How to Get the Best Feedback from Surveying Sponsors

September 26, 2015

David Saef

David Saef, the executive vice president of MarketWorks and strategy at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events and trade shows.

I once worked with a client who held a consumer event each year that netted many sponsors. When the sponsorships started dropping like flies and the client fretted, my company interviewed some of the sponsors.

The interviewees said our client offered so many sponsorships, the opportunities offered little value to them. They felt they had to compete with too many other sponsors for recognition and recall. This information was crucial for our client, and we never would have known if we hadn’t reached out to the sponsors for their feedback.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Your event sponsorships help offset the cost of your event, so you can’t afford to take those relationships for granted. You must offer your sponsors value in exchange for their sponsorships. If you don’t, you could end up like my client — watching your sponsorship numbers fall.

It’s simple to find out whether you’re providing your sponsors with the value they expect: Ask them.

You can do this in a variety of ways, but the simplest and most effective option is to send out a survey after each event.   

To create an effective sponsor survey, tailor it to your particular event and the information that is most relevant for you. Also, consider the following:

  • Thank your respondents. Start the survey with a short introduction that thanks respondents for their time and feedback. Tell them the information they provide will improve future sponsorships.
  • Ask no more than eight questions. Why eight? It’s few enough for your sponsors to complete the survey quickly and adequate enough for you to gather the important information you need. You can add more, but if you don’t think the responses will help make changes to your event, avoid doing so.
  • Mix in old and new questions. Keep two or three questions from past surveys so you can track general trends and performance over time.
  • Limit open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are intimidating and time-consuming. Include no more than two on your survey.
  • Incentivize respondents. As much as your sponsors probably want to provide feedback, a little incentive can go a long way toward increasing your survey completion rates. Consider making a donation to a relevant charity for each completed survey, offering a discount on next year’s sponsorship, or holding a drawing for a popular gift card.  

Asking the Right Questions

The questions you ask on your survey will depend on the specifics of your event and what sponsor feedback you feel is the most critical. Here are a few topics you will probably want to broach:

  • Objectives: To offer the best sponsorship value, understand sponsors’ objectives. What do they want in exchange for their sponsorship dollars?
  • Expectations: Did your sponsorship meet the sponsor’s expectations? If you don’t receive positive responses, you will need to make changes before your next event.
  • Attendees: Ask your sponsors whether the audience at the event was the right one. Were any groups overlooked? Is more emphasis needed on qualified attendees (e.g., decision makers)?
  • Connections: It’s not enough that your event attracted the right audience. You’ll also want to know if your sponsor had enough time and space to network effectively with attendees.
  • Improvements: Finish your survey with a request for suggested improvements. Knowing what you need to improve is, in fact, improvement in itself.

Finally, call a few respondents for more details and suggestions, or ask a third party to do so. This shows interest and gets to the heart of how you can help make their sponsorships win-win propositions.

Do It

If you don’t intend to make changes, don’t ask for them in the first place.

The act of undertaking a survey implies you are committed to taking action. When our concerned client learned he was diluting the value of his sponsorships, he leapt into action. He reduced the number of sponsorships to provide more exclusivity to top sponsors. As a result, the value of each remaining opportunity increased, and the event garnered more sponsorship interest and dollars the next time around.

Creating and sending out a sponsor survey is only the first step. Embrace the feedback you receive, and take action. Implementing changes based on the feedback will improve the value of the sponsorships you offer, strengthen your relationships with current sponsors, and bring in more highly coveted sponsorship dollars. Start crafting that survey now!

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