As industry conferences get back to in-person gatherings, it might be time for sponsors and exhibitors to re-evaluate the way their money is spent to get the most bang for their bucks.
According to a new research report from Inside Information, just signing up as a top-level premium sponsor for events large and small “barely moves the needle” in terms of impressing adviser attendees.
“If you’re just a platinum sponsor, it does nothing, you have to get something with it,” said Robert Veres, Inside Information commentator and lead author of the report, which is based on a survey of 560 financial advisers.
As the host of an annual conference, Veres admits, “I’m a tiny bit uncomfortable with the truthfulness of our report.”
The uncomfortable part relates to findings showing conference attendees generally pay little heed to big names at the top of the sponsorship list but are more impressed by lower-key sponsored events such as hosted dinners with featured speakers.
According to the survey findings, a hosted dinner with a presentation that goes beyond just a straight sales pitch is most valued by attendees, even more than a sponsor having a presenter at the conference.
The report, which gets very granular with the data it gathered, shows that a basic sponsorship package including an exhibitor booth, booth demo, and a cocktail reception meet-up is OK. But that appeal climbs when you add “interesting giveaways,” and climbs even further when the sponsorship includes an off-site event.
“The giveaways are very low rated in terms of what people are interested in, but they can be additive in certain circumstances, and they will increase the number of people who will go to your booth,” Veres said.
Yes, the free T-shirts, water bottles and stress balls are not just for adding weight to your carry-on luggage on the way home.
The survey respondent data, which was sliced in just about every way possible, showed that, across the board, dually registered advisers, over fee-only advisers and brokerage/wirehouse reps, were the most responsive to the efforts of sponsors.
Whether it’s a demo presentation in the exhibit hall, catching up with a representative from a company an adviser already does business with, or a presentation on a non-sales topic, the dually registered reps are most receptive to engaging.
Conference organizers might also be interested to know that adviser affiliation, in general, can be indicative of how responsive attendees are to sponsors’ efforts.
For example, members of the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants and advisers belonging to the Investments & Wealth Institute seem less open to interacting with exhibitors than are members of the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.
The research also looked at the impact of virtual events that emerged during the pandemic and are now often being included alongside in-person events.
Looking at the five most popular virtual marketing initiatives, short virtual presentations by vendor representatives that can be viewed at one’s leisure were most popular.
In order of popularity, the list follows, listing of exhibitors with web links on the conference site, virtual representations of exhibit hall with sponsor links, exhibitor links with dedicated pages explaining the sponsors, and introductions with virtual presenters by a vendor representative.
“The most popular option across all respondents is also one of the simplest,” said Veres. “Notice that these are not sales presentations; they’re a supplement to the conference experience.”
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.