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Time Is Powerful

by Emily Taylor
30 03 2011

Wine gets better as it ages.  Marriages deepen as a couple grows old together.  Sponsorship partnerships are more powerful with time.  There are so many reasons why this is true, and so many benefits to establishing a long term partnership. Consider this – when you got married, did you know everything about your spouse the day after you said “I do?”  Isn’t it true that it takes years to peel back the onion and really know the different layers of a person?  When you have a sponsorship partner it’s the same deal – your partnership the first year might be really good, but the longer you make your mark on one another, the more cemented the message is that you are sending together.  Everyone wins.  Why?  Clearly it’s easier for sponsorship sales professionals not to have to start over year after year, and it’s in the best interest for a brand to generate the perception of an authentic and genuine message when they commit.  Now, some if you are thinking, “ummm, you don’t have to convince me a long term partnership is a good idea, but it’s easier said than done.”  So let’s go through a few questions that once answered might help you to strategize and pitch strategically.

  1. What brands come to mind who are in alignment with your mission/vision?  Consider your target message and find a partner who complements this message with their own.  These are the brands that will benefit most from partnering with you.  They just make sense.
  2. Research these brand’s previous sponsorship efforts – is there anything they have participated in that would pose a conflict of interest?  I’ll give an example.  I spoke with a client recently about their target list of sponsors.  There was one particular sponsor that came to mind as we were chatting that I thought might be a good fit.  As it turned out, this particular sponsor had produced a traveling event similar to the one our client was seeking sponsorship for.  They’re obviously not going to sponsor someone else’s competitive event when they’re producing their own. 
  3. Do you have the ability to offer an incentive to your sponsor to sign a long term contract?  Perhaps you offer discounted partnership price for every year they commit to beyond the first if they’ll commit in the present.

Maybe you’ve done all of these things and you’re still struggling – have patience.  Continue to brainstorm long term messages you want to drill home to your audience, continue getting creative about how you might do this with a partner in a genuine way. Sometimes it’s not as easy as your first pitch, but then again… sometimes it is.  I also think that as powerful as a long term partnership has the potential to be; it also takes a different level of creativity, activation and overall effort than that which you have the time and energy to offer a short term partner.  If you’re offering the “same old” benefits to a partner and then asking for a long term commitment, they’ll likely laugh you out of their office – there’s not good enough incentive.  But if your messages will only build one another as a more relevant, likeable, positively characterized brand, then take the plunge and pitch an idea that they have to pay attention to. 

Another quick suggestion – let’s say you’ve taken all of the above steps, identified the perfect partner, deliberated on a top notch activation effort, pitched to the right decision maker, and you’re still turned down (we all know this happens).  Remember to maintain your report, your connections, and continue to foster the relationship.   Perhaps in the future the original reasons they had for not moving forward with you will dissipate, and you want to make it easy for them to recall your opportunity and connect with you to hear more.

Let’s quickly consider the alternative to long term.  When a brand embraces a message for a short stint, or affiliates with a cause for a season, then changes their affiliation quickly, it leaves a negative impression on their target audience. It appears that their commitment was marginal, weak, trendy, and selfish. Not an attractive message for a brand to send out. 

So prepare your pitch for a long term sponsor and watch as your efforts become more powerful with time!

Categories:   contracts | sponsorship sales | tips
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Connecting with Decision Makers

by Emily Taylor
23 03 2011

Duh duh duhhhh. Cue the suspense music after this title and we have a bonafide horror flick; at least in the world of sponsorship sales professionals.  If you’re in sales of any kind, you’re singing for your supper right now.  Let’s face it; there’s no easy wave of a wand that will guarantee you an audience with the most appropriate decision maker.  There’s just not.  It takes a serious investment of time, discernment, and charisma to make progress at all in even finding the right person and then actually speaking with them – and then hopefully speaking with them more than once!  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or have been lied to – or best case scenario got really heavy dose of beginner’s luck!  Keep in mind, we at SponsorPark are reaching out to sponsors too.  Granted we’re not asking for their money, but they don’t always know that right off the bat.  We have learned over the course of time what has worked for us, had some learnings along the way, and I thought I’d share a few insights into how the heck you can connect with these people.  So here’s a few tips:

  1. Referrals rock.  By far, my favorite way to connect with a new decision maker is if you have a referral.  I contacted a major bank once, and after spending some time tracking down the right decision maker I finally had a valuable dialogue about our resource.  After explaining how SponsorPark works, she thought it would be a good idea for some of her colleagues making decisions at several regional levels to know about us too.  At her suggestion I immediately jumped out of my shoes and asked for their contacts.  A few hours later I was skimming over the contact information for several decision makers and trying hard not to act like a kid in a candy store.  I reached out immediately and included in the subject line “referral from _____.”  Every one of them called me back.  Note – they all had to call me back because not one of them answered when I originally called.   Honestly, this tip probably comes as no surprise – most of you don’t even have to think about the fact that referrals rock, it’s just tough to set yourself up to get a few.  If you work on the following tips, this one might become more realistic.
  2. Network like a champ: obviously in business it’s good to know people.  Go where your industry leaders go, attend sponsorship workshops, get active on social media to be seen and heard and RELEVANT.  Are you on LinkedIn?  Ask for introductions to those indiduals you’d like a dialogue with. I have found my efforts on LinkedIn to be the most valueable BY FAR in any of our social media efforts.  It’s more professional, and there are GREAT ways to get connected to other professionals in your field.  Be smart about fostering these releationships.
  3. Pick up the phone.  I know, I hate this one, but you have to do it.  And the truth is, it gets easier.  We have found calling early in the morning or later in the evening tends to be the best bet.  Get in the door before or after all of the meetings and items on the agenda that block you out once a day gets started.  And don’t expect to pitch the sponsor on your first call/contact – your goal should be to set up a meeting to discuss a potential partnership.  So your verbiage is going to be centered on driving interest.  Make the brand manager on the receiving end feel like you care about their brand, believe you have some great ideas for a partnership, and ask for a good time to meet.  Don’t talk too much about yourself, and don’t EVER pitch on the phone – even if you think they want to hear it.  Be watchful of your clock and don’t get off the phone before you’ve clarified the next step; otherwise your call is moot.
  4. Creatively connect:  Maybe you find a funny cartoon relevant to the sponsor you’d like to chat with – send it to them with a request to make some introductions, or a link to your website.  Think outside the box.  What would get your attention if someone were trying to gain an audience with you?  Dare to be different – sponsors are inundated with stacks of the same old thing.  Proposal after proposal sits on their desk and they end up weeding through them instead of becoming your fast friend.
  5. Use what they give you: do they offer contact info on their website – emails, phone numbers or physical addresses?  We’ve used them all in our efforts to find the right person to talk to.  This is actually typically the first thing we try if we have no other connection to a sponsor by any of the above means. Usually the first person you talk to isn’t the last person you will talk to, but it will get you on the road.  And if you’ve turned on your charisma and thought realistically about why you’re a great fit for partnership, someone is bound to listen.

These are just a few ideas, but remember, it usually takes time.  I can’t say I often connect with the right person on the first attempt – unless it is handed to me.  Have patience and be persistent.  Any other great tips?  Feel free to educate our audience and us by offering your words of wisdom! 

Categories:   Introductions | sponsorship sales | tips
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Engaging a Sponsor

by Emily Taylor
15 03 2011

Being a sponsorship sales professional requires that you really know how to engage a person in conversation.  Truthfully sponsors are already wary of your intentions for speaking, and so it can be tougher than a typical conversation, and there are efforts that will kill your chances of being remembered or considered and ways that will drop their walls and draw them in.

How to engage:
What you want to remember is that people love to talk about themselves, and people like to feel considered. Your ultimate goal is to engage them in a dialogue that intertwines your efforts. At the end of the conversation you want them to see how valuable they are WITH you.  Instead of your goals or their goals, it’s not even how to meet one another’s goals (yet), it’s how you can meet their goals as a partner.  When you’re talking to a brand manager about how you’re going to help them grow or touch their target audience in a meaningful way, you’ve got their attention.  When you make it clear that you have done your research about their recent marketing campaigns, note trends or changes in trends, their previous efforts with a charity, a new product launch, etc; this shows that you have specific interest in them, as opposed to anyone who will offer you money.   You connect the dots by finding out if they would be interested in integrating a particular marketing focus you’ve observed in a memorable way with your efforts as a partner.  You suggest a few ideas if that IS of interest to them, and this line of discussion will draw them into a brainstorming session for how they might make that possible. People are quick to analyze efforts that involve themselves, and analyzing typically means problem solving, or brainstorming; and this draws them into the idea of a partnership. 

How to turn them off:
As opposed to discussing their needs in a dialogue format, you simply produce a monologue about who you are, why you’re amazing, and why they should partner with you (for your benefit).  I can’t count how many times a sponsorship sales rep has discussed with me why they are the best thing since sliced bread or why their program qualifies them for sainthood. I hate to sound apathetic, but sponsors really don’t care.  They didn’t agree to offer their valuable time with you to learn about you necessarily; they’re there to learn about why a partnership is a good idea for their brand.  That means, you need to focus the conversation on their brand vs. your opportunity.  Even if they ask about who you are and what you’re doing, make sure to be cognizant of how much time you spend talking about yourself or you’ll end up driving them to ask themselves why they opened that door.  Remember, your ultimate goal is to engage them in a dialogue that intertwines their brand with your organization. So instead of rattling on about why you’re unique, one of a kind, and why they’d be crazy not to consider you, prove it.  It’s like dating – women don’t want to date a man that’s all about himself.  If a man wants a woman to take interest in what he’s about, he first has to prove that he values her and engages her.   Same goes for pursuing a sponsor.  Separate yourself from 99% of other sponsorship requestors and engage them in their goals and objectives.

Any other brilliant tactics to engaging a sponsor, or terrible turn-off’s?  Please share – the sponsorship community might learn and grow from your insights!

Categories:   Elements of a Proposal | General | sponsorship activation | sponsorship sales | Sponsorship Valuation
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