Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek /
Among brands, it’s quite common for large reseller partners to ask you to sponsor their sales kickoff events. The primary reason resellers seek brand sponsors is to pay for the event. The travel costs to fly in their sales reps, the venue for the conference, and the food and beverage expenses add up. The secondary motivation is to get brands to fund sales incentives to motivate their sales reps. With their direction and approval, sales incentives become a powerful tool to help resellers motivate their teams. These aren’t secrets, but it helps to understand that the brand's primary objective (driving more revenue and growth through that partner) isn’t directly aligned with what the reseller is trying to do at their conference.
If you're a brand looking to participate in a partner sales conference, common sponsorship opportunities include:
- You can exhibit at the event and try to attract the interest of their sales reps. This is often like a tradeshow, but with a captive audience.
- You can sponsor a dinner or reception. You may get to give a quick one-minute greeting from the dais.
- You can host a product training session. This is usually one of the highest value activities.
- You can pay to have one of your executives deliver a keynote session. Keynotes are more high-level than product training sessions. If you have a well-known or inspirational executive, a keynote can make for a memorable experience.
- If you’ve been with your reseller for a while and planned, you can sponsor an award and hand out a prize or trip at the conference.
So, is it worth it? It depends on what goals you can accomplish.
There are at least two ways to think of this:
- If you’re participating for the first time, what is your brand’s position with the partner? Are you a new market entrant trying to establish yourself? Or are you an established brand who wants to gain mindshare with this partner? If you’re looking to make a flashy entrance, this could be a great way to connect face to face with their team. But you may not get much mindshare since these events are often chaotic. Reps are hit with a barrage of training and business cards. If they remember anything about you by the time they get back to their desks, it would be surprising.
- If you’ve participated in the past, have you seen a positive return on investment (ROI)? What would happen if you contributed less or stopped your sponsorship entirely? Established brands who show up year after year run the risk of having the sponsorship turn into an entitlement that the partner expects and may or may not respect. What might have been great ROI in the past may be less impactful after a few years. The ideal scenario is one where you change things up a bit each year so that your funding and participation never get into a strict routine. This way, you maintain flexibility and can alter your plan, as needed.
The other point to consider is the opportunity cost of putting so much money into an activity with one partner. This is the quintessential notion of putting too many eggs in one basket. If the partnership doesn’t produce, your resources are gone.
Consider what else you could be doing with your time, energy, and budget. Instead of supporting one partner’s sales kickoff, could you create a new program that could be used by many partners? Pulling out even a portion of your sponsorship budget to run a program for the rest of your partners is a good idea, if for no other reason than to diversify your plans. Another option would be to put an engine in place, like a tool for through-partner marketing the offers an always-on capability to help you extend your reach through channel partners.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether partner sales conferences are an efficient use of funds. In many ways, they are a cost of doing business in the pay-to-play reseller and distribution channel. If you back out, your competitors will fill your slot and participate instead. Does that matter? Will you see a difference in your sales results? No one knows until they try.