5 Questions for Every Sponsorship Prospect
Once you’ve identified your sponsorship prospects, your next goal is to set up a discovery session.
This first meeting doesn’t always take place in person, especially anymore. You can have the discovery session on the phone or through Facetime, Zoom, or any other popular video-chatting platform.
After you break the ice with that well-timed and well-practiced joke, it’s time to talk business. The following five questions will help you pinpoint whether your prospect could be a viable partner.
1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
The first question pertains to your prospect’s target audience.
As a note, if you’re not already crystal-clear on your own audience, then this question is as good as useless.
The whole point in asking about the prospect’s target audience is to see if any of your audience segments match. You can’t do that without having priorly segmented your audience.
You know me, I recommend niching your audience down as much as you can.
Think of your audience as an ingredient that you’re putting through a strainer. If the sieve holes are large, that’s a broad audience segment. By using increasingly smaller strainers, you get very fine particles, which are akin to your segmented, niched-down audience.
This post succinctly showcases the nature of questions you have to ask your audience in a survey to create those niches. Check it out if you missed it!
If you’ve already segmented your audience a time or two before, I recommend that your audience data be six months or newer. If it’s been longer than that, survey your audience again. A lot can change in six months!
Take notes as your sponsorship prospect explains their various audience segments to you. Make sure you’re listening rather than thinking of how you’ll respond.
You might not know quite yet where–if anywhere–your audience fits into your prospect’s target audience, and that’s okay. After the meeting, you can always go back to the office and compare data.
That said, if you’re aware of an obvious match between the sponsor’s target audience and your audience, make sure you say something during the meeting!
Not to sound like a broken record here (although I may), but your most valuable asset in any sponsorship program is your audience. Sponsors love to hear about alignments between your customers/attendees/delegates and their target audience.
2. How Do You Normally Engage in Sponsorship?
This may be your first rodeo, so to speak, but the prospect likely has a lot of sponsorship experience under their belt. Perhaps they’ve even worked with companies sized like yours or in the same industry.
If so, that’s great, but that kind of ultra-tailored experience isn’t necessary. It’s just nice to have.
As the prospect explains their sponsorship process, compare it to yours if you’ve had a sponsorship program in the past. If not, then think about how you would go about sponsorship.
Does the prospect’s process match yours? Or is it close enough?
Sponsorship can mean many things depending on the working partnership. To some, promotions matter most, and to other sponsorship seekers, it’s all about the Benjamins. What a sponsor wants out of the deal is important too.
If there’s very little alignment in how you define sponsorship and how the prospect defines it, then you two could butt heads at every turn. This will not make for a very harmonious working relationship, which reduces your chances of seeking sponsorship renewal.
3. What Does Your Target Market Value?
Psychographic questions are among the most important in an audience survey, as that’s how you tease out your audience’s interests, brand loyalty, and motivations.
You need to dig a little into psychographics with your prospect’s target audience as well.
What kind of brands does their audience read, drive, sleep, eat, drink, work, play, and use? What events do they attend? What’s their preferred airline? Which bank do they trust to safeguard their money?
This information indicates what the prospect’s target audience finds the most valuable.
For example, if most of the prospect’s target audience banks with JPMorgan-Chase, this tells you the audience values variety since JPMorgan offers many types of credit cards and loans.
You can also glean that your prospect’s target audience cares about traditionalism and maybe following the pack, too. After all, JPMorgan Chase is the biggest bank in the United States.
Knowing what the prospect’s target audience values is infinitely useful to you as a sponsorship seeker. You can use this information to inform your activation ideas and even the assets you sell to the sponsor.
4. What Can You Tell Me About Your Sales Goals for the Coming Year?
A rookie mistake that first-time sponsorship seekers tend to make a lot is assuming their sponsors are walking ATMs. They aren’t. The sponsor company is comprised of real people with real lives like you and me.
Their company has financial goals to meet per month or per quarter. Depending on how your prospect answers the question of what their company’s sales goals are for the year ahead, you can get a better idea of what the prospect can offer you financially.
Maybe the company is trying to downsize, which is bad news for you. Perhaps they’re trying to break even this year, which also isn’t very promising.
Even if the prospect’s projected sales goals for the year seem positive, that doesn’t always mean the company can allocate funds towards your sponsorship goals. It’s not the sole decision of the company representative you’re talking to unless they happen to own the company.
The rep might agree to sponsor you, but if someone overhead them nixes the idea, then that’s it, there’s nothing you can do right now.
I never recommend pestering a prospect about sponsorship. If it’s not to be right now, then so be it.
Don’t torch the bridge either, though. Maintain friendly contact once or twice per year and you never know, something could work out another time.
5. What Would You Consider to Be the Most Important Elements of a Sponsorship Package?
When it comes to putting together a sponsorship package–which includes your assets menu–sponsorship seekers can make some critical mistakes. This is certainly a common area to get tripped up, as the sponsorship package is a tricky part of the sponsorship proposal.
Sometimes, sponsorship seekers create what they assume is a really good asset, and they aren’t willing to budge on its price even though the asset isn’t that valuable.
In other instances, the way the assets are categorized is all wrong, especially if you’re still beating the dead horse that is gold, silver, bronze sponsorship tiers.
The best sponsorship packages are those that are customized with the sponsor. You’re asking for their involvement and their feedback. More so than just asking, you implement the feedback they offer to make your sponsorship package even better.
When meeting with a sponsorship prospect for a discovery session, you get one chance to ask the right questions. The 5 questions I outlined today focus on pertinent areas such as the sponsor’s target audience, their company’s sales goals, and what the prospect looks for in a comprehensive sponsorship package.
Asking these questions does not always guarantee a sponsorship arrangement. That’s not the point. You’re merely getting the important questions out of the way now to see if you can help the sponsor.
That’s much better than agreeing to a deal, putting it in writing and making it legal, and then finding out too late that you can’t meet the objectives the sponsor requires.
Go into a discovery session with open ears, and don’t make it too much about money. Good luck!
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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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