Why Sponsoring an Event Is Not A Good Marketing Strategy

Designing a business development strategy and ensuring your target market knows you exist is sometimes a skipped step when starting a new venture. A lot of businesses simply hope word of mouth is a great marketing strategy.

Hope is not a strategy!!!! -One of my many bosses

That works great until your realize 6 months have gone by after you started your new business, started marketing your new product; maybe it is an online e-commerce site, a brick and mortar restaurant or a new sugar free soft drink.

Then you realize that 6 months have gone by , and you have had a few customers. But not enough to even justify being open. How do you start getting your start up’s service or product out there? Beyond just word of mouth marketing?

Hope is not a strategy

Honestly! Marketing Strategy Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought.

The true answer is, you should have been marketing a few months before you were open. However, now you have to work with what you have. Your company begins to develop a marketing strategy. One of the ideas either an employee or founder might have is to sponsor an event.

Here is where I would step in and disagree with this client or start up. I understand, it is conventional wisdom that this is a great way to market. However, let me tell you the truth of what actually happens when you sponsor an event as I have been part of companies that have done this and part of committees trying to sponsor events(there are a few special cases). After which, I will tell you how you should really get your name out there!

Why Sponsoring an Event Is Not A Good Marketing Strategy

The Event Managers Are Too Busy Too Talk To You

One start up I helped told me how they decided it would be a good idea to sponsor a fashion event. I advised against this. But sometimes you can’t win..

The problem was they were a business intelligence and digital marketing company. How does that have anything to do with fashion?? That is just bad positioning. The people who ended up going to the event did not care for their product.

We all went to the fashion event and I watched as the CEO had to follow around the organizer and basically beg for attention. To make matters worse, the CEO never got introduced in front of the crowd, so no one had a face to the name(one of the key reasons you go to an event as a company is to get your face associated with the company, you need to humanize your product), not to mention no one could really tell what the speaker was saying while she was introducing the company. Have you ever heard the saying “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?”.

What type of marketing costs a lot of money but provides very little hype or ROI? Bad marketing!

At the end, this seven thousand dollar investment lead to nothing. Of course the events and boards managing these events are happy to take your money. They need it to manage their events. This puts your company at another disadvantage of not really being able to participate beyond financial support. I will bring this up later when I explain how to fix this, but you want to own the event, you want control!

The Attendees Don’t Often Come Up To Say Hi. Unless you have free stuff

I have worked on a board for a over year now that throws a big tech conference every year. Both years I have gone, I have watched as their sponsors booths get ignored by most of the attendees. Both new businesses and old corporations vying for attention.

Most of the people that come to the event are either there to hear the speakers, or there because they are looking for a job or new clients themselves. Thus, they only go to the booths to get the free stuff at the desks. Then your company can ask for business cards, QR codes and other information. Again, you are really put at a disadvantage. You come across more like an awkward salesman vs. a possible new friend.

Comic from http://www.commitstrip.com/en/about/

You’re Not The Only Sponsor

If you are not the only sponsor. You lose a lot of possible time with customers. With all the different sponsors eyeing down attendants and hoping for emails, sales, and possible executive connections.

Alright, so we have established that more than likely, if you sponsor an event. Your product, or service will be ignored.

The board, or non-profit is often more than happy to take your money, but their event is about their company, not yours. They want you to be happy in some ways…but can’t meet all the needs you probably have.

So what is the solution? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you with a good work around or two.

Instead of sponsoring an event run by another company a business should:

Run your own event and Partner With A Charity Instead.

Before you go off and tell me that is a lot of work for your startup to set up an event. Guess what, you are right. It is a lot of work to run an event. Especially if you already are managing a startup or business.

However, it is a great marketing move. You are putting your brand out there in a method where you have control.

As a business this will provide several benefits that are worth the time and money. Let’s go over just a few ROIs you will get for using an event as part of a marketing strategy.

You will make new meaningful connections just by trying to set up an event

Think about it, if a startup founder goes out looking for event planners, chefs, non-profits. It forces him or her to meet new people. Some of these people will still be interested in getting to know you and your product. You never know!

In addition, philanthropists have to be naturally well connected people.

They know people who write checks to charities that are probably more than some people make in a year.

Those are the people you probably want your product in or service in front of. Especially if you are trying to sell a high end…anything. I am not saying to over sell, or act like the cheesiest salesmen ever

Please don’t! Just be natural, have a conversation. People generally ask you what you do. Give a 30 second quick talk without trying to sell, just be open and honest and then! Listen to them! Don’t focus too much on selling. Focus on building a relationship, focus on listening to them and how you can actually help them.

You will be the center of attention..sort of

Unlike a large event with multiple sponsors and a main host that isn’t you. Your company is the center of attention…sort of. As much as you are the center of the attention, your goal is to put the spotlight on everyone else! Give a quick 5 minute introduction on who you are, and why you set up the event.

However, after that! Guess what, introduce everyone else who is helping. Introduce the event company, introduce the charity. Talk about how great they are. I know, it might not seem natural for some of you.

You would assume that you should take up as much air time as you can. Maybe lots of 5 minute appearances here and there like a commercial break. Do you think people will enjoy that? Or are you just ruining the events experience? Be honest with yourself.

After that, for the rest of the night, you are the problem solver so to speak. You make sure the right person is talking at the right time, you ensure everything is going perfectly. Talk to the guests about how the evening is going and just be a good host.

That is what you want people to remember about you. Since you aren’t showing off your skills at what you are good at. Then don’t worry about telling people how your company could save them money.

You want them to think…

I met this co-founder yesterday -> He was really helpful as a host -> he must thus be a helpful partner to work with in business -> Oh, he does Cloud CRM management or something. Lets hire him!

That is it.

Quick Tip: Make sure you used some site that gathered all your guests emails when they purchased tickets. That is the final piece of this puzzle.

Now when you email them, they will remember how great you were as a host and if they are looking for your product or service they will be much more inclined to work with you. Once you send that follow up email, who knows! But if no one knows about your product, even if it is the best product in the world. No one is going to spend that much time looking. Your business will disappear because you didn’t have a great marketing strategy.

You Give Other Companies Something They Need

Beyond your possible future clients. You build possible future partnerships! This is huge. Other companies have networks you don’t and skills you might need. Having a larger network that likes to work with you ensures possible clients, or favors in the future.

Don’t ever expect favors! But, most people will feel like they owe you for helping them run an event or make them meet their target in donations.

You have control, you won’t be overshadowed

Early I mentioned you will be the center of attention..sort of right? Well, you know what is better than having the center of attention? Having the power to decide who gets the center of attention and when!

The startup or business that is hosting the event..kind of has all the power. I don’t say that to get you power hungry. However, as the event manage, the founder can cast the spotlight on a person, a company, a future event and not be questioned. Everyone will just assume it is part of the event.

This is important to know because if you are a timid person, you need to get over that real fast! Own it, own the fact that you have that power. Not in an arrogant way. But people notice. People will want to talk to you as the event manager, because you are kind of important to the event.

Now is the time to sell yourself. No, I don’t mean your 30 second elevator pitch trying to sell your product. Sell you! Flirt in the business sense. Don’t go straight in for the kill. Build relationships first. Money comes second! That is a key to sales and marketing. You are trying to sell a an experience an abstract idea.

Running your event is a great way to get your companies name out there and make new connections. Like I just stated in my final point, relationships come first, and money will come second.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have gotten new clients, or new projects just because I knew someone who knew I was good at what I do.

The key of this event is actually not to get your company’s name out there. Nope, the key is for people to have a face to your company. Most of what I do is help people realize how to supercharge their relationships.

As much as the internet exists, people still enjoy real interactions and experiences. Build trust and people will want to work with you! Of course, you will have to be good at whatever business you are running as well!

Why? Because one of the questions I get a lot is, How do I actually bring value to someone I want to meet? Here is one great way, set up an event for a charity. They always need help and they will be quiet grateful.

If you enjoyed reading about this business strategy to create hype, feel free to reach out! Or read some of the articles below! It will lead your team to success!

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