Many individuals, particularly founders of other SaaS platforms built on Rails, have inquired about the cost of our Rails World 2023 sponsorship and its worth. While anyone can estimate our expenses based on publicly available data, we're happy to provide a detailed breakdown. As a self-funded company, we need to spend our money wisely, so we've kept a close eye on this from day one. The amounts mentioned are rounded and exclude VAT. Our team's countless hours preparing for the conference, including our in-house designers' efforts, are separate from this tally.
Platinum Sponsorship: €36,000
Although the Platinum Sponsorship was listed at €40,000, we secured a 10% discount as a member of the Rails Foundation, which costs us $25,000 annually at our membership level. The Platinum Sponsorship granted us a large central booth in the Sponsor Lounge, widespread logo visibility, social media shoutouts, and more.
Conference Tickets: €1,350
Every attendee needed a ticket, even if they were operating our booth and not attending talks. Our sponsorship included four free tickets. Additionally, our Rails Foundation membership gave us two more free tickets. As Platinum Sponsors, we could purchase ten more tickets at a 10% discount, and our foundation membership gave us five more.
We utilized eleven tickets for our team, paying for only five. We offered the remaining ten tickets to our customers; when we reached out for interest, 96 customers responded, and we could make ten of them very happy.
The booth's primary expenses, such as printed materials and construction, were covered in the Platinum Sponsorship fee. We collaborated on a custom design with the organizers and the booth construction company.
Booth Additions: €1,000
We added two Dutch shuffleboards at our booth and a round, vinyl, printed carpet to create an engaging environment.
Shuffleboard Prizes: €1,000
The top five shuffleboard players win a year's supply of stroopwafels, receiving 90 every quarter (amount includes international shipping).
Stroopwafel Baker: €3,500
Globally recognized for distributing classic Dutch stroopwafels, we had them freshly made onsite for the first time. We partnered with the conference venue's recommended supplier and produced custom wrappers (~€250). Safety precautions required a fire watch due to using flammable materials indoors, costing €1,200.
Explainer Video: €500
We showcased animations about AppSignal on three screens. While most were created in-house, we hired an external animator for one.
We consolidated all materials at one of our Dutch offices and transported them to the conference venue two days before. The remaining items, including a 4.5-meter carpet roll, were shipped back post-event.
Our goal was to offer attendees memorable items worth keeping. We ensured ample supply without necessitating a sales pitch or data collection.
Rubber Ducks: €1,500
Each attendee's swag bag contained a rubber duck branded with our logo and a card briefly introducing AppSignal. We distributed 650 in the bags and an additional 150 at our booth.
T-Shirts & Onesies: €1,800
We distributed approximately 240 t-shirts and 40 onesies. Attendees praised their quality because we invested an extra €1.50 per t-shirt for longevity.
Developer Dilemmas Card Game: €600
Our third iteration of the Developer Dilemmas card game was in high demand. Although we distributed 350 decks at the event, we ordered 1,500 to accommodate future events, reducing the cost per item.
Packaged Stroopwafels: €250
In addition to fresh stroopwafels, we provided 900 individually wrapped ones. To our surprise, none remained by the event's end.
Our swag table featured six sticker designs, totaling around 1,000 sheets.
To counter coffee spills, we distributed 500 AppSignal-branded coasters.
Canal Cruise: €5,300
On the conference's first day, we hosted a 2-hour nighttime boat ride through Amsterdam's canals for our customers. Although the two boats we rented were supposed to accommodate 75 people each, they didn't. The boating company supplemented with a 30-passenger boat.
Food & Beverage: €350
We always relish treating small groups to dinner or drinks.
An event's success hinges on the team's presence.
Planes & Trains: €1,200
We had team members travel from Spain, Serbia, and the Netherlands.
Our team needed accommodation during the conference.
Food & Beverage: €1,200
Team dinners, drinks, and fun were essential to our experience.
Was the €62,475 Grand Total Worth It?
Quantifying our return on investment is challenging. Although we could juxtapose this cost against our average customer's lifetime value, directly attributing sales to this event is impossible. Rails World is a pivotal touchpoint that might influence future decisions when someone is job-hunting, initiating a project, or considering tool consolidation. One evident outcome: every attendee now knows about AppSignal.
However, retrospection always offers insights for improvement. Allocating 8.5% of our budget on a 2-hour canal cruise might have been excessive. While the stroopwafels, costing approximately €3.50 each, were a bit pricey, their alignment with our brand justifies their inclusion in future events. Overall, we're comfortable with what we spent.
Looking back on Rails World, we're happy we made new friends while putting our brand front and center. It's not just about sponsorships, swag, side events, and what it all costs. It's about growing the community and being a part of that growth. We're taking all we've learned into our next event; we can't wait!