He Who Fails the Most
Are you familiar with Seth Godin? He’s a business executive and author who’s written nearly 20 books, many of which have been New York Times bestsellers. He’s also the one who inspired today’s article with his quote: “he who fails the most wins.”
I know, I know, failure is a hard pill to swallow. Few of us ever want to fail, and when we do, the human tendency is to shove it under the rug. It’s embarrassing to admit to failure once, let alone many times, right?
Yet no matter whether you’re seeking sponsorship sales, professional growth in other areas, or even personal growth, failure is sure to follow. Keep reading to learn why that may not be such a bad thing!
The Importance of Failure in Life and in Sponsorship
From sports bets to video games or any other form of competitive events, winning feels good. It’s not just the burst of self-esteem you get, either. Winning has real benefits for your brain.
In 2013, CBS News ran an article about the psychology of winning. The piece mentions that winning raises our levels of testosterone, thus increasing dopamine. The reward center part of our brain that makes us feel good then lights up like a Christmas tree. The article even states that we could live longer by winning.
So yes, it’s scientifically proven that winning is good for you, but you know what winning doesn’t do? It doesn’t provide room for introspection. It’s like the old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If what you’re doing is working, there’s no need to stop and think about why that is. You just keep doing it.
Yet success and winning don’t always happen so easily in sponsorship. If you don’t have a well-defined sponsorship program, or if you think you know what you’re doing when you don’t, you’ll get rejection after rejection after rejection.
Or even worse, stone-cold silence.
You’ve failed, and that hurts. You’re going to feel humiliated and doubtful. The failure might even want to make you abandon your sponsorship program altogether.
Once your ego heals from the blow, you’ll realize something about failure that you don’t get when you win, win, win all the time. Failure is a learning opportunity. Failure is a teacher, and a good one at that.
Failure forces you to say, “okay, that didn’t work. I wonder what will?” And yes, maybe your next approach will fail too, and the one after that, but all along, you’re learning. As you learn, you get closer and closer to finding what does work.
Then you too may get to taste that previously elusive feeling of winning.
When Is It Time to Change Course in Sponsorship?
The transition from failure to success in sponsorship can be a process that lasts an indeterminate amount of time. Yet you have only a finite period before an event, maybe two months. You don’t want to waste too many precious weeks throwing things at the wall and realizing that nothing sticks.
If you send out 10 emails and don’t hear anything back, you can try to write that off as a fluke. In my video on the subject of failure and Seth Godin’s quote, I talk about a client of mine who sent a bunch of sponsorship emails that ended up in the spam filter of every recipient.
What he did was about the worst thing you can do in a situation like this: he sent more emails. Now 10 emails turned into 100. By this point, you’ve wasted too much time and effort on a losing venture.
If your email open rate out of 10 emails is only one percent (or under), that’s a sign you’ve already taken the wrong approach. Let me tell you, sending 90 more emails will not increase your open rate past one percent. Neither will sending 1,000 emails.
You cannot write things off as flukes. Sending 10 emails and hearing nothing back is enough to indicate when an approach isn’t working. I’d even say sending one email and not hearing back is enough to indicate if something isn’t working. Then it’s time to change course.
You can’t be married to any one approach in sponsorship, as what works for one sponsor doesn’t always do it for another. Be ready to approach the next target sponsor on your list with something even better than what you tried before.
How to Identify Where You’re Making Mistakes in Your Sponsorship Program
Your sponsorship program consists of a lot of moving parts. How can you possibly determine which part is wrong?
My advice? Take it one thing at a time.
Let’s use emails as our example since I talked about mass-sending sponsorship emails in the last section. The email open rate you’re striving for is around 18 percent according to Campaign Monitor. If it’s anything less than that, it might be due to your subject line.
Outside of the subject line, what kind of email address are you using to fire off your sponsorship emails? Is it a professional handle or a personal email? Are you attaching sales materials to your messages? Spam filters hate attachments and will often flag emails with them.
Think about what’s in the body of your email as well. Is your copy well-written? Like, as well-written as your team could possibly do? (If not, I have a sponsorship email template that will really come in handy. I even have sample email subject lines!)
Is your audience research really strong? Does it align with the goals of the target sponsor? Did you write to the sponsor in a way that’s way too salesy? Your sponsors are people, and like most people, they’re not fond of unsolicited sales pitches.
These are all questions you need to ask yourself. As you answer the questions, it should become clearer where your errors are emanating from. And it’s okay to have a whole list of these errors!
Another quote from Seth Godin that I like is this: “those who are successful in life have the biggest discard piles.” These people win because they’re willing to keep thinking and keep striving to figure out what works. They don’t become too attached to ideas and they don’t back down in the face of adversity.
Whether your sponsorship approach had one mistake or was riddled with dozens, isolate the errors, try a new approach, and see what happens.
Found Success? When It’s Time to Scale up Your Sponsorship Program
Through time, hard work, and some trial and error, you found an approach that has worked not just for one sponsor, but several. If you have between three and five successful sponsorships under your belt, now is the time to scale up your sponsorship program. You’ve got the secret sauce, so to speak, that should be applicable across a wider breadth of sponsors.
However, remember not to get too cocky. At any point, you could have to diverge from your usual approach because fewer target sponsors are responding to it.
Why? You never know if your approach with a sponsor will win or fail. That’s why I recommend always treating any and all sponsors like they’re the million-dollar dream sponsor. Put in the time. Put in the research. Take everything to do with your sponsorship program seriously.
In all areas of life and especially in sponsorship, failure is bound to happen. How you react to it is what matters most.
If you let failure teach you and motivate you to do better, then you’ll eventually have less failure in your life. If you allow failure to embarrass you or force you into quitting sponsorship altogether, then your failures will have won.
When your sponsorship approach doesn’t work, be ready to try something else. Test and keep testing until you’re getting those yeses you want. I also recommended you check out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program, which is full of best practices that will reduce your sponsorship failures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.