And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

What industry vendors want to tell associations...

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May 26, 2022

Michael Candela

Michael Candela EVP, Strategic Partnerships

Association executives have a difficult job. They are tasked with meeting the needs of hundreds if not thousands of members, proving results to their board, and keeping up with supplier demands. While they strive to appease everyone, managing these relationships isn't easy, and associations must constantly balance different, and sometimes conflicting, dynamics, interests, and opinions.

As an industry supplier whose mission is to serve associations and make their work easier, I thought it might be helpful to share an insider's perspective of what suppliers value most in hopes to enhance the relationship between associations and their sponsors.

Member Access

Companies understand that they need to market to reach their ideal buyers. That's why they invest thousands of dollars to exhibit at annual conferences and trade shows because it's one of the most effective ways to get in front of their respective industry. In fact, 72% of exhibitors say they participate in trade shows to generate new leads for their business. Though often brief interactions, these high-touches are the beginnings of long-lasting relationships that become well worth the expense. While in-person events will always be a prevailing means of connection for suppliers, the pandemic exposed one major gap (or opportunity) that was limiting access to members.

On average, trade shows last about 2-3 days with the exhibition hall open for only a few hours each day. That means, up to 363 days of no contact with members. However, it wasn't until shows went virtual that vendors really felt the silence. Without a physical presence, it was too easy for members to disengage or completely avoid industry partners. Associations worked to create alternatives like virtual Demo Days and hosted webinars, but it was evident that ongoing opportunities outside of the event were needed to maintain vendor relationships. As a result, associations have started to reevaluate their marketing strategies and find ways to provide integrated advertising campaigns throughout the calendar year.

As a vendor, I can attest that opted-in email addresses of attendees (pre- and post-event are just as effective as an attendee walking into our booth/table. The individuals have indicated interest, which allows the vendor to initiate a conversation. By providing these list to vendors, it allows you to validate your vendors as a trusted and valued partner to your members.

Visibility

Companies attend trade shows to increase their brand awareness. They go out of their way to make sure they stand out and don't get lost in the sea of booths. While associations do their best to spotlight each exhibitor, it can be challenging to give everyone the visibility they deserve. By offering unique sponsorship packages and branding opportunities outside of the booth, associations can increase the number of touchpoints for industry partners to promote their business. The best part is there's no limit to what's possible! Associations can get creative to find what works best for their vendors and adds the most value. Here are a few ideas your association can try:

  • Pre-conference virtual welcome from keynote highlighting sessions and events
  • Pre-recorded in-session videos/commercials that play before and after sessions
  • Live Learning Labs that incorporate sponsors and their products into a "real world" demo of their industry
  • In-room video sponsored welcome messaging
  • Rapid-fire pitch sessions (like shark tank)
  • Networking points throughout the convention, including the Expo Hall

Additionally, digital advertising creates another platform for vendors to extend their reach. Social media takeovers, targeted email alerts, website and mobile app displays are just some of the ways vendors can get their message out. By using digital communications, exhibitors don't have to wait until the show to promote themselves. They can build awareness leading up to the event, ultimately driving traffic to the booth when attendees arrive.

A "Voice" At The Table

It's important to remember that industry suppliers are a critical element to the success of your association's core membership and industry as a whole. Given the industry supplier's role within the marketplace, they are often aware of changes, shifts, trends, and other economic impacts before anyone else. So, as associations plan content and events, it would be wise for them to work closely with industry partners and include them in the conversation. Disregarding their input could lead to missing out on important information that would benefit their members.

By creating an open forum for constructive dialogue via conversations, questionnaires, and surveys, your association is creating an open line of communication where industry suppliers feel like their feedback is valued and heard. This way, each party can bring much needed intelligence, resources, opportunities, and support to one another to ensure that their respective industry thrives.

Closing Thoughts

For associations looking to improve their industry supplier relationships, these are just a few recommendations on where to start. My encouragement is to take the time to reach out to your sponsors and ask about their goals for next year and get their honest feedback about their sponsorship experience. Only through consistent collaboration and communication will your association be able to maximize connection opportunities for your industry partners, and allow them to gain greater exposure, earn trust, and build a foundation of meaningful relationships with industry professionals.


 

 

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