event sponsorship sales

Targeted Digital Advertising: The New Frontier for Association Event Sales

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

Odds are you’re probably already using some form of targeted digital advertising to promote your association. You may have even spent some money on Facebook or Google to drive up registration sales for a past event or two.

But have you ever tried to use digital advertising to find new sponsors and exhibitors for conferences – both in-person and virtual? It’s a lot more effective than you think!


Facebook Targeting

Effective Facebook ad campaigns are such because they were able to match creative content with the right audience. In the case of association sales marketing, the trick is to make sure you’re reaching the right set of prospects for your upcoming show.

To start, make sure your Facebook Pixel is up and running on all of your website pages (for more information on the Facebook Pixel, click here). You’ll use this Pixel to create an audience based on traffic from your association’s website and event registration portal. If you’d like, you can also create Lookalike Audiences based on these pages to further your reach.

Next, you’ll want to create a list of sponsors and exhibitors that have participated at your conference over the last few years. It’s likely that many of them – especially if they are large corporations – will have Facebook pages that you can use for targeting purposes to reach out directly to those individuals. You can also create an additional lookalike audience based on people who have interests in these types of companies or organizations.

You can also take your current prospect list – as well as any in-house mailing lists you may have – and create a Customer List Audience as another way to reach out.

Make sure to pair these audiences with some ad creative that explains the benefits of sponsoring/exhibiting at your upcoming event, and watch your sales grow before your eyes!


Google Ads 

Depending on your industry, Google Ads can be a really great prospecting tool for event and sponsorship sales. In most cases, however, they are best reserved for remarketing efforts.

If your association is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, it would benefit you to look into your eligibility for Google for Nonprofits. Not only does Google’s nonprofits program give you access to a ton of awesome digital programs for free, but you’ll be eligible for upwards of $10,000 per month in paid keyword search ads – bonus money that you can put towards your non-dues revenue marketing efforts.

As you did with the Facebook ads, you’ll want to set up conversion tracking for Google as well. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using Google Tag Manager, which will allow your organization to create website tags without code. You’ll want to build out remarketing and conversion tags tracking traffic to both your website in general (all page views) and for your event’s landing page (to focus on remarketing efforts) – and then connect these tags to your Google Ads account.

You’ll likely want to spend some money as well on display ads running on both Google’s native channels and the Google Display Network. Not only will you want to set up these ads using the same remarketing audiences you created for the search ads, but you can also take advantage of Google’s custom intent and affinity audiences to further target your prospecting efforts.


Still unsure about how targeted digital advertising can help your association boost its event sponsorship and exhibit sales?  We’d be happy to have a conversation to share what we have seen work for other events and markets.  Email us today to set up a free consultation.

PAI Case Study: Emerging Stronger by Navigating Whitewater in an Uncertain Time

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Expo Sales, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

In business, and in life, there is a saying people use “when things get back to normal, back to the way things were…” and the image of calm waters and clear sailing come to mind. Bringing forward the vision of a rowing crew all in line, all rowing in unison. At the same time, what if we are living in the new normal? More whitewater rapids, challenging us as teams and individuals to maneuver differently, quickly responding to the rocks and fast water swirling around us?

It has been over four months since we started operating in this brave new world. For the PAI sales team, this journey has taken us through quite a few rapids and challenging twists – especially during March and April. In the earliest phases, there was a prevailing feeling of emergency, as if taking on whitewater, and operating in a reactive/crisis management mode. We kept moving forward and making headway, taking it one day at a time.


In the early phase, we were guided by our instincts and principles which said to double-down on the people – to focus on the relationships and to listen intently to all stakeholders.


It was a deeply personal phase. Instead of focusing on specific outcomes and results, we found our mission was stewardship. Care and empathy heightened in all encounters, having a positive human interaction was the payoff – on a one-by-one and daily basis.

We’re not sure exactly when, but one week in late April we rounded our latest bend only to find that we were stronger, wiser, and filled with a vision that was fast taking shape. It did not occur all at once, but our collective experience with fellow industry members, clients, and their constituents became the very fuel that provided clarity in how best to embrace the new reality.


We emerged with a clearer purpose, leadership in thinking, and a proactive approach to delivering for our clients. By being “on the water,” we gained conviction along with a proof of concept.


Several members of our sales team were actually out in Las Vegas attending North America’s largest trade show the week that the World Health Organization declared the novel Coronavirus to be a pandemic. Meanwhile, another client was scheduled for two of their own in-person tradeshows five weeks later, to be held in Dallas. PAI had all but completed their selling cycles, with more than $1 million in revenue sold and in the bank. Immediately we were in emergency calls with the client’s executive team and planning committee. The events were initially postponed before ultimately being cancelled.

Our client looked to us for guidance as to how to handle payments from both attendees and exhibitors/sponsors — including whether or not to issue refunds or credits. Instead, we suggested a different take.


“Pay It Forward” Vs “Refund”

Our solution was to adopt a “pay it forward” approach, allowing sponsors and exhibitors to use the money they were planning on spending at the April conferences towards the association’s events either in the fall or 2021. We crafted a position statement that allowed us to both to be in lock-step alignment with our client but to also be able to use a credit policy and position in all communication. It included an “appeal to spirit” to support the association during an unprecedented time.

For the canceled events, we had already executed a 15-month sales program. We swung into action and immersed in a new campaign, calling each and every sponsor and exhibitor. We tracked every single engagement, “selling the association” and its shows all over again, starting with the largest supporters. We implemented new processes for the new cycle.

Weekly updates were shared, trends were ascertained. We encountered companies that insisted that they must have a refund, yet we dealt with all with grace and latitude, becoming optimistic that a majority of companies would accept a credit option.


Retained 70% of Events Support Revenue

Ultimately, we were able to help our client retain approximately 70% of their support revenue. By serving as goodwill ambassadors for our client association, we also strengthened our trust and relationships with the more than 200 companies involved in the shows. Moreover, as a service provider, we gained invaluable insight and expertise about ways to take control on the water and navigate the currents successfully.


Keep Your Head Above Water

As a result of this experience, we learned the following:

  • Don’t panic, keep paddling – when your organization hits rough water and challenges its always best to keep moving forward and it the right direction.
  • Have a team that can be trusted and fully on-board before you hit the water – by working with key support people and teams before hitting whitewater you increase your likely hood of making it through and onward no matter the challenge. Having them on your team before the challenging times helps you respond quickly.
  • Navigate based on a direction – Sometimes the first response might not be the best one. Take a moment to know the direction and the plan you are hoping to follow. Pulling over to the side for a moment to plan out the next few miles in a challenging time can allow you to not waste effort or time. Refunds seem like the right response when you are in the middle of the being bombarded by calls, but with a little planning and working with a trusted advisor you can come up with a better way to support the mission and not drain the needed financial resources.

Our experiences from early in the pandemic continue to guide us proactively as we shape and deliver solutions during these “new normal” times.