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Flipping the Funnel on Events: How ABM Can Help You Drive Better Attendees and Sponsors

Flip My Funnel - How ABM Can Help You Drive Better Attendees and Sponsors

The #FlipMyFunnel model is a tremendous asset when driving sponsors and attendees to rally around your event. In case you aren’t familiar with the model, it takes the traditional lead-based funnel and flips it on its head with an account-based approach. There are four stages in the model: identify, expand, engage and advocate. Let’s dive in to explore how this works.


For sponsorships, you’ll want to think about who would benefit the most from the attendees you typically draw (or aspire to if this is your first event). I would challenge you to think of a sponsorship as more than a one time commitment. You want them to be a “customer” for life and continue to invest in your event over time. Sponsors will want to see how the event will best help them to achieve their objectives. Most often, this comes in the form of ROI, but sometimes it can be brand awareness or meeting with current customers.

Some things to consider when developing an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for potential sponsors include:

  • How many rounds of funding have they had?
  • Who are their target customers?
  • Do they sponsor events like yours?
  • How much do they spend on those events?
  • Does their business align with the overall message of your event?

For attendees, you might decide you want to get attendees from specific company sizes, industries, or locations. Once you know this, you can create an ICP for your target attendees. This approach often works best when you’re trying to get larger teams, but can be effective for single attendees from companies as well.

Once you know your ICP, you can then use a data solution do discover who those companies are that fit the profile you’ve come up with.


This stage is where you create the personas you would like to reach in the target accounts. For sponsorships, you’ll want to consider who the key decision-makers are that you’ll need to influence within the account. For sponsorships, it might be the CMO, the events manager and even non-marketing titles such as the CEO or the CFO.

For attendees, this one can vary a little more depending on how niche your event is. Some events might reach a wide variety of titles and offer tracks of content aligned to the needs of each group. Smaller events or super niche events might choose to go deep on content that speaks to the pain points of a single group of people. You should think about the format of the event and the people most likely to benefit from the content when deciding which roles are appropriate to target.


The engage stage is where this model really comes to life, but it doesn’t mean you can skip the first two steps and come right to this one. It is super important to spend enough time in the “identify” and “expand” stages to get it right. If you don’t, your engagement strategies will fall flat.

Engaging sponsors to drive sponsorship sales often looks like a traditional sales process. Relationships really matter here. It can be helpful to attend events where you aren’t a sponsor to meet with target sponsors for your own event. I’ve also been known to spend a week in a city where a large number of potential sponsors are located. A cup of coffee can go a long way in getting the conversation started. Even if they don’t become a sponsor right away, they often do over time.

Also, when emailing them, keep it short and tease the event just enough to get a call on the calendar. There’s no need to sell the entire event in a single email and you can often overwhelm a potential sponsor to the point where they don’t respond. When you are able to have a call or meeting with them, take time to learn about their goals and then align your event around that. Lastly, if it's not a fit, don’t be afraid to be honest and say so. You’ll build more credibility by doing so and they will come back to you over time when it is a better fit for them.

There are so many options to engage attendees, so I’ll pick a few favorites to share here.

Direct Mail

Sending a postcard about your event can often be just what you need to break through the noise. Don’t be afraid to go big on this, literally. We once sent giant, two-feet tall funnels to target enterprise accounts we wanted at our event. The response was incredible and we were able to get 50% of our target accounts to register.


It’s noisy, but it converts. The key to optimizing your efforts here is to be highly targeted and relevant. Find new angles to try and keep an eye on your conversion rates to fine tune your messaging. Remember that your attendees not only pay a price of money, but also time. I like to think about what would make it worth it for an attendee to take time away from their day jobs to attend our event.


If you’ve ever seen a “Sangram Here” video featuring #FlipMyFunnel founder, Sangram Vajre, then you know we have a special place in our hearts for this strategy. The reason it works is because there is a real, living, breathing, human being delivering a message to you. That’s something you just can’t do in a traditional email.


This is an important stage and one that is super helpful. If this is your first event, your speakers can be great advocates. The key is to make it easy. These folks are often super-busy and don’t have time to craft their own content. Mobilize them with social content they can share to help promote your event with their audience. Media partners are also great advocates. They often already have an audience built up and are happy to help spread the word about your event through content and event calendars.

Attendees can help amplify your message on site through social media. Save the links to the top social messages so you can use them for future events. You can also consider recording testimonials on site from speakers and attendees. These will come in handy down the road when you need social proof of how awesome your event is.

For sponsors, you should focus on making them as successful as possible at your event. Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success Advocate at 16Ventures, says “The seeds of success are planted early” and this statement is the holy grail of your sponsorships. If you do all you can to ensure your sponsors have an amazing experience, they’ll not only sponsor again, but tell others to as well.


The key to success with the flipped funnel model is to measure and report on results. It’s why we recently added it as a fifth stage. With events, measurement can come in many forms.

You might want to report on the number of attendees who came to your event from your list of target accounts instead of just a raw attendee count. You could even take it a step further and measure how much sales pipeline or closed-won opportunities were generated from target accounts. For customers, you could measure how many customers came to the event and how many did not churn or increased their spend with you following the event.

Lastly, you can take an account-based approach to measuring sponsorship dollars by reporting on how much you were able to generate from your list of target sponsors. It’s a unique approach indeed, but it might show effective your account-based sponsorship development efforts were.

Final Thoughts

Taking an account-based approach to marketing and running your event is an innovative way to maximize your resources and set yourself up for success to have an incredible event. It helps you focus on what is most important and puts attendee and sponsor experience at the very forefront of your event strategy. All the best with your next event!

This contributed post comes from our friend Nikki Nixon from #FlipMyFunnel.

Learn more about Account Based Marketing using the DoubleDutch Platform here.

By DoubleDutch Insider | May 4, 2017

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