A recent Channel Impact blog post on optimizing partner events for greater impact and ROI mentioned the self-funding model – in which ecosystem partners invest in vendor-hosted events through collaboration and sponsorship. Today, I’d like to take a deeper dive into self-funded events, including why they’re on the rise and how you can begin implementing them.
The events landscape in the channel has become highly active and crowded. Competition for partner time, not to mention mindshare, is fierce. At the same time, company event budgets are declining, making it more difficult to stand out from the crowd. Through my years of designing, managing and executing partner events, I’ve found that one of the best ways to successfully address this challenge is to apply the self-funding model.
Self-funding can create a win-win-win proposition for tech vendors, their ecosystem partners and their time-constrained channel partners. This approach offsets skyrocketing event costs by distributing expenses across a synergistic pool of vendor companies, while also enabling these companies with high-value access to strategic channel partners. The value proposition for channel executives is also clear: by engaging with multiple vendors at a single event, they can make more efficient use of their valuable time.
If you’ve been wanting to take advantage of self-funded events, here are a few tips for getting started:
- Categorize Partner Event Types – To determine the events in your calendar that make the most sense for the self-funding model, start by categorizing them — by industry, region, technology focus or discipline. Next, align each category with the specializations or demographics of select partners within your ecosystem, keeping in mind that not every organization will be a candidate for participation for a variety of reasons. Consult with internal leaders to identify the top choices. From there, create customized event calendars to share with each target in your ecosystem as you make a case for participation.
- Consider a Regional Approach – For smaller niche players in your ecosystem, or those with a strong regional play, consider offering them the opportunity to participate in your events on a state, county or even a city level. Collaborating with your organization on these regionally focused events offers smaller vendors the benefits of outsourcing event planning and management, increasing logo/brand visibility and maximizing their individual event dollars.
- Plan Ahead – Reach out to ecosystem partners 12-18 months in advance of event dates – or as early as possible in the fiscal year, when they still have ample funds available. By knowing partner event dates, locations and budgets a year or more out, they can commit early on and avoid conflicts with their own trade and industry event calendars. Lastly, by planning ahead, you can also negotiate better terms and pricing for venues and suppliers.
- Make Your Pitch – As you make your pitch, articulate your strategic objectives for each event – you want to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Also, be proactive about specifying pricing for a variety of sponsor levels, even if it’s ballpark pricing. Setting expectations is also critical: be sure to include your estimates for anticipated channel partner attendance. Setting deadlines for ecosystem partner commitments is also key, and many vendors see advantages in offering “early-bird” discounts.
- Post-Event Surveys – Create a simple, yet customizable, survey for each of your events to measure audience (and partner) response to speakers, venues, food and beverage, and any element that is of particular importance to a specific region, area of specialty or call to action. This data will help you optimize future events and make them more effective and impactful for ecosystem partners and attendees.
The ultimate goal of any self-funding partner event model should be to provide a series of turnkey events that deliver exposure, cost savings and opportunity to your ecosystem partners, and above all, to offer value to your all-important channel partners. Through the years, we’ve built a formula for success for these events and we continue to be impressed with the results.
If you’d like help with your self-funded event strategy, contact the Channel Impact team. We’d like to put our formula for success to work for you.