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Preparing for Sponsorship Sales

by | May 11, 2021

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I’ve been busy with house renovations lately, including add-ons to my home. Whenever you get a new room built in your home, it needs to be painted. I’m the type that would rather do that myself than hire a team. Maybe you’re the same way.

If so, then you know that you don’t just pick up a paintbrush and get right to it. There’s so much prep work that must go into painting your home first. In today’s post, I want to connect the dots between these everyday lessons in patience and how they can accelerate your sponsorship program forward. 

Let’s get started!

Lessons in Patience and What They Can Teach You about Sponsorship

I want to continue with the example I laid out in the intro, because my wife and I really did spend all of last weekend (including all day Friday) painting a new add-on in our home. Now, before you ask me, “why did it take you 30+ hours to paint one room?” it’s because we didn’t spend most of that time painting.

If anything, 20+ hours were dedicated to prep and the rest of the time was used for painting, and even most of that time was just letting the paint dry. 

Why all the prep work? As I said at the start, when you decide you want to paint your house, you don’t just do it. First, you research what kind of paint colors you want. Then you go to the store to see paint swatches in person. Once you decide on the color, you need to sand your walls. Then you have to apply masking tape around all the surfaces.

If you’re spray-painting like I did, then you must thin the paint. Even if you don’t have to do that, you usually have to apply a primer first. Then, finally, you can get to painting. No wonder it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that my wife and I started painting. 

Do I regret spending all that time on prep work? Of course not! If I hadn’t sanded the walls, the texture of the paint would have been bumpy and uneven. If I hadn’t taped the room, then the paint would have gotten on the floor and ceiling. If I hadn’t thinned the paint, it would have come out all blobby on the wall. If I started applying a second layer of paint before the first one dried, the final result would have been terrible.

Lest you think you’ve stumbled upon a home improvement blog, let me get to my point. The way I was thinking about painting my home reminded me of how a lot of my clients can approach sponsorship. They ignore the nuances and compartmentalize sponsorship to being as easy as handing a target sponsor their sponsorship proposal.

Yet as I always say, sponsorship isn’t easy or everyone would be doing it successfully. That part of the sponsorship program where you give the target sponsor your proposal only accounts for five percent of the overall process. That means there’s a whole 95 percent that must be taken into consideration, and that will require preparation.    

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The Steps You Must Take on the Road to Sponsorship Sales

Lessons in patience are all around us, even outside of home improvement. If you wanted to build a wooden table, you wouldn’t start hammering together planks of wood at random. You would plan out the supplies needed for your project, take some measurements, cut the wood, and then begin assembly. If you wanted to sign up for a marathon, you wouldn’t wake up the day of the race and run. You would spend weeks, even months training to get into running shape. 

So how do you prep to make the sponsorship sale in that same vein? Allow me to provide some pointers.

Have the Right Data

I can’t stress enough the importance of audience research, but I’ll try to, as it’s to your benefit to know how crucial this data is. Proceeding with a sponsorship program sans audience data is like driving a car with flat tires. You won’t get very far at all. 

One of the most valuable assets you can sell a sponsor isn’t logos or vendor booths or speaking opportunities. It’s your audience. Sponsors love a free lead gen opportunity, and you’re serving them an audience that’s like theirs on a silver platter. Yet you’ll never know how likewise your audience and the target sponsor’s are without doing the research. 

It’s like I said in this post: “Too many sponsorship seekers believe that sponsors want to sponsor your organization, this is not correct, they want to sponsor your audience.” Thus, the more they know about your audience, the better. 

I recommend sending an audience survey so you can put your fingers on the pulse of who your audience is and what matters to them. Your survey should touch on areas like brand loyalty, shopping preferences, opinions and motivations, demographics, and geographics. You want to know how involved your audience members are with your company or organization, including whether they’ve bought anything lately (provided you’re a for-profit) or donated (in the case of not-for-profits). 

Create Activation Ideas

The next step in preparing for sponsorship sales is activation ideation. As you begin to put together your sponsorship materials, you’re going to make certain promises to the sponsor, such as more sales, a bigger audience, etc. Part of how you drive those outcomes is through sponsorship activation. 

Not only are the best activation ideas beneficial for a sponsor, but for your audience as well. You’re giving them an experience that’s helpful or entertaining. An activation idea can be as simple as a branded phone-charging station. Your audience will appreciate having a spot to recharge their phones, especially during an all-day convention, and your sponsor gets the free branding.

When coming up with activation ideas, I always recommend thinking outside of the box, but remember that you’re not going for shock value or coolness points just to look good. Your activation ideas should achieve a sponsor’s goals and be aligned with what your audience cares about. 

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Spend Time on the Discovery Phase

You’ve made it this far, and now you’re entering the discovery phase. This is the part of the process that some sponsorship seekers like to gloss over the most because to them it seems extraneous. Yet discovery is anything but.

Since I’ve been talking about lessons in patience so much today, here’s another such lesson. If you’re single and dating, you don’t just hop into a relationship with someone without getting to know that person, right? If you made such an error, you’d discover later on that they chew with their mouth open, pick their nose out in public, or that they hate cats when you’re a cat lover. 

That’s the same reason you shouldn’t skip the discovery phase in your sponsorship program. This is your chance to bring to light any potential incompatibilities that might exist between you and the sponsor. Having your audience data is crucial here, because if you don’t know your audience and their values, you can’t identify sponsor incompatibilities.

I have a list here of more than 25 discovery questions you can check out to get those creative juices flowing. Based on the prior discussions you’ve had with the target sponsor to this point, pick no more than seven discovery questions and ask them during your meetings. 

Customize Your Sponsorship Package

You’ve gone through the discovery phase and your target sponsor passed with flying colors. Their audience enmeshes perfectly with yours and you think they’re an exceptional match. Now is no time to rush to the finish line. You still have sponsorship materials you have to work on, chiefly among them your sponsorship proposal.

Within that proposal will be your sponsorship package, which is a menu of all your priced assets available for the choosing. Like most people don’t go to a restaurant for the first time without looking up the menu at home first, the sponsor doesn’t want to be surprised by your assets menu. Not only should they have already seen the menu, but they should have worked with you to customize your sponsorship package.

A custom list of assets ensures that you’re not pushing the wrong assets, especially as a first-time sponsorship seeker. I have so many clients that think that logos are the be-all, end-all, which is a rookie mistake. You’re also avoiding tired sponsorship package tiers through customization, which your sponsor will be happy to see. 

Present Your Sponsorship Proposal

Okay, so now that 95 percent of the prep work is out of the way, it’s time for that sweet, sweet five percent, which is you handing over your sponsorship proposal to the target sponsor. By now, you’ve had many phone calls and email exchanges with the sponsor. You have likely met them in person during several meetings. If all goes well with your proposal, then you’ll be one step closer to the sponsorship sale.

Let me give you this piece of advice: allow the target sponsor to ask for the proposal, not the other way around. Sending them the proposal too soon is a good way to spoil what was shaping up to be a good deal. 

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The next time you gaze upon a nicely painted house, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, please remember that the five percent of painting required 95 percent of prep work first. It’s much the same in sponsorship. There are no shortcuts. Even if someone makes sponsorship seem easy, it’s because they did the rest of the legwork behind the scenes.

If you need more guidance on how to begin your sponsorship program, I recommend you check out my free training. I’ll teach you the most high-impact sponsorship areas to spend your time on and present a nine-part blueprint for sponsorship program growth!