11 Tips to Secure Conference Sponsors

Alexandra Gibson on 10/27/16 3:28 PM

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offline-summit-sponsor-table.jpgWhen we launched our first industry conference in 2016 -- OFFLINE Summit -- we learned quite a bit about what conference and meeting planners go through in all realms. Most importantly, from a financial perspective, securing a full roster of sponsors requires a tremendous amount of preparation and foresight. As we look towards gaining sponsors for OFFLINE Summit 2017, we put together these 11 tips that encompass some things we did well last year and also things we failed to do. As our mother’s say, “do as I say, not as I do.”

What’s in it for them?
Securing sponsorship for a conference is sales. You have to think what would be in it for the prospective sponsor--everything from how the audience fits with their targeted audience, what they most care about as a deliverable, and how they will judge whether a sponsorship is a success or not. Many conferences do not ask that third question. If you do, you’ll set yourself apart and be able to close the loop once the conference is over to determine if, together, you were able to achieve that success with them.

Develop flexible sponsorship levels.
You may have a basic tiered system -- like gold, silver, bronze -- but consider a la carte options that will entice sponsors and show that they’re not just going to be one of 10 silver sponsors but they can also be the photo booth sponsor or have a signature drink at happy hour. This provides a great opportunity to upsell.

inbound-conference-sponsorship-deck-event-farm.jpgCraft a compelling deck.
The vision is important but it’s even more important to get down to brass tacks and show them a menu of what they can get (and at what cost). This will make it easier for prospective sponsors to pass the information amongst their internal teams easily. I particularly like this deck from HubSpot’s Inbound 2014 and this sponsorship deck from software conference, SaaStr Annual.  

Utilize firmographics and demographics in your sponsorship deck.
By looking at data from the past year’s conference, you can show prospective sponsors who they can expect to reach with a sponsorship. Basic, but important, data to show could be job title/level, business type, industry, geography, and age of attendee (used more for B2C conferences).

Use social proof.
Ask past sponsors for quotes on what they got out of the sponsorship from the previous year, especially if they have a quantifiable win that they can mention. This could include opportunities, reach, deals influenced or closed. Additionally, it is good to have past sponsors talk about the experience working with your conference event team.

Create a lower budget option for small companies and industry newcomers.
Sometimes a low threshold sponsorship level can help get more companies involved. More companies involved can provide extra funds but, more importantly, these sponsors can help get the word out to their communities and audiences to help bolster attendance.

Make a list of target sponsors.
Think carefully about who fits best for your attendee audience and would want to reach those attendees. Have members of your team look at their LinkedIn connections to brainstorm ideas of people they will reach out to in targeted organizations. Consider companies that sponsor similar conferences and those who tend to market in other channels where your audience is.

Think about timing...of your target sponsors’ budgetary cycles.
They will likely be appropriating budgets for 2017 in 2016. You may not need to give them all of the particulars but be sure to be on their radar so that they put a line item in for you.

Don’t get caught up in big brand names, unless you have a relationship at the organization that can warmly lead you to the right people.
If you think that McDonald’s would be the perfect sponsor but you have no connections there, it’s going to likely be an uphill battle to win, especially for a relatively unknown event. However, that’s not to say that you don’t use this year’s event as a way to build that relationship for next year’s sponsors. In our example of McDonald’s, think longer term by inviting a few key people who would benefit from the conference as your special guests. Provide that value, build that relationship, and then you’ll have an “in” to get a sponsorship for the following year.

Look at attending companies from the previous year.
Reach out to these previous attendees to see if they think a conference sponsorship would make sense for their organization. This is a much warmer lead than reaching out cold. If it’s not a good fit for a particular attendee’s organization, don’t forget to both ensure they’ll be attending again and ask them to help spread the word.

Start planting seeds for next year’s corporate sponsors as soon as this year’s event is over.
You can get a verbal agreement or a contractual agreement to keep current sponsorship pricing with this year’s sponsors for next. In order for this to work, you must have thought through how your sponsors will have an exceptional event experience that aligns with their marketing goals (see tip #1). Much like sales, it’s much easier to sell sponsorship to a current sponsor than it is to get a new sponsor.

For all of you marketers out there, please join us on May 16-17th in New York for OFFLINE Summit 2017, the first conference completely devoted to how offline marketing drives business results. If you’re interested in a sponsorship for OFFLINE, get in touch with our Senior Marketing Manager, Brian Pesin at brian [at] eventfarm [dot] com. 

Interested in learning more about what OFFLINE Summit 2016 had to offer? Watch the presentations from the conference by clicking on the link below! 

offline-summit-2016-watch-videos

Event pros, what are your best tips for getting a line-up of all-star sponsors? Tweet us @eventfarm or let us know in the comments below!

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