3 Easy Ways To Monetize Your Virtual Happy Hours

By Association Non-Dues Revenue, Sponsorship Sales No Comments

Chances are you’ve attended at least one virtual “happy hour” over the last six months. Perhaps it was a “virtual lunch” or “virtual breakfast” instead.

As with everything in our lives, COVID-19 has (temporarily) put an end to traditional networking, instead leaving us to connect with colleagues and clients via apps like Zoom and Run the World. Not only should your organization be taking advantage of these virtual networking opportunities, but they should also be making every attempt possible to monetize them.

Here are our suggestions for making the most out of your next virtual Happy Hour:


  • Have an ongoing series of “lunch and learns” showcasing your members. Simple enough, right? The benefits to this are two-fold: Your members can introduce a new program/service/product to other interested parties within your industry, and by charging a small fee you can make some money off the event. We suggest holding the sessions on a regular basis so that as many of your member groups can partake as possible. (You can also hold them in a “demo day” format, as we did with ASAE this past summer).


  • Send out sponsored swag bags (virtual or physical). Who doesn’t love a good swag bag? If you have the RSVP list for an upcoming event locked down far enough in advance, you may want to consider some type of swag bag to attendees to make them feel like they are truly part of the action. Virtual swag bags are great for sponsors who don’t mind sharing electronic content (i.e. videos, PDFs, image files). Physical swag bags, on the other hand, are a bit more costly because they need to be shipped to the attendees — but they can be filled with traditional swag options like koozies and fidget spinners. This is a great option for an event with multiple sponsors; you can have each sponsor pitch in for an item (or two) so they get promotional value long after the event is over.


  • Mix up your next networking event through sponsored door prizes and other fun & games. Virtual happy hours may not be the same as in-person ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them a fun experience for all by adding structure, format, and fun! We recently sponsored a “Virtual Wine & Tasting Happy Hour”, in which participants received bottles of wine paired with specialty nuts, spreads, and crackers to enjoy during the event. You can also get a sponsor to pay for a hosted conversational game like “The Very Interesting Game” to make the event interactive and get players or views laughing? It can be shaped into a lightly competitive format, and even divided into teams depending on the number of participants in your event. If activities aren’t your thing, try having sponsors provide door prizes and/or discounted services that can be raffled off to attendees. Not only will people be more likely to attend — and participate in the event — but the likelihood that they’ll come to future happy hours (and bring a friend or two along) will increase as well!


Want to learn more about how your association or non-profit can benefit from sponsored happy hours, webinars, and other virtual events?  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.

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.

PAI Case Study: ASAE & The Virtual Event Market in 2020

By Association Non-Dues Revenue No Comments

In late May, The Profitable Association was asked by the American Society of Association Executives what were we hearing about virtual event platforms. The answer: “A lot!” Emails, invitations to webinars, demos, Zoom calls.

Since we provide advertising and media sales for ASAE in the technology sector, and we also deliver solutions for other associations’ events and publications, we had been observing the increasing chatter about virtual platforms (while also using some platforms ourselves).

A formal market analysis we conducted internally showed that well over twenty-five companies who were at that point in at least a new emphasis, if not a full-blown pivot. And, they were coming at it from many directions and legacy positions: from AMS, LMS, EMS, Marketing Automation, Community, Event Planning, and other places. It was and is clear: solution providers are moving quickly to address the needs of associations whose live events are canceled and may never be the same.


The Eureka for PAI and ASAE:

The need to serve and educate the association market and ASAE members quickly, to provide an up-close look at solutions so associations can be equipped to address taking events from in-person to virtual (or hybrid) now.


The Concept and Event: ASAE’s Demo Days for Virtual Events.


The Challenge:

Like many associations, ASAE has long-established programs, events, departments, and a large staff. Demo Days had to be planned, sold, promoted, and delivered on a fast-track schedule (in fact, in about 3 weeks from the drawing board to going live). Being nimble, responsive, and creative while executing a new type of event AND delivering with high value was the challenge. It was anticipated to be a one-day event including 8 solution sponsors, each having their opportunity to present to hundreds of association professionals.


The Solution:

  • Our team took the lead in crafting packages, benefits, and deliverables (the value proposition), as well as conducting market outreach and sales engagement.
  • We seamlessly joined with the small ASAE client team who would develop and host the program, while promoting and handling registrations.
  • We developed and applied a process that included both external and internal communications for collecting and sharing all sponsor deliverables and assets.
  • While in fast-motion collaboration, we checkpointed often to assess any gaps that needed to be filled.
  • We served as the voice of ASAE, conveying all instructions to the sponsors’ teams, so they would be prepared and ready for presenting.


The Results:

  • Based on early sales results and popular demand, ASAE expanded the Demo Day program to 1.5 Days, with a line-up that included 12 presenting sponsors.
  • Turnout greatly exceeded expectations: well over 1,000 registrants, a majority averaging over 5.5 hours of attendance.
  • Feedback from attendees and sponsors – it was an overwhelming success!
  • With such a lean operation, it was a financial success for ASAE.
  • See the line-up, and view an archive/replay of ASAE’s Demo Days for Virtual Events.


Key Takeaways for Associations:

  1. Think differently right now. The world as we knew it has changed quickly.
  2. Think entrepreneurially. Set aside politics, sacred cows, and long-established status quos. You can be nimble, agile, responsive, and strategic.
  3. You can not only survive, you can thrive. Leverage your association’s strengths and unique position.
  4. It’s the perfect time to go on offense. Be the leader that you are – as an executive, as an innovator, and as an industry association.
  5. Seize opportunities for Success. If you find a formula that works well in this “brave new world” – why not make it the basis of a new business model?


The ‘New Normal’: 3 Tips for Resuming In-Person Events in a Post-COVID19 World

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

It’s no secret that the novel Coronavirus has changed the face of the event marketing industry both in 2020 and, potentially, for years to come.

But as with many other facets of our daily life, the industry’s future success hinges on how well it adapts to the “new normal” created by the pandemic. The appetite still exists for in-person events; a recent study by TradeShowLogic found that just 14% of respondents do not see themselves attending and/or exhibiting at one or more in-person trade shows or conferences over the next year.

So with that in mind, how can your association best plan for its remaining 2020 (and upcoming 2021) in-person conferences so they both create revenue and protect the health and safety of all those involved? Below are some suggestions we’re using with our clients to help them prepare for their upcoming in-person events.


Bigger is Better

Given the CDC’s recommendation for six-foot spacing, one of the easiest ways to adapt is by increasing the amount of open space throughout your conference. In exhibit halls, this can be as simple as widening the aisles between booths, as well as setting up a one-way traffic flow to keep people as distanced as possible. Some clients are even limiting the number of people allowed in each room by reducing the number of entrances/exits and using tally counters.

Should you find yourself needing to redesign your exhibit hall’s floorplan to accommodate for better social distancing measures, there are several tools you can use (including this one from Allseated) that account for local and state guidelines.


Additional Sponsorship Opportunities

While the removal of exhibit booths to comply with social distancing measures may impact your overall profit margins, opportunities exist for you to make up a sizeable amount of that revenue through one-off sponsorship opportunities related to the pandemic.

Why not let sponsors pay for cloth facemasks that can be distributed at the start of the conference to all attendees? You can have either a single sponsor foot the bill for the masks, or have multiple vendors chip in, with the size of their logos on the mask determined by that company’s contribution amount. Sponsors can also pay for travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer or facial tissues to be distributed on-site, as well as stand-alone hand sanitizer and water stations.

You can also have sponsors pay for the additional signage needed to enforce the additional safety measures, provided their logo appears prominently on the signs.


Increased Digital Presence

These days, most major conferences use an online platform like eShow or Cvent to help manage the logistics of their event. Many of these programs already offer solutions that can help minimize the need for contact at conferences and trade shows, including but not limited to:

  • QR codes on conference badges: By printing a QR code that links to the attendee’s profile from your event’s main database on every conference badge, exhibitors and attendees alike can easily trade information with one another without making contact with one another. As an added bonus, exhibitors can use the QR codes to enter attendees into raffles or send follow-up emails with brochures and other information about their products and services – making the event paperless and environmentally friendly.
  • RFID tag in conference badges: If you’re worried about crowd control at your event, consider adding a RFID tag to your conference badges. While costly, the tags will allow you to track your attendees – making it easier to focus on crowd control efforts.
  • Virtual Swag Bags: Rather than distribute collateral on-site, why not send all of your attendees a “virtual swag bag” filled with sponsor-provided content. This can be a video demonstration of their product or service, PDF brochures about their company, or even coupons for future purchases. Plus, by having sponsors pay for the content inside the bag, the cost to you is minimal.


What is your association doing to adapt to the changes created by the coronavirus pandemic? Have any of the above solutions worked for you? Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  

Don Shula – My Opportunity to Spend Time with a Legend

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Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.”

– Don Shula


Legendary Coach Don Shula passed away at 90 years old earlier this week. After a fine playing career in the 1950s, at 33 years old he was named head coach of the Baltimore Colts – the youngest in NFL history at the time. He went on to win more games than any coach in the league’s history – 347 victories in all over both regular season and playoffs – including six appearances and two Super Bowl championships. His storied 1972 Miami Dolphins championship squad is still the only team in NFL history to go undefeated through an entire season.

I once had the privilege and opportunity of spending about 90 minutes – mostly one on one, with the great man. He was the Keynote Speaker at an association annual conference in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay in 2008. The Coach was staying at the other tower (and my association client’s staff was almost all non-sports fans, as my luck would have it). That morning at their staff meeting, a scheduling challenge was announced, and they asked if anyone would volunteer to personally go to the Coach’s hotel room, and escort him from there, across the casino to the Convention area, and all the way to the green room. Not being officially on staff, I waited for a second or two.

Then I jumped up.

At his hotel room, he was deciding on a tie. He held two up to his shirt, but he had the look that said he did not want to wear one. He asked me if most of the men in the conference wore ties? Even though it was probably 70% yes, I told him it was “50/50”. He left both ties on his bed, going with just a sports jacket. I told the Coach what he wanted to hear.

Coach Shula was 78 and had a bad hip, so the walk took 30 minutes with two or three sit-down breaks. During the walk, he began to share stories with me. What struck me most along with his unpretentiousness was his humanity and grace.

We arrived at the greenroom and had plenty of time to kill, so I stayed with him. He continued sharing stories and let me ask him anything that came to mind about the NFL, Baltimore Colts (as a player and as the coach), the Dolphins, childhood idols Bob Griese and Larry Csonka, quarterbacks in general, the ’83 draft, Dan Marino-John Elway (he said Elway was the best ever, better even than Dan because of his legs…), Jimmy Johnson (his successor as Dolphins coach, he was candid but kind). He demonstrated great pride mixed with humility.


Coach Shula & Pat Wilson


With Coach Shula’s passing, it occurred to me how fortunate I was to be in the right place at the right time that day. An unmitigated honor and a great memory – the chance to spend time with a true legend, who also happened to be a very nice man.


You take on what’s right in front of you. You want to do the best you can with the opportunities that you have.”

–  Don Shula