Your company has always been entrenched in the community. You’re striving to increase your audience with a sponsored event, and you figure you’d look locally for a sponsor. How can you secure business sponsorship in your city or town?
Here’s how to get sponsorship from local businesses:
- Know your goals
- Find businesses in your area that sponsor events
- Plan to have several sponsors if they’re all smaller
- Define your audience through research
- Determine your best assets and their value
- Use your local connections to contact the sponsor company
- Meet with target sponsors
Since you’re not chasing large corporations for sponsorship funding and promotions, acquiring your sponsors might be less challenging. That said, you still have to put together a robust sponsorship program to attract local sponsors. In this article, I’ll tell you how.
7 Steps for Local Business Sponsorship
Know Your Goals
Whether you’re looking for six-figure sponsorship or smaller local sponsors, the first step always must be the same. You have to know what you’re looking to achieve through sponsorship before you talk to any target sponsors.
Your goal doesn’t need to be ornate. If you’re short on funding for your yearly charity gala, then you’d seek a sponsor to make up the difference.
Maybe you’ve done events in the past that haven’t exactly gotten the biggest turnout. Your events are high-quality, it’s just that not enough people know about them. This time, you want an audience that’s commensurate with the time, money, and effort you put into your events. A sponsor can help you net the promotions you’re looking for.
Some sponsorship seekers want a little bit of column A and some of column B, which is fine as well. As long as you know what your organization or company needs, then you’re off to a good start.
I do want to take this time to remind you that sponsorship is a two-way street. The most successful partnerships are those in which the target sponsor meets your needs while you meet theirs.
That’s another good reason to know what you need. You’re not wasting time figuring out what you want, so you can use that time to come up with ways to achieve the target sponsor’s goals.
Find Businesses in Your Area That Sponsor Events
Depending on how long you’ve been a part of your community, you probably have a very good idea of which businesses are in your neighborhood. Yet how many of them offer sponsorship opportunities? That you might not be as clear on.
That’s okay! Now’s the time to glean this information. You can look up the websites of the businesses in your area or comb through their social media profiles.
Of all the social media platforms, I would recommend LinkedIn especially. It tends to have more company information than what you’ll find on Facebook or Twitter.
If your online research is proving fruitless and you’re still not sure which local businesses offer sponsorships, there’s no reason you can’t call and ask. You don’t have to call the companies directly, but rather, lean on other community contacts you have. They might know something you don’t.
For now, don’t be too discerning about which target sponsors are on your list. When you have your audience research and your assets evaluated (more on this a little later), it will be easier to see which target sponsors are the best match.
Plan to Have Several Sponsors If They’re All Smaller
I mentioned in the intro that securing local sponsorship might not be as difficult because you’re not going after the big guns like Coca-Cola or Nike. Local sponsors will still have name recognition among your community, and they won’t be so inundated with sponsorship requests that yours is just another in the pile.
However, there is one downside to pursuing local sponsorship. Since these businesses do not have the same reach, their pockets probably aren’t as deep either.
Depending on the extent of the funding your event requires, you might need two sponsors, three, or five. Once you start talking to sponsors and discussing budgets, how many sponsors you’ll require will become a lot clearer to you.
If your event needs several sponsors, my best advice is to start putting together your sponsorship program as early as time allows. You need to not only go through the process of getting sponsorship with one company but several. That means twice or thrice or even four times the assets, sponsorship proposals, and meetings.
Cutting corners won’t work here. Lately, on the blog, I’ve likened pursuing sponsorship to applying for a job. If you send out five resumes, each resume is unique, right? For each target sponsor, you need to put together a unique list of assets. This is going to be time-consuming, so start immediately.
If you don’t quite feel ready to begin your sponsorship program, I really recommend you read this post. It will put into perspective everything you’re missing out on by hesitating! (Hint: huge money-making opportunities could be passing you by.)
Define Your Audience Through Research
One of the best things about being a local business that’s such a valuable part of the community is that you tend to have your finger on the pulse of the people who make up that community. You’re proud to say that you know your customers on a first-name basis.
That’s great, but what about what they do for a living, even in general terms? Are they married? How much money do they make per year? What is their pre-tax income?
Oh, and what inspires their purchasing decisions? Why do they choose to do business with you? Did they attend your last event? If so, why?
If you can’t answer these questions, then you need to issue an audience survey. This will paint a complete picture of your local customers–all anonymously, of course–so that you can put together the metrics that really matter when chasing sponsorship.
Since you already have a good number of customers, spreading awareness about your audience survey shouldn’t be difficult. You can post a sign in your store window (if you have a store) or write about the survey on social media.
While sometimes I suggest incentivizing people to complete an audience survey by offering freebies and discounts, for you, what might work better is taking the honest, humble approach. Tell your audience that you’re looking for their help so you can better serve your community. Be sure to mention that the survey is free to do and only takes 10 minutes.
If you think the freebies and discounts can help, feel free to throw those in as well.
If your community is tight-knit, then you can mail the surveys to their physical inboxes. Email works just as well. Then you have to play the waiting game, giving your audience a few weeks to send back the survey. Now you can see why I told you to start your sponsorship program early, right?
You won’t get responses from everyone who receives the audience survey, and that’s okay. You shouldn’t expect such a high response rate, nor do you need it.
When you have all your responses (or what you figure are all your responses), it’s time to make sense of them. What you’re doing is manually segmenting your leads. For example, you might put all the responses from 40-year-olds in one pile or you could divide the responses by gender.
Then you can segment them even further. For instance, 40-year-old women who spend X amount of money with your company per year go in one pile.
Yes, this is a lot of hard work, but splitting your audience into groups like this allows you to go back and look at your list of target sponsors and cross out those that aren’t a good fit.
Determine Your Best Assets and Their Value
Sponsorship, when boiled down to its basics, is an exchange. As I’ve already discussed, the sponsor will give you funding or promotions or even both. You have to give them something in return.
That something is your assets. What is an asset, you ask? In sponsorship, an asset is something of high value that you sell to the sponsor. I’ll use the most common asset, logos, as an example.
Now, before we go any further, I have to say that logos are not valuable and thus not something you should prioritize in your assets list. I’m only talking about them as an example for simplicity’s sake.
With that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about how you’d sell logos to a sponsor. You have a building that you’re renting (or that you own) for your event. You’d put up logos with the sponsor’s name throughout the building, such as above the main entryway and in other highly visible places.
You’d use market value and your geographic location to determine how much logos are worth (it isn’t much). Then they go into your sponsorship package, which is a menu of all your assets.
How do you create your list of assets? Sit down with a few other employees at your company and use the information you have on the target sponsor as your guide. Think of what you can sell that would benefit the sponsor and help them achieve their goals.
If you don’t know what the target sponsor wants, then ask! The best sponsorship packages are those that are customized from the ground up with the target sponsor’s input.
So let’s say you sat down and tried to think of display assets that aren’t logos. You came up with ideas like printed furniture, a photo backdrop, or a neon sign. You go over these ideas with the sponsor and they love them. Now you just have to determine the value of each asset and you’re good to go.
Organizing your assets into properties makes them easier to manage. A property is a group of assets that share something in common. For example, perhaps you use several of those display assets in your sponsorship package. They’d go into one property.
Your sponsorship package is a part of your sponsorship proposal, a six-page document that describes your opportunity. There’s a short mention of your company or organization, then the bulk of the proposal is for your audience data and your assets. At the end of the proposal, you share contact information and a CTA to inspire the target sponsor to take action.
I have a full sponsorship proposal template here that you can use to put together all six pages. I also recently wrote about writing a sports sponsorship proposal that delves a little deeper into what goes into this document. Give that a read!
When your sponsorship proposal is done, you’re ready to move on.
Use Your Local Connections to Contact the Sponsor Company
Next is what is usually one of the hardest parts for sponsorship seekers, finding someone at the sponsorship company to talk to. When you’re going after big-name sponsorships, then of course, there’s a lot of red tape to cut through. Otherwise, you’ll call the front desk, get the secretary, and go through an endless cycle of being put on hold and redirected.
That’s why you should always have someone you know at the sponsor company. If you don’t know them personally, then someone at your company or organization should.
But for you, this is easy. You probably know plenty of people who work at the companies that you’re pursuing sponsorship from. If anything, you might have a hard time switching gears from being cordial with this person to talk about business.
When you give them a call or shoot them an email, there are several things you want to refrain from doing. One is asking for money outright because that’s just tacky. The second is sending your sponsorship proposal (assuming you’re emailing someone at the sponsor company). The time will come for the proposal, but it’s not now.
All you want to do is get a meeting. That’s it. Even though you and this other person know each other, don’t make the meeting too informal. For instance, if they ask to meet up for lunch, that’s not the best setting to have the first sponsorship meeting. You want to meet in someone’s office instead.
If you’re emailing your contact, what do you even say? I’m glad you asked! In this post, I have three templates for writing an email to a target sponsor. You’ll want to tweak the content of these letters since you already know the person you’re writing to, but the templates show you the general skeleton of what your email should look like.
Meet with Target Sponsors
The first meeting with a target sponsor is a discovery session. Remember how earlier I said that knowing a customer’s first name isn’t enough in the context of sponsorship? That’s also true of being friendly with a target sponsor.
The kinds of discovery questions you ask will rule out some target sponsors definitively. I’ll recommend my master list of discovery questions to you, which has 37 questions in all. Well, you’ll have to discard 30 of them because I suggest asking no more than seven questions.
How do you narrow down which discovery questions to ask? Read through my list of questions. Then go back and look at your research on the target sponsor. Combine that with what you already know about them. With all the data you have, what’s missing?
Then look through the discovery questions again. The questions you ask should plug up your knowledge gap so you can make an informed decision on which target sponsor is the best fit for your event.
This is a business meeting, so treat it as such. Dress nicely, arrive on time, and shake hands with the target sponsor. During the first meeting, don’t push any sales tactics. You just want to talk about the discovery questions.
By the end of that first meeting, due to your more familiar relationship, the target sponsor might ask to see your sponsorship proposal. This usually doesn’t happen until the second or third meeting if not later, but go with the flow.
Then give the target sponsor time to look over your proposal and decide whether they want to work with you (yes, vetting happens both ways). Just because you and the target sponsor are familiar and even friendly with each other doesn’t mean they have to accept your sponsorship request.
You need to give them something worthwhile to win their sponsorship. If you’ve followed all the steps to this point, then you should have accomplished that. Hopefully, the target sponsor will be delighted to work with you!
Local business sponsorship is a much smaller playing field, which has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest plusses by far is that you likely know all the businesses in your neighborhood, maybe even a few of them personally.
However, you might have to pursue several sponsors to meet your funding goals. This makes getting sponsorship time-consuming and labor-intensive.
Keeping your sponsorships local will appeal to your community and help deepen the connections in your city or town. If you’re ready to take your sponsorships to the next level, you can always rely on our programs to get you there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
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