Category Archives: Sponsor Value Proposition

Sponsors – It’s a Partnership. How Much is it Worth?

handshake sponsorThe answer is, “somewhere between zero and a lot”. If your industry or profession is an important market for a prospective partner and the potential upside of future sales is substantial, then a partnership with your association could be very valuable.

There are only two reasons why a sponsor wants to partner with your association.

  1. Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
  2. Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their products or services

I was talking to a large software company last week about a partnership with one of our client associations. They were brutally upfront about our value in the second category. They have a 70% penetration rate in our industry so the likelihood of selling meaningful new volume to our members is very low. However, their marketing director noted, “We see value in an association with your association”.

How Do You Assess Value?

So let’s talk about the first reason why a sponsor would partner with you. Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to align their brand with yours?

  • It depends on 2 elements: does your association’s brand offer something that they need, and is your brand well-known in the sector they want to influence?

If your brand offers credibility, professionalism and community engagement, that could be very appealing to a prospective sponsor. However, your brand must be widely recognized in your sector for this to be of value. If you have a strong brand and high visibility you have the potential for a very strong SVP.

And what about the second reason? Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to sell their products or services to your members?

  • It depends on 3 elements: number of members, current penetration rate, and the value of a single sale.

If your prospective partner has a keen interest in increasing penetration in your industry or profession, a low penetration rate and a high price point per unit, you have the potential for a very strong sponsor value proposition (SVP). That is assuming that their product or service is a good fit for your members. Even if your membership is not huge, a partnership with your association could be very productive.

How Do You Pitch Your Association’s Value to a Sponsor?

Even if you have an awesome SVP, you still must make a successful pitch to your prospective partner. You have a lot of competition. There’s a line-up of associations in front of you; asking for the same thing.

First, make sure you’re talking to the right people. Second, make sure your sponsor value proposition (SVP) aligns with their objectives.

So who do you need to talk to?

For sponsor dollars, the marketing director usually controls the budget. He/she must be convinced that your offering is better value than the alternatives. The marketing director’s decision will be influenced by the opinion of the business development/sales director that has accountability for sales in your sector.

The sales director is your gateway to the marketing budget. If they’re not convinced that your offering will drive sales, you’re going nowhere fast. Your success with them depends on you helping them to hit their objectives.

What are their objectives and how can you help?

First, you need to ask. To pitch your offering successfully, you need to understand what they’re trying to achieve and position your sponsor offering to help them accomplish their goals. But don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. If there isn’t a fit, then be honest and move on. If you see a fit, then show them a customized package and explain how it fits with their objectives.

How do you know if you got it right?

Ask. After each activation, get their views on how well it worked and find out how you can help them fine tune it.

In summary, remember 2 things.

  1. Ask, and Listen. Talk to them to find out what their marketing objectives are and figure out how you can work with them to accomplish their objectives.
  2. Then, Deliver. Customize a partner package that will meet their needs, then deliver on what you promised. When the SVP delivery is complete, ask for their feedback.
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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

How To Attract More Exhibitors To Your Trade Show

Trade show concept.In today’s trade show world, exhibitors are questioning the ROI (Return on Investment) of participating in trade shows. What’s the problem?  Here’s what going on.

  • Many trade shows are faltering and this taints the value of the successful trade shows
  • It’s difficult for exhibitors to quantify the value of lead generation at a trade show
  • It’s expensive. The cost of exhibiting is much higher than just the cost of a booth
  • Booth staff have to work at odd times (weekends, evenings, etc.)
  • It’s the same show every single year; same old thing

Many trade show hosts are focused more on generating revenue from their exhibitors, through booth sales and sponsorships, then they are delivering value and returns back to their exhibitors.  This in turn makes exhibitors and sponsors feel neglected.

Others feel that simply making more calls or increasing the frequency of their email blasts/social media posts will be the magic elixir.  It’s much more than a numbers game.  It’s about delivering a compelling and demonstrable ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.

Here are our tips for success:

Tip 1 – Work WITH exhibitors to achieve goals

  1. Ask Questions, LISTEN, and deliver – What are their goals? How can you help them achieve them?  By asking, listening, and helping, you have a much better chance of making the sale.
  2. Partner with them – Make them feel they have ownership in the show.
  3. Collect and share attendee data. Use your registration system to collect useful data about attendees.  What buying decisions do they make or influences?
  4. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or videos from exhibitors. What value did they get from exhibiting at the show?

Tip 2 – Focus on attracting qualified buyers to your show

  1. Give your exhibitors discount codes to send to their contacts/sales leads.
  2. Partner with other shows to cross-promote each others’ events.
  3. Source a list of qualified buyers and invite them personally to the show.
  4. Look at offering special shuttles to pick-up VIP buyers and offer other incentives to entice them to come to the show.
  5. Make a list of the top 20 to 30 qualified buyer companies, and make a personal visit to them to find out what their goals are for your show. Share this with your exhibitors – existing and potential.
  6. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or video from attendees. What value did they get from attending the show?

Tip 3 – Convert pre-registrants into actual onsite attendees

  1. Starting 4 weeks before the show, inform them why they must NOT miss the show.
  2. Profile exhibitors and floor demos.
    1. Who is showing a NEW product?
    2. Who are NEW exhibitors?
    3. What are the on-floor demos?
  3. Offer incentives to attend. If they show up, they will receive further discounts from selected exhibitors, on future association events, or any other incentives.
  4. Make scheduled appointments at the show between exhibitors and buyers. That will help ensure that they commit to the show.

Tip 4 – Have exhibitor demos on the show floor

  1. Give a select few some extra space to perform “in-booth” / hands-on experiences in their booth at scheduled times (multiple times over multiple days if needed).
  2. Create a demonstration area where multiple exhibitors can come together to produce a group demo where all the pieces come together.

Tip 5 – Offer an Exhibitor Concierge

  1. A single point of contact to help exhibitors achieve their ROI.
  2. Help them plan their booth.
  3. Help them train their booth staff.
  4. Offer helpful tips on exhibiting.

Tip 6 – Create a pre-recorded webinar

  1. Provide tips for success at the show.

Tip 7 – Keep It Fresh

  1. Change it up every show.
  2. Reward large space and long-term exhibitors with prime space or first choice of location.
  3. See what new technology can be used in booths and on your show floor.
  4. Go back to old ideas that can be re-used. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it won’t work again.

All these tips, or even just some of them, will help start the process of gaining new exhibitors, new attendees and putting life back into your show.   If you can do only one thing – PLEASE LISTEN!

Are you looking to take your show to the next level?   Contact Erik Naar to learn how we can help!

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

Performance Metrics for Associations – Are You Driving Blind?

CautionWe’re way behind but we’re getting better.

Our sector is way behind the for-profit world, but we’re getting better. We know from our annual survey of Canadian membership associations, that the vast majority of Canadian associations do not track and manage the basic metrics of their business. Until recently, even the concept of managing a membership organization as a business was a foreign concept. However, this is starting to change.

Most Canadian associations are now on board with the fact that they are running a business, and that they must operate as a business to be sustainable. Some Canadian associations are starting to track the most basic performance metrics such as the new member attraction rate and the member retention rate. But we have some distance to go. One of the biggest impediments is weak membership database software (or worse, Excel spreadsheets!) that do not record the data that is needed to calculate the performance metrics.

Why does it matter?

Metrics tell us where we are now. Tracking them over time tells us where we are headed. Are we moving forward? Are we on a sustainable path? Without this information we are driving blind.

The basics – what must we track?

We need to track metrics in four areas:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Strategic objectives
  3. Member value
  4. Financial status

Sustainability; the key metrics

  1. New member attraction rate. This tells you how well you’re doing in terms of bringing new members on board. This should be at least 10%. If it’s not, you need to have a retention rate of more than 90% just to keep membership at the current level.
  2. Current member retention rate. This tells you how well you’re doing in terms of holding on to your existing members. This should be at least 90%. If it’s not, you need to have a new member attraction rate of more than 10% just to keep membership at the current level.
  3. Member satisfaction rate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this needs to be at least 85% to keep the membership organization sustainable. You need a regular member survey to assess this. To keep it simple, consider asking this one question as part of the renewal process.

Strategic objectives; the key metrics

Our annual survey of Canadian membership associations tells us that almost all associations have a documented strategic plan. This has improved dramatically over the past 5 years and that’s great. Now we need to ensure we track our progress. This is the metric we need to track.

  1. Milestones status

Your strategic plan should show multi-year (3-5 year) objectives with milestones, and dates, that your association must hit in order to be on track to achieve your strategic objectives. At every board meeting, or at least quarterly, report on where you are in meeting these milestones.

Member value; the key metrics

  1. Member Engagement in association programs. You’re investing precious resources to deliver member value. This includes events, professional development initiatives, knowledge products, member-only discount offerings and other member services. How many members are engaged in taking advantage of these services? This is what you need to track.
    • Set targets for member engagement in each program and track them year-over-year.
  2. Government/stakeholder relations. For many associations, this service is the heart of the member value proposition. Track your impact. What have you accomplished against the base case of what would have happened if you were not doing anything? Your impact is not only whether or not you’ve achieved you GR/SR objectives, but what has/has not happened as a result of your efforts. You may not have accomplished your objectives (yet), but you have at least ensured that the dial has not moved backward. What value has been achieved? Even if decision-makers have not chosen to heed your counsel, your members are aware of what they need to do to prepare themselves for coming events. This is what you need to track.
    • % of members on GR/SR committees. How engaged are your members in the volunteer work your staff needs to support your GR/SR program?
    • Open rate on GR/SR information bulletins. Do your members care? Are they listening?
    • Meeting requests/call-ins. How often do decision-makers contact your association for input?
    • Influence/progress against base case. What would have happened if your association was not engaged with decision-makers?

Financial reporting; the key metrics

  1. Balance Sheet. How many months of operating expenses are covered by your net surplus? Report on this separately by both liquid and illiquid assets. Your net surplus should cover at least 12 months of operating expenses.
  2. Income statement. For each monthly statement, show where you are against budget and against last year at the same time.

Next Steps

  1. Figure out how to collect the data you need to report and track these metrics.
  2. Establish a regular reporting format and schedule to keep your management team and board informed.

Want more information and the details of how to calculate your performance metrics? Check out our webinar on this topic.

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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Benchmark Survey, Member Value Proposition, Sponsor Value Proposition

Reducing Risk in Sponsor Relationships – Is your sponsor platform on solid ground?

sponsor relationshipAssociations need a well-executed delivery process to ensure a highly professional experience for their valued sponsors.

Yes – a High Performance Organization™ understands the Seven Steps to Successful Sponsorship and the importance of Attracting and Retaining Sponsors.

But it’s not just about the sale. Take a step back and consider your key tracking and communication pieces – they are the unsung heroes of a successful sponsorship program!

  1. The Sponsorship Tracking Sheet

In any sales effort, it is vital to manage your prospect list. The tracking sheet keeps you on a clear path and directs your communication efforts and messaging. It tells you – who was a past supporter, when, and at what value? Who declined and why? Who will benefit from being a sponsor? It also provides current contact information and outreach tracking – all in one place.

  1. The Sponsorship Prospectus

The sponsorship prospectus is the foundation of your campaign. It should be attractive, professional and informative.  The prospectus provides key information about your organization, and full details of your sponsorship offerings. It is important that the information is presented in a clear, logical and easy to read manner. Consider using charts that highlight the different benefits per sponsor value or list the opportunities with details about the deliverables in order of value and privileges.

  1. The Sponsorship Letter of Understanding (LoU)

The Letter of Understanding (LoU) is essentially the “contract” between you and the sponsor. It outlines precisely what you are delivering to the sponsor, and what is required of them. It ensures that the sponsor knows exactly what to expect, and reduces the possibility of misunderstanding or disappointment.

The LoU should be accompanied by an invoice. The sponsor should return a signed copy of the letter, with the payment, before any privileges are delivered.

  1. The Sponsorship Deliverables Chart

Once the sponsorship has been secured, it is important that both you and the sponsor meet your obligations. In some cases, once a sponsor has been secured, it falls to another team member to manage the deliverables and make sure that deadlines and requirements are met. This internal document makes sure that all team members understand what is required of the association and the sponsor, and when.

  1. The Sponsorship Thank You Letter

Associations often overlook the importance of formally thanking a sponsor.  A hand-written card signed by the president, executive director and/or conference chair can go a long way toward demonstrating your appreciation of their support as well as the ongoing value they bring to your association.

This may seem like a lot of work – and it is! But it is the backbone for strong and long term relationships with your sponsors. If you’d like some help to build your platform, find out more here.

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Attracting and Retaining Sponsors – Remember the Holy Trinity

trinityYour ideal sponsor partnership is not about “selling” your event to a sponsor. It’s all about delivering value to each major stakeholder; the “holy trinity” is that crucial intersection between your association, your sponsors and your members. When you get it right, all three stakeholders are receiving value from the relationship.

 

  1. What’s in it for the sponsor? This is your sponsor value proposition (SVP). It answers how this partnership will help your sponsor to (a) Sell their products and services, and/or (b) Enhance their brand by aligning it with yours?
  2. What’s in it for your association? How will this partnership (a) Enable you to deliver more value to your members, and/or (b) Increase the visibility of your association?
  3. What’s in it for your members? How will the association’s relationship with this sponsor help your members to (a) Learn new skills, and/or (b) Find a product or services that will help their organization?

If you can nail each element of the holy trinity, you’ve got a powerful partnership.

When you’re considering your value to sponsors, don’t forget to include both event-specific and year-round opportunities.

Year-round or single event? Think about the best fit for your sponsor. Is the right partnership for this sponsor a year-round relationship where they have visibility with your members at every event and every member communication? Or is it best for them to have relevant visibility at a single event?

And don’t forget; hold onto the crown jewels. Make sure that your year-round sponsors receive a “jewel” above and beyond that available to event sponsors. Perhaps this is a speaking opportunity or unique visibility. Never sell the “jewel in the crown” on a stand-alone basis.

Find out more about your SVP.

A strong SVP is also one of the 8 elements of the High Performance Membership OrganizationTM

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Seven Steps to Successful Sponsorships

7 StepsSponsorship provides powerful marketing and competitive opportunities for sponsors and can be a significant source of resources for associations. But it’s a tough old world out there and your sponsors have many other ways to spend their business development budget. What does your association offer that is unique? Do you have a powerful SVP (sponsor value proposition)?

Sponsors are interested in partnering with membership organizations for two reasons:

  1. Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
  2. Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their product or services

So you must provide a compelling case for both.

When done well, sponsorship is a business AND personal relationship and both partners benefit. Follow these seven steps to successful sponsorships:

  1. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF: Know your organization, understand your brand, identify how you differ from others and articulate your value.
  2. KNOW YOUR SPONSORS: Understand their business goals and objectives. Tailor the sponsor package to meet their objectives.
  3. FOLLOW THEIR BUDGET CYCLE: Reach out to them when they’re planning their budget.
  4. IDENTIFY DECISION MAKERS: Understand the sponsors’ decision-making process and hierarchy, e.g., who are the buyers versus the influencers? What information do they require – particularly if your contact does not make the final decision? What are their business deliverables and how can your association make them look good and help them be successful?
  5. ARTICULATE THE ROI: Create a business case for an investment in your organization. Clearly define the return on their investment (ROI). The higher the value, the greater the ROI. Share relevant data including member demographic and purchasing information to demonstrate the “fit”. Define whether the sponsorship is event specific, year-round with multiple touch points or multi-year. Explain how they can maximize the opportunity. Define the sponsor benefits and value, ensuring the values differ incrementally based on the price and provide consistent and fair recognition. SPONSOR BENEFIT TREND: Get the sponsor in front of your members. Provide them with a speaking engagement where they can showcase their expertise in a way that’s useful to your members.
  6. PROVIDE A RANGE OF OPTIONS: Provide a balanced variety of entry-level to higher-priced premium offerings that provide a good balance of visibility and direct contact with members. Consider the time required to secure the sponsors. Too many lower priced options take time away from securing higher value opportunities and may undervalue the whole program.
  7. DEDICATE RESOURCES: Successful sponsorship management requires dedicated individuals who are skilled at sourcing, building and nurturing on-going relationships. This is not trivial. It takes time and effort to research qualified prospects; to develop an effective “pitch” with professional and comprehensive support materials; execute the value proposition; and provide necessary ongoing, personalized appreciation efforts and engagement that is mutually beneficial and facilitates long-term support.

Bottom line: Take this seriously. The more effort and professionalism you put into your sponsor program the more successful it will be.

Find out more about building successful sponsorship programs and the High Performance OrganizationTM on our website. Check out our VIMEO channel for webinars on this topic.

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Filed under Association Management, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship