Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Developing Win-Win Partnerships with Exhibitors

In a similar vein to enriching Media Partnerships, another low-cost channel a successful Event marketer should fully explore and leverage is partnering with event exhibitors/sponsors [from here in referred to as exhibitors].

The concept is simple – for events with exhibitors, all parties have a common goal – to drive as many feet to the event as possible. And exhibitors have a goldmine of information to tap into: internal databases of unique, qualified clients and prospects you would not typically have access to. These clients and prospects are individuals the exhibitor would, certainly, like to meet and greet at the event. You, on the other hand, have the resources, knowledge and bandwidth to effectively communicate to these individuals. To that end, partnering to ensure the exhibitors’ clients and prospects attend the show is a win-win.

Communication channels can be varied; a few samples are:

  • A co-branded email, highlighting the exhibitor’s participation in the event.
  • A high-impact letter or direct mail piece to some key clients.
  • Lead generating Webinars and/or podcasts highlighting exhibitor presentations, case studies, etc. that are part of the event content.
  • Web presence on the exhibitor Web site, calendar of events.

One item to include in these communications is a premium to the attendees these efforts generate (i.e. a discount) – another win-win, as it affords good will from you to the exhibitor, and allows the exhibitor to extend goodwill to their client/prospect database.

Do remember that this effort should be one of you, the marketing department, providing complimentary, back-office services as a value add. The effort needs to be seamless for the exhibitor; they should not be expected to spend manhours coordinating or implementing these campaigns. It will be your responsibility to manage the process; the only facet you would need from the exhibitor would be their providing specs for banner ads, the appropriate list segment from their database, etc.

This can be a hurdle in itself – understandably organizations are reluctant to release details of a proprietary database. To that end I would recommend engaging a bonded 3rd party to handle names (assuring exhibitors you would never access the list) and, as SOP, have a standard Usage Agreement (specifying the list would be provided to a 3rd party for one-time use, would be destroyed after use, etc.).

Another facet to keep in mind: experience has shown you need to start working on this early in the campaign. Exhibitors are not events organizations, it typically takes time to educate and build awareness around what you are trying to achieve. It is essential, early on, to communicate this offering, educating exhibitors on why they should participate, and (most importantly) that it is of no cost and effort to them. Developing a flyer/PDF/email detailing all of this is advisable; be prepared to follow up with a phone call.

So schedule kickoff of these efforts early, be prepared for a lengthy process to implement, but persevere - one email/outbound communication to these hidden audiences can be invaluable to tapping into new audience segments and developing new alliances. (As a side note - also falls in the "business development" skill set for your professional development).

Good luck!

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