Engagement + Marketing

High-Stakes Partnerships

Expenses are rising, registration-pricing increases are risky, competition is stiff, and companies are downsizing their expo footprint. Sponsors to the rescue.

For organizations that have traditionally been autonomous, relying on sponsorships to buoy the ship is a new direction that requires strategic thinking and organizational buy-in. Like it or not, partnerships and sponsorships are an implied endorsement. Your customers will judge you based on your choices. Thus, potential sponsors must be vetted well, transparent in intent, mutually beneficial as well as of value to your customers, and worth an ongoing investment of everyone’s time and effort.

The most successful partner programs feature four business attributes: fewer but bigger investors; not about eyeballs, logos, and impressions; activation plans that last 90 days or longer; and having a primary focus on improving the experience for attendees or members.

Progressive organizations interested in growing this revenue and value stream should articulate exactly how their partnerships will be vetted. Make sure you consider potential sponsors through these seven filters:

Aligns With Mission Does this sponsor or partner have the same love, passion, and future view for the profession as you do? Are they already modeling it? Is their leadership and customer-facing team active with your organization or profession?

Elevates BrandIs this supplier a market leader? Are a significant number of your top member or customer organizations already buying their products or services? Are they fans?

In It for the Long HaulNever strike a deal that doesn’t have significant potential of being a multiyear commitment. One-off deals rarely benefit anyone. If you aren’t working with an executive champion on the investor side, the deal will likely be short-lived.

Reduces Expenses and/or Improves Attendee ExperienceWill this sponsor help reduce hard costs that you regularly incur? (This can be done through in-kind or cash investment.) Do they genuinely want to improve the attendee experience, or are they looking for an opportunity to toot their own horn?

Provides Thought LeadershipIs this sponsor viewed as a pacesetter by your industry? Do they nurture their customers and prospects with a content-marketing approach (i.e., helping vs. selling)?

AmplifiesWill this partner help extend your reach, especially with top-targeted attendee segments? What communication channels or following have they earned? Do they have the marketing muscle and creativity to benefit both parties?

Eases FulfillmentWill working with this sponsor be straightforward and fairly simple — or will it be a nightmare that taxes resources and staff time?

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.