If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) marketer, sponsoring your industry’s trade show can deliver high visibility for your brand.
But trade show sponsorship can be a big investment. Premium sponsorship packages for some national shows are topping six figures and even smaller sponsorship options can be costly.
Before you spend valuable marketing dollars on a trade show sponsorship, here are 10 guidelines for choosing sponsorships that are worth the marketing investment:
- Focus on traffic. The key measure of a sponsorship’s value is visibility. Select sponsorships that place your brand where there is high traffic, to give you maximum exposure to the largest number of people.
- Going big can pay off. The premium sponsorships at trade shows (such as the opening reception, lanyards, badge holders, and the outside of the tote bag for show materials) are the most costly because they offer the most visibility. If you’ve got the budget to make a big splash and you plan to be a dominant presence at the show (with a booth to match), it may be worth the investment.
- Stay out of the tote bag. Most trade shows offer you the opportunity to buy placement of an insert in attendees’ tote bags. As a marketing consultant, I advise my clients to avoid this, since I believe marketing messages get lost in the clutter inside the bag.
- Look for exclusives. Trade shows often sell shared sponsorship of an activity to raise more revenue and make sponsorship more affordable. This can lower your costs but also dilute your marketing message. If your budget allows, select sponsorships where you are the only sponsor of a particular event, place, or activity.
- Aim for engagement. Some of the most effective sponsorships I’ve seen are for activities where attendees are engaged in participation, such as using technology or playing games. Engagement can increase your exposure.
- Explore new ideas carefully. Many shows are offering new, interesting things to sponsor, such as charging stations for mobile phones or a Twitter board where tweets with the show’s hashtag appear in real time. Explore these new ideas, but be sure you know where the activity will take place at the show so you can gauge potential traffic.
- Look beyond your logo. Showcasing your logo may be your only option as a sponsor, but if you have the space and flexibility to do more, take advantage of the opportunity. You should always give your brand top prominence and strive for simplicity, but look for ways to deliver a more complete marketing message, such as including your marketing tagline, booth number, or website.
- Use common sense. It makes no sense to buy a big sponsorship package if you have a small, hard-to-find booth in the back of the hall or you’re a first-time exhibitor who’s unfamiliar with the show. Select a sponsorship that’s appropriate for your other show activities and base your decision on knowledge from prior show participation.
- Prepare for next year. One of the smartest things you can do as an exhibitor is scope out this year’s show to plan sponsorship marketing decisions for next year. Walk the show floor and exhibit hall at various times of the day to see how much visibility and engagement different options really get. If only a handful of people are watching the tweet board or everyone is ignoring the branded floor stickers, you’ll know what to avoid when planning next year’s trade show marketing strategy.
- Think strategically. Sponsorship is just one tactic in a trade show marketing plan. Review your entire show strategy — booth design, placement, and activities, pre-show and post-show promotion, and your plan for differentiating your company from competitors — to choose a sponsorship that supports your marketing plan.
Making Sponsorships Part of Your Smart Marketing Strategy
Trade show sponsorship can be an effective element of a smart B2B marketing strategy and today’s trade show operators are offering many creative ways to display a company’s brand to attendees. Choose carefully to select sponsorships that deliver the best return on your marketing investment and showcase your company creatively and effectively.
What trade show sponsorships are you seeing that justify the cost? What’s working best for your B2B company? I’d welcome your input.