If you’re charged with getting sponsors for your organization, consider developing an ongoing process. Sponsorship needs to be a regular and ongoing part of your operation, so think in terms of marathon not a sprint.
Here are 12 tips to get you started.
- Got value? Your corporate sponsorship program may be a source of revenue for your organization. For a corporation, it’s a marketing vehicle. The corporation pays a cash or inkind fee in exchange for your value. So, first, be sure you have something valuable to offer.
- Sponsorship strategy. To develop value, define your strategy. What events, programs, initiatives, services, campaigns, meetings, conferences, and activities—called properties—in your organization represent opportunities for significant value to a corporate partner. And why? Define the value and the strategy behind it before you talk to any sponsors.
- Business development strategy. Now comes the fun part. Which companies would benefit from access to the value your organization has to offer? Brainstorm a prospect list that includes a variety of industries whose brands, objectives, and missions best align with your organization’s.
- Work backwards. If a company intends to derive value and a return on investment from sponsoring your property, you and the sponsorship decision maker need to co-create that opportunity. Afterall, you know your property better than the sponsor, and they know their brand and goals better than you. You have to work together.
- Do your homework. Sponsors are busy. They don’t have time to take a deep dive into your event. You have a lot of competition out there. Meet the buyer prepared with solid ideas.
- Research, research, research. Before you even contact the corporation, figure out if this company is even a fit. Why should they sponsor your organization? What’s in it for them? How does your opportunity support business or marketing objectives? Where in the sales cycle? Finally, are they a good fit for your organization? Would this company bring value to your organization and your audiences?
If your first thought is that it’s about your mission, check your thinking. Are you talking about their social mission and yours? Or are you honing in on their philanthropic objectives? If the latter, you’re moving into the world of philanthropy and not marketing. These are different approaches.
- Relationship building. Getting to know the businesses and the industries you’ve selected in your sales strategy should be an ongoing activity. If you’ve truly got something valuable to offer, discuss your ideas with the right buyers. Find out more about individual priorities. Ask insightful questions that not only build the relationships but also enable you to ascertain whether your ideas align.
- Sift and sort opportunities. Certain ideas will pass through your filters as you’re learning from your partner; others will not. Share the winners with your prospective sponsor in high-level detail.
- Ideas. As you learn more, be prepared to brainstorm on the spot. Expand, narrow, and refine your ideas. Don’t hold on tightly; let the sponsor’s ideas influence yours. But don’t compromise on your deal breakers.
- Now it’s time for your proposal. Here you go into detail about your ideas and the investments required. Too often organizations make the mistake of leading with the price tag. A seller I know just made this mistake. She pulled a number—a ridiculously low number at that—out of the air and her approach centered around money, not value. I guarantee she’ll leave money on the table.
- Negotiate. Working through the details and adjusting the proposal and opportunity is perfectly natural. It’s rare that you could nail it on the first try. Make sure you have a negotiating strategy before you enter this discussion. This is another place where piles of money can get left on the table.
- Win then grow. If you’re successful, you’ll make a partner for life. Congratulations. Now stay alert to how you’ll expand the partnership over time.
On the other hand, if you didn’t win this one, assess the reasons why. Ask the sponsor for feedback. Objectively evaluate your own performance. Ask your supervisor or coach to review what went well and where you can improve. Then, keep your process going, and make getting sponsors an ongoing activity for your organization.