Tony Perez guest posted on WP Tavern about the ROI of WordCamp sponsorships. He provides great insight into the thinking behind sponsoring events, which is highly valuable for WordCamp organizers, business owners, and the broader WordPress community as well. Even as event attendees, we should understand the mindset of the sponsors we see.
WordCamp sponsorships have always been unique compared to sponsorships of other conferences, thanks to a number of factors. One factor is how WordCamps have historically been tied into the WordPress Foundation — though that's changed now, with the new public benefit corporation that Tony addresses — and the non-profit nature of the Foundation created legal limitations for sponsorships.
I appreciated Tony's look at what his company — Sucuri — considers when it comes to ROI on events like WordCamps. He even includes lead and sales charts to highlight just how little direct effect sponsoring WordCamps has had on their marketing efforts. The cost per lead ($764)and cost per conversion ($12,400) are astounding.
I'm certain Sucuri has secured more business than they can directly track thanks to sponsoring events — yet the ability to directly track is still important when defending the use of that money internally.
I strongly believe that companies can effectively create brand awareness through WordCamps. Tony highlights how GoDaddy, SiteGround, and WP Engine effectively used WordCamps to get the word out, whether they are trying to create general brand awareness and relationships like SiteGround and WP Engine, or changing their reputation like GoDaddy. However, following the patterns these hosts have followed requires a lot of money, people, and time to make work.
What I call the big net method is an expensive proposition, and it's not for everyone. Alternatively, I've seen a handful of companies utilize the spear fishing method with some success. Sorry for inventing bad fishing analogies that will surely fall apart upon scrutiny; I'm sure there are business schools that have better named these strategies.
The spear fishing method is accomplished by directly targeting an event, aligning it with a product or announcement or whatever, and making a single strike to try and get a big result. You might miss. In fact, you're more likely to miss than hit. But if you hit, you've managed to get the word out quite cheaply, in comparison.
If spear fishing, you have to find the right event, the right people, and the right strategy. You'll want to influence the influencers. Go to the event where you can maximize your exposure and value (Hint: that may not mean go to the biggest event. It could mean being the biggest sponsor of a medium sized but influential event).
Both David and I (who collaborated together on this post, as well as the massive list of footnotes you're about to see) have spoken with various individuals and a few sponsors about this subject, and feel strongly that sponsorship of WordPress-centric events is going to be a major discussion point in 2017 — as it should be.