Events are a major component of many thriving B2B brands today. Sponsorship is often key to success, but a balance must be struck. Kirsty Joynson explains why it’s strong content, focused on end-users, and not pushy partners, that creates the real value for delegates.
Attracting event sponsorship is tough. Really tough. Especially for B2B brands launching a new event and trying to stand out.
Without the support of partners it often isn’t feasible to get your event off the ground or expand and improve an existing one.
Naturally, you want to make your sponsors feel they are getting their money’s worth. In turn, sponsors expect as much visibility as possible and as big a platform as you can provide.
But this is where it gets really hard. Because although sponsors can provide you with the credibility and investment you need to launch or grow your event, it’s the strategy around your content and audience, not sponsors, that gives your event its true value.
You need partners, not pushy purse holders
A lot of event organisers make the mistake of letting partners dictate the content of their events. Rewards come in the shape of keynote speaker slots, seats on discussion panels and acres of ‘real estate’ on the website, event brochures and social channels.
It may be the case that much (or sometimes most) of your event revenue comes from sponsors, but that doesn’t mean they should dictate your content or crowd out the best speakers. 100% of your content should be about and for the end user audience.
Delegates can tell the difference between content that’s there to please a sponsor and content that will move the needle for their business. They can distinguish between a sales pitch or something they can rely on to define the best strategy for their business.
By all means give your sponsors a platform, but guide them editorially. Avoid the keynote stage (this should be for your most prestigious thought leaders) and help your sponsor craft content that is genuinely interesting for attendees, not a promotional talk. The payoff for them is more promising, even if they struggle to see it at first.
Start at the end (user)
Your event strategy needs to be driven from the bottom up. End users need to be ruthlessly prioritised.
With events you essentially get one shot with a delegate. If they are impressed and come away feeling better informed, more knowledgeable and better equipped to do their job, they’ll be back next time. And they will likely bring others with them.
On the flipside, make them feel like they’ve sat through an endless cycle of sales pitches and odds are you won’t see them again.
Good event content drives your business all year round
Events are your content coming to life. For many events, networking is part of an event’s attractions, not the main dish. Content is what your event’s success hangs on.
The strategic content marketing you carry out 365 days a year should integrate with your events. The speakers, topics, themes and discussions that make your event unique should be drawn from the content your audience responds to throughout the year.
What has been of most value to your audience in recent times? What have they engaged with the most? What are their most pressing challenges? What tale does your marketing data tell?
Your event producers should feed this all into your events to give them genuine value and avoid thinly disguised sponsor messages.
Integrate your marketing
Your event marketing must be fully integrated with the content you’ve prepared.
If you’ve done your homework and designed an editorial program to whet the appetite of your end user target audience, then your marketing must clearly communicate your main event themes and topics. If you’ve picked the right editorial line, people will come.
You can even partner with your sponsors here to help spread the message, putting them in a positive light and helping them be part of your progressive dialogue, not in the way of it.
Remember, sponsors should support events, not be its centrepiece.
Sponsors support, producers produce
Your core priority must be giving your event a robust value proposition. End users need to be confident the event is shaped on content built specifically for them and they must come away feeling you’ve delivered on your promise.
The reward for your sponsors isn’t getting their name and logo in front of people’s eyes as often as possible, but in getting themselves associated with thought leadership and the best content in their sector. If they can’t see that, they aren’t the right cultural fit.
Get it right and the long-term rewards for you and your sponsor are far richer than any short-term vision will ever bring.