roi of events vs. lists

How to decide on an Event, List or Sponsorship opportunity

Stijn Hendrikse
Jun 11, 2020

How do you decide to invest in buying this list, or attending this "unique" luncheon or webinar?

When you receive a sponsorship, luncheon, or speaking opportunity, there is usually a little bit of “fear of missing out” effect. While we consciously know these opportunities usually don’t yield great results, we also have a hard time saying no to an opportunity where we could potentially meet that one great prospect, or learn something unique about our audience.

It’s hard to delete that email.

The sender usually peaks your interest by describing a great cast of potential customers you will "likely" meet, or famous names of companies and individuals who have either attended in the past, or "expressed interest" to attend this time around. You know it's a shady value proposition. It's hard to just hit "delete" though.

When you are offered to buy a list of prospects (or better...suspects) the examples are always to good to be true....and usually they are. But sometimes they are not.

So what do we do?

We typically:

  • Leave it in our inbox and come back to it later
  • Forward it to someone in our team for them to make this unpopular decision
  • Say yes
  • Tell a peer or friend about this opportunity, and hope that their reaction will help us decide.

None of the above is a good strategy. It’s time to decide. Here is how I try to make these decisions. While it takes a bit more time to evaluate the opportunity, it still takes less time vs. sitting on it or making the wrong call.

Which lists to buy?

Questions to ask when evaluating to buy a list:

  1. Will they allow you to "pay as you go" for list access? This should be monthly, or at the most quarterly. Most legit list providers will be ok with this, as they trust the value they will provide. All the others will try to lock you into an annual payment. Don't do it if that's the case.
  2. Can you pay-for-performance? This would mean things like contacts with email addresses that actually work (and don't have so called spam traps), number of meetings that can be set with the list members, or even just the number of contacts that actually fit your ICP with valid contact data (personal or professional emails, based on your needs, and of the company they work at today, not historically). If you can get your list provided to let you pay (part of) the cost based on these outcomes, you'll have a better chance to get a good quality list.

The reality is that most lists are the result of rehashing existing data sources, sometimes sprinkled on with a bit AI, and the only real high value lists that you can buy are based on a recent event (people attending something or signing up for something) that will age quickly, or include a lot of hard manual labor to vet the contact info and relevance of the individual at this moment in time (making sure they did not just change jobs etc.). You typically have to pay for that....

Which events or sponsorships to commit to?

Questions to ask to evaluate a sponsorship opportunity, or a commitment of your (team’s) time:

  1. Is this a match with our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) ? Is the audience for this event matching the niche we want to nail?
  2. What's the cost?
    1. Make sure to value your time correctly, including preparation, travel and follow up. In many cases, it can at least be half-day of your time for a simple breakfast meeting, easily going to multiple days for events that need preparation.
    2. Your time as a leader is probably worth $5000+ per day. Depending on how you delegate this, it could be less.
  3. Can your participation drive:
    1. Awareness: Will you be allowed to speak (starting with being able to introduce yourself) or have a more visible presence? Will people remember our name?
    2. Consideration: Are you able to showcase your company as a "Trusted Guide" for this audience? (i.e. share some content, do education, answer questions)
    3. Conversion: Can you close some business with an existing relation/opportunity in the pipeline?
  4. Does the event, and the organizer, align with the image/brand that your company wants to project and be affiliated with?
  5. If you have an active role, can your team execute a high-quality event (preparation time, understand what's needed, team capacity, etc.)

Assuming a cost per quality MQL (say $1000), #2 and #3 can tell you if this is worth pursuing. Will you get the 3+ MQLs to make this worth your while? How likely is it that you’ll close some business here?

The above is solely a decision from a Marketing investment perspective. There can of course be other reasons to join an event, like for personal education purposes, your personal networking or just to enjoy yourself. If those are valid reasons, now at least you know why you either say yes, or leave this email in your inbox to give it more thought.

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