As we learned last week in speaking with Patrick Wilson of The Profitable Association, Inc., selling sponsorships and partnerships in the age of virtual events and pandemics has become a practice of focus and collaboration. These aren’t new words, but they should be what’s buzzing in the industry for anyone who wants to push past this challenging time and thrive.
For one, there needs to be a paradigm shift in how companies measure their return on investment in the virtual event age, however very few folks have sorted out how they want to redirect the watchful eye of the CEO and finance department. In traditional live event and expo arenas, brand visibility, the ability to collect data, to showcase products and services, and the ability to press the flesh have been critical measures of success and value for the investment. Seemingly all of these tactics have been removed or radically altered in a way that is hard for both sides of the partnership to understand. To retain loyal partners, Wilson suggested that you focus on your top sponsors and partners and collaborate with them to understand their needs.
To go one step further, right now there needs to be a redesign of the value proposition and this should go hand in hand with redefining their needs. As mentioned in our previous conversation with Lewis Flax of Flax Associates, this pivot is offering a critical point for companies to redefine the expectations of the future because everyone is having to innovate to stay alive. When speaking with a prospect or loyal client, now more than ever the motto of “seek first to understand” stands to be the most important piece of advice. This doesn’t simply mean understand their goals for this partnership, this means leaning in and learning, understanding their business and what they see for the future. Because the very components of a virtual event are so different from a live event, it’s imperative that everyone drops brand visibility as the key metric. The days of vanity metrics are over, the easy ride to high dollar tiered sponsorships based on who has the biggest logo, or the heaviest appearance of it, are gone.
Don’t fret! The associations that thrive in this era will be the ones who recognize this as an opportunity to get back to the basics. To truly understand the business of their member companies, who they could benefit learning from and working with, and then seeking out those partners who can add real value to those relationships. From there, collaborate with those partners to design programming, content, and connecting opportunities that will highlight that intersection. When you make the end client the most meaningful person in the room, everyone will win…and become a profitable association.