The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) knew it needed to do something to streamline and expedite its sponsorships sales methods for its Annual Meeting.
The association’s annual event, which attracts more than 10,000 physicians, business administrators and advanced practice providers, also draws in a host of big-name sponsors, including pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and volunteer health organizations, all vying to engage with attendees.
But for many years, processing an AAN sponsorship sale involved an antiquated, multi-step process, starting with delivering a printed prospectus along with order forms to each event sponsor.
Sponsors would then return their completed forms to the AAN event management team, which would then manage the orders, produce invoices and process payments using several different systems, including email and CRM.
Besides being cumbersome for both sponsors and event managers, the manual process didn’t provide visibility into the available inventory of sponsorships or immediate confirmation of specific purchases, which in turn slowed down the sales process.
Enter a2z, provider of cloud-based event management and marketing solutions, which helped AAN add its Online Sponsorship Sales (OSS) solution module into the association’s mix of digital features on the same a2z platform the exhibits team was already using.
“OSS is a powerful yet easy-to-use tool to configure, bundle and sell event sponsorship opportunities online,” explained Rajiv Jain, president and CEO of a2z.
He continued, “With this smart addition to the a2z suite of sales automation tools, prospective sponsors can easily review available items and purchase opportunities. The set-up and inventory control is intuitive for show managers (and) configurable reports allow them to easily manage and monitor the process.”
Sponsors could now complete their sponsorship purchase processes entirely on their own by simply logging into a secure, self-serve portal within the event website on a device of their choice.
Using one simple digital form, they could place sponsorship opportunities into a shopping cart, sign a contract and make the payment – all in a matter of minutes.
Once a sale was made, the OSS module immediately followed up with an automatic email confirmation and receipt.
To further jumpstart the new, streamlined process, AAN kicked off its sponsorship sales on a specific day and time, creating a sense of urgency and some friendly competition among sponsors.
Where it once took AAN four weeks to sell $2.8 million in sponsorship revenue, the new OSS system enabled the association to surpass its sponsorship goals mid-way through the show cycle by selling $2.8 million of the total $4.3 million in revenue in the first hour and a half.
“a2z’s sponsorship sales solution transformed the way AAN sold sponsorships,” Jain said. “Besides delivering Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, the new module reduced order processing time, expedited invoicing and increased cash flow.”
Ahead of its 2017 Annual Meeting, which took place April 22-28 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, AAN had already sold 114% of its sponsorship goal.
In addition, show management was able to eliminate the need for weekly meetings to discuss invoicing and late payments.
By helping to take AAN’s sponsorship sales process into the modern age, a2z’s OSS solution resulted in radically faster and better sales, providing the following key benefits to the event:
· Made it easy for sponsors to buy sponsorships
· Expedited and increased sponsorship sales
· Saved AAN 25-100 hours in preparing financial reports and reconciliations
“a2z really transformed our antiquated system, which pushed paper back and forth between sponsors and our team, into an event within an event that delivered sales of $2.8 million in sponsorships within the first hour and a half,” said Erin Harris, AAN senior specialist of industry sales.
She added, “Having this system in place allows us to spend more time on creating new and innovative sponsorships and connecting with our sponsors.”
Along with the OSS solution, AAN now uses all of its a2z solutions on a single integrated platform, including the exposition marketing and management, exhibit contract management and financial management modules.
The association is also looking to expand its use of the online sponsorship sales solution features.
“The more we learn about the system and the more we identify gaps in revenue streams for ourselves, the more we can determine how best to use the solution going forward,” Harris explained.
She added, “Every time we’ve gone to our a2z team with an idea or a challenge, they’ve made it so easy to customize the platform or use it in a way that makes our event that much better.”