There are various different terms associated with marketing partnerships which all mean exactly the same thing. Whether you refer to them as contra deals, bartering agreements, media partnerships, or anything else – essentially these are non-financial, mutually beneficial agreements. If you’re able to demonstrate how you can increase a prospective partner’s members, visitors, subscribers, or revenue, you can get them to help market your conference for free.
As appealing as they are, marketing partners can be tricky to pin down (or so some marketing team members might say). We’ve previously detailed how to identify key marketing and media partners and this is the next stage towards actually securing them.
The easiest (and worst) way to begin is writing a generic email and sending it to all potential companies. By taking this approach you will simply demonstrate how little you know about the company you are trying to partner and guess what - all of your competitors are doing exactly the same. This will leave you in a weak position when it comes to negotiating, if indeed you get to this stage.
Below are the five key questions your marketing team must find the answers to when researching potential partners. As a rule of thumb, never pick up the phone to a potential partner without doing your research first.
1. Why does the company exist?
This is an easy place to start – whether approaching a publication, association, company or website, you can discover most of what you need to establish by reading through their mission statement or ‘about us’ section online. What is it they’re looking to achieve with their business? Find out what drives them and you’ll be ideally placed to demonstrate how, at a very basic level, your goals align.
2. How does the company make money?
Here you need to identify the organisation’s main revenue stream. You can do this by looking at whether they offer any of the below and, if more than one, determine which is their primary focus:
Publications – magazines/books
By finding out how a potential partner generates revenue, you’ll be able to consider how your resources could be used to add to and grow this stream.
Watch out for organisations that are non-profit as you will need to adapt your positioning to them. While they don’t aim to make a profit, they still require a commercial proposition to deliver the best service to their stakeholders.
3. What benefits would they be looking for?
This step is absolutely imperative to researching a marketing partner for your event. You must have a bulletproof reason as to why the company would want to get involved, and why it would be in their commercial interest to. Again, use their company website as a base for your research; is there a magazine, app, webinar series, or networking group that they’re keen to promote? Before you even think about dialling, or dropping a generic email, find out what it is the organisation would be most interested in bartering with.
This is also the time to analyse the value possessed by your organisation which the partner would find appealing. As we say in this post, adopting a multi touch point marketing strategy is hugely valuable to event sponsors and partners alike, as it means you have a wide range of media across which to deliver your (or their) message. Having an active and engaged online community is also a great selling point, but if you have particularly good responses to your blog, or a dedicated Twitter following, you should highlight these too.
4. What do you want from them?
Essentially, you’re getting in touch because you require another channel through which to market your event. Identify the marketing resources the company has, for example email newsletters, blogs, webinars, LinkedIn groups, followers, member only publications... Find out about volumes and reach and you’ll be able to maximise results.
It’s also worth scoping out their target market; look at their subscription forms and note the kind of information they collect about customers. If they have very few form fields their database may be huge, but it’s unlikely the majority of contacts will be relevant to you. In addition, try to ascertain the level of influence they have, and their credibility within the industry. What is their Alexa traffic ranking? Are they re-tweeted often? Do they receive positive comments on their articles/groups? These elements are a good indication of how engaged their audience is, and their standing within the field.
5. What might their objections be, and how can you handle them?
It’s not always the case that potential partners will immediately jump on board, even if you’ve said all the right things. Some organisations will still take a bit of convincing of the value your partnership could add, but if you’ve researched them thoroughly you’ll feel confident in your reasoning as to why they should collaborate. Largely, negative responses will be received because of the below factors:
Too time consuming or they are too busy
Not relevant to their audience
Your event attendee numbers too low
Your event/company does not have enough credibility in the market
Still demanding to be financially compensated
Previous partnerships were not lucrative or not cost effective
Everyone contacts them with the same objective and proposal
Think carefully about how you’d counteract the objections you might come up against. For example, if delegate numbers are too low for the company to consider partnering you, highlight your social media followers, database contacts, or another impressive statistic they might want access to. If however, the demand for money is sustained, you may not be speaking to the right individual. Your initial conversation should take place with a marketing professional, not a member of the sales or commercial team.
The biggest hurdle is yet to be overcome: get your team to PICK UP THE PHONE
No matter what your marketing team say, the key to securing top partnerships is to pick up the phone and have a conversation, then follow up with an email. More often than not, marketers don't dedicate enough time to speaking to organisations on the phone. If your team already does this, great! If they don’t, it might be a matter of confidence, and these 5 steps will help immensely in closing that gap.
Now get your team to try it for themselves, and note the response you get
Once your team has taken the time to go through the above steps, they must pick up the phone and see how they get on. Researching marketing partners for events properly can be time-consuming (especially for large scale evenfs), so it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll do this for all of them. Instead, prioritise your top five - those that would be most valuable to have on board - and go into more depth.
To help you to complete your research, we’ve created this handy checklist. Fill it out, or simply tick off the areas you’ve covered - and be sure to refer back to it during your telephone call.
Image credit: Michael Arrighi