I never thought the day would come when I’d say I missed setting up a tradeshow booth by myself in a 90+ degree convention center, worrying if I had all of the right boxes and supplies. As unglamorous as those setups were, they felt easier than now assembling virtual trade show materials on a regular basis, and goodness, that setup almost felt more effective, too. Accounting firms are pivoting and reallocating their sponsorship dollars to maximize their ROI as we continue to operate in a virtual world.
Although replacing the face-to-face time and impact of in-person conferences is hard, marketers do not need to feel that these virtual events and increasingly all-remote sponsorships are not worthwhile investments. While I believe it’s going to take time for prospective buyers and targeted prospects to value a virtual trade show the way we as marketers and event sponsors want them to, I am encouraged by the increasingly better technology available for these events as well as the availability of data from these platforms.
Still, it is a whole new process to maximize the value of your sponsorship and exhibiting dollars in a virtual world. Marketers will need to reassess what value they can drive out of these investments, make different asks, and champion the case for goodwill and commitment to long-time relationships with the organizations and events sponsored.
Maximize Sponsorship Dollars – ROI Measurement
The good news is that it may be easier to measure some ROI when sponsoring virtual events, with the data that you can get regarding who comes to your booth, who attends any sessions you sponsor, who clicks on the links in the materials you provide in virtual swag bags and so on. Make the most of the data that you can get. Have your professionals follow up with the people who interacted with your digital content in relation to your sponsorship or virtual exhibition. If nothing else, have them ask what other attendees thought of the conference/event, of the other sponsors or exhibitors, of the sessions that were sponsored, and so on so that you can get feedback from the audience you’re trying to reach. Were you in the “right place”? Did your message resonate? What else caught people’s eye and how can you emulate that in future virtual opportunities?
Leverage Existing Organization and Event Sponsor Relationships
Now is a great time to have a conversation with the organizations and events that you sponsor, too. Ask them for other ways to increase exposure to your target audience or even for introductions where you might not already have connections. Inquire about additional digital advertising opportunities that could possibly be added to your sponsorship agreement. Request additional social media mentions and reshares. Ask if a webinar you’re conducting can be promoted. These additional avenues for exposure should not cost the organizations you sponsor very much or anything at all, and they may be very willing to work with you to make for a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Remember, many organizations and events that accounting firms sponsor are conducted by trade associations and other nonprofit organizations that count on your sponsorship dollars to not only make their events happen but also to keep the organizations afloat. If your firm can afford to keep your fiscal commitments and demonstrate the value you find in the partnership, that will go a long way in hopefully securing future premium opportunities, speaking spots, etc.
Pivot Now to Maximize Your Firm’s Sponsorship Dollars
It would be simple to say, “we’ll wait to be involved until conferences/events/sponsorship opportunities go back to the way they were.” However, not only does analysis point to trade shows, for example, not returning to pre-pandemic levels for several years (see Marketing Chart’s overview of a PwC analysis: https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/business-to-business-114814) but to not pivot your sponsorship strategy to our “new normal” would be a wasted opportunity to maximize the dollars allocated in your budgets. There is data to be had. There are opportunities to get in front of the right people. There are relationships to build and maintain. And honestly, it’s less sweaty than setting up a booth in an un-air-conditioned convention center!
About Courtney Kiss
Courtney Kiss is the Chief Marketing Officer for Johnson Lambert LLP, a CPA and consulting firm focused on providing audit, tax, and consulting services to insurance entities, nonprofit organizations, and employee benefit plans. She oversees the management of the firm’s brand and the strategic direction of the firm's marketing program. Courtney also plays a key role in business development and client service initiatives. Passionate about organizational culture, continuous innovation and evolution, and professional development, she has developed communication campaigns around these topics, and she speaks on these topics internally and externally.