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Rack up ad prosects with sponsored events

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Corporate dealmakers, such as private equity investors and corporate strategy and development executives, are a tough crowd to corral.

Just ask Lisa Balter, VP-custom media for The Deal. Charged with developing a plan to give print advertisers and advertising prospects for Corporate Dealmaker, a bimonthly magazine published by The Deal LLC, the chance to have face-to-face meetings with highly desirable, hard-to-reach corporate dealmakers, Balter's solution was to throw a multiple-sponsor breakfast seminar to attract the coveted audience.

The seminar was an invitation-only event, which gave it an air of exclusivity, and it was free to attendees. The event was timed to take advantage of marketing opportunities within the publication prior to the show. "We started the branding campaign about six weeks ahead," Balter said at the American Business Media's Trade Show Summit held in New York in February. In addition to advertising in Corporate Dealmaker, promotions for the event also ran in the weekly print publication, The Deal, and in the company's myriad Web channels, including CorporateDealmaker.com.

Sponsors, including professional services companies, banks and law firms, were given exclusivity by category. Balter cautioned that sponsorships "can be tricky in terms of exclusivity issues," so sales efforts were handled carefully. "You have to make sure not to oversell or overpromise [to] anyone."

The Chicago-based breakfast had two panel discussions and allowed time for networking opportunities.

To ensure that the event was sufficiently tied to the publication, edited dialogue from the panel discussions was presented as a roundtable spread in Corporate Dealmaker, and Balter said the company distributed post-event content at other Deal events that targeted similar prospects.

Of about 4,000 individuals who read Corporate Dealmaker on a regular basis, 155 qualified dealmakers attended the seminar. That number exceeded expectations. "Our expectations were set at 75 [people]," Balter said. Another surprise to Balter was that the event actually generated revenue.

The reaction from sponsors was equally enthusiastic. "With no history of an attendee list, and having never done it before, we were able to take it to the next level and have sponsors sign on for additional events," Balter said.

Attendees seemed happy, too, she added. Ninety-six percent of attendees polled said they planned to attend a future event.

Deemed a success, the event morphed into a series and is now part of the company's larger program of customized, branded events. "It's the brand that helps us get the right people into the room." M

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