making a list of all your goals, whittle down your answers to just one primary goal — the most important.”
Take your sponsors through this exercise ahead of the event. If their goal is product awareness, maybe there’s a way to work the product into what’s front and center at the event. If the goal is qualified leads, offering follow-up with the attendee list may be more beneficial.
Either way, communicating about your sponsors’ expectations ahead of the event will help you show how their involvement translated into ROI.
Make Sponsorship Packages With ROI In Mind
It can seem temptingly easy to create sponsorship packages. A headlining speaker, a feature in the program, a premium spot for a booth — these are all simple to include and simple to deliver.
But those elements of a sponsorship package are also difficult to translate into hard numbers for ROI, particularly from your end.
The CMO may have a vague idea of how many people approached her after her presentation, but you don’t.
Instead, build additional elements to your sponsorship packages that are simple to translate into ROI for your sponsors.
Include a coupon or link to your sponsor’s site when you send out reminder emails, and track how much traffic they receive as a result. Set up meetups between attendees and sponsors and examine how many personal connections that opportunity delivers. Create social media posts before, during and after the event featuring the sponsor and see where the engagement lands you.
And, provided you have permission from your attendees, offer attendee data to bolster the sponsor’s leads.
All of these efforts give your sponsors more exposure and give you the opportunity to deliver hard numbers when they come asking for ROI.
Proving the ROI of digital events to sponsors
The in-person event corner of the market suffered during the pandemic; the digital corner did not.
In fact, the global virtual events market was valued at more than $114b in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4% from 2022 to 2030.
The rise of virtual events and growing participant preference will pressure hosts to prove ROI to their sponsors.
While you could tell sponsors to look at metrics like registrations, leads and demos, pipeline, and poll responses, Airmeet suggests realigning your sites on metrics like customer loyalty, retention, and referrals.
Other questions Airmeet suggests:
- Did organic brand searches go up after the event?
- What speakers and partners are you attracting?
- Have you generated any customer testimonials from attendees?
- Have any accounts expanded?
Switching your vantage point on these metrics and questions will put you in a prime position to measure—and prove—the ROI of virtual events to sponsors.
Proving the Value of Events in 2023
After a few years of budgets shifting away from events in lieu of content creation, digital events, and search ads, brands are returning to convention centers around the country.
While event hosts will remain eager to recoup lost revenue, they’ll be under more pressure than ever to prove their worth—sponsors in the down economy will demand it.
The events that can prove the best ROI will attract the most investments from sponsors in 2023 and beyond.
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