Getting the Sponsorship Meeting

I have been in my share of meetings with sponsorship prospects to talk about sponsorship, corporate philanthropy, cause marketing and workplace giving campaigns. I have been on both sides of the table, both seeking sponsorship as well as creating cause marketing campaigns on behalf of corporate sponsors. I have also coached many charities and not for profits through the sponsorship process and have noticed some trends and assumptions that come up often enough that I feel compelled to write about them here in part four of my five part series on cause marketing trends.

So far we have covered Sponsorship Basics, Pipeline Building and How to Build a Sponsorship Package. What’s next? Well, most would spread their sponsorship package far and wide and expect the money to come pouring in…but not if you’ve been following this series! You already know that you need warm prospects, a big pipeline and a big inventory and when you have that, the next step is to get the meeting.

Less is More when Recruiting Sponsors

Imagine yourself logging in on Monday morning to find a two-page e-mail describing in detail the event, charity, sport team etc. that wants your money. In that wall of text you find a vague ask for “your support” along with a six page “one size fits all” sponsorship package. If you’re like everyone else out there you hit delete and move on without reading past “Dear sir/madam.”

Now imagine instead you open your e-mail after lunch on Wednesday to find a short note saying nothing more than a mutual friend suggested that the two of you connect to talk about a cool project you’re working on and that you would love to pick their brain when they have time for a five minute call.

How to get Sponsors to Open Your Emails

Which one of these scenarios is more likely to move your prospect up the sponsorship sales ladder? Remember that the goal is constant movement through the sales process and not to go from cold e-mail to sale in one contact.

If the average attention span is nine seconds then you have no more than two sentences to get your prospect to read, act and reply. Remind yourself before every e-mail and phone call that the goal is to get the prospect to agree to meet and not to make the sale.

Got the Meeting! Now What!?

“Whenever people…hand me a flyer, it’s kinda like they’re saying, ‘Here—you throw this away.’” 
~ Mitch Hedberg

It worked! You asked a prospect to meet to talk about a cause marketing campaign and they agreed. Take a deep breath and get ready for the best part of the sponsorship sales process- getting to know your prospect.

When you meet with a prospect, bring nothing. I have yet to give this advice to a client, colleague or board member and not hear the following response “What about my sponsorship package?” or annual report, or proposal etc. Nothing means exactly that. It feels weird to go with nothing in hand but even a one pager tells your prospect that you are not there for them but for yourself and your own goals.

If you bring a sponsor a proposal or one pager to your first meeting your prospect does what Mitch does, they will very kindly recycle it for you. This is how to write a proposal for sponsorship- by having your prospect tell you exactly what they value in a cause marketing program.

Your Job is to help them Build a Cause Marketing Campaign

It isn’t your prospect’s job to find the best fit for their cause marketing and sponsorship dollars, it’s yours!

Go to the meeting and tell them you didn’t bring anything because you really just want to hear about their goals, customers, cause marketing plans, advice etc. Ask lots of questions and think back to your inventory building process to be able to talk about some of the ways you can work together. Don’t try to sell anything, don’t talk dollars or amounts, just focus on getting to know their needs and how they might like to work together.

It’s not about Sponsorship Levels!

So if the point of the meeting isn’t to sell something, what is the point? Plain and simple, you are meeting to determine interest and fit but most importantly the goal is to get the second meeting! You have enough information after your first meeting to start to work on a framework for a proposal and if you can engage your prospect in that process early then you stand a good chance at producing something that meets their needs.

Customization Leads to the Best Cause Marketing Campaigns

I have had first meetings where I went right from handshake to selling a sponsorship package on the spot but this is rare and to be honest, not ideal. Without the chance to customize, you leave money on the table and risk hearing from an unhappy sponsor that had they known about “option X” they would have taken it instead of their competition doing so.

The best partnerships are born out of multiple meetings, respect and collaboration and the biggest campaigns that I’ve worked on usually take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to negotiate.