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Understanding Sponsorship Audience Segments

by | August 30, 2021

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If there’s one area of your sponsorship program that I push hard on this blog, it’s audience research. I feel like I have to because having data on your audience is such an integral part of achieving sponsorship sales.

Without knowing who your audience is, you can’t introduce them to your sponsor in an appealing way. 

In my vast sponsorship experience, I’ve found that most of my clients’ audience bases tend to fall into one of three groups, some of which are more valuable than others. In today’s post, I’ll talk further about the importance of audience data, how to get it, and how to classify your audience into one of three groups.

The Top Mistake Sponsorship Seekers Make When It Comes to Audience Data

Outside of not bothering with audience data at all, the biggest mistake I see sponsorship seekers make is this.

They only pay attention to the number of people in their orbit. Whether those are fans, their audience, their database, or even their social media followers, my clients want their audience numbers to be as high as possible.

They believe that by presenting a superbly huge number of audience members to a target sponsor that the sponsor will immediately take interest. 

Yet what usually happens is just the opposite.

Imagine this: you’re part of a sales team and you’ve been tasked with selling perfume. Would you contact all your customers and ask them if they want to buy perfume? No. Of course not, as that’d be ridiculous. 

Instead, you’d segment your audience based on who you think would be interested in perfume.

For example, women mostly use perfume, so you’d focus on your female customers. Then you can segment by factors such as customer loyalty, purchasing history, or income. 

This kind of segmented audience data is what a sponsor wants. If you have 100,000 members of your audience but you didn’t bother to put them into segments or niches, then how could you possibly be sure your audience is a match for the sponsor’s target audience?

Simply put, you can’t.

If you had 10 ultra-segmented audience members but that was it, a sponsor might look at that data more favorably than 100,000 members of the general public. 

The Three Audience Segments – Which Does Yours Fall Into?

Speaking of the general public, now I want to dive deeper into the three audience segments and their various values. 

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B2B Audience

The highest on the food chain, so to speak, is your business-to-business or B2B audience. These are the audience members who make business decisions in their own lives and can access business budgets. They’re high-profile audience members who could significantly boost your sponsorship sales if you get to know this sector well. 

VIP Audience

The audience segment that’s the second-highest up is your upper-middle-class VIP audience. These audience members are wealthier than average. If yours is an organization that takes donations, then you’ll know who these audience members are since they tend to donate quite generously.

If you sell products or services, your VIP audience buys fervently, making them loyal customers to boot.

General Population

The third and final audience segment is your general population. 

I’m reluctant to even call this an audience segment since there’s nothing segmented about them. These leads are not qualified, so they don’t know anything about your business or organization. They’re certainly not ready to make a purchasing decision.

Their interests, needs, and pain points can run the gamut, which means your work is cut out for you if you try to understand this audience group without research. It’s for that reason that I call the general population the least valuable audience segment in sponsorship

Will most of your audience be the general population to start? Yes, but whenever you get a group of these leads, you need to research and categorize them so the general population is your smallest audience segment. It can even be nonexistent, which is the goal!

How to Find and Segment Your Audience

In marketing, there’s a saying that goes “the riches are in the niches.” That applies to sponsorship as well, so how do you locate your audience and then niche them down? I’m so glad you asked, as that’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this section.

Create an Audience Survey

The audience survey remains your best tool in getting to know who your audience is. Before your first survey goes out, your audience is considered the general population. You don’t know much about them and vice-versa, only that there are hundreds or thousands of them. 

So what exactly is an audience survey, you ask? It’s a short survey mailed or emailed to your audience members that will paint a clearer picture of who they are, what kinds of problems they have, and what their needs are. 

For example, you’ll ask basic questions like their age, gender, location, marital status, and whether they have children. You’ll also survey your audience on their occupation and income. Then you’ll move on to the psychographics, which is the truly revealing, meaty information you need.

For example, you can ask why an audience member attended your event or bought your product/service. You can also ask what motivates them to do business with you and what they like about it. Be sure to quiz them on what they don’t like as well. 

You can even include a few questions about your audience’s brand preferences in categories such as travel, telecom, retail, insurance, and automotive. Having this information lets you choose sponsors in the above sectors, as you have customers that could be within their target audience. 

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Incentivize Your Audience

The key is to keep your survey succinct. If it takes an hour to complete it, no one is going to want to do that. Yet you don’t want the audience survey to be so succinct that you don’t get the kind of information you need out of it. Then it’s a waste of your time and your audience’s time as well.

To determine how long it takes to complete the survey, fill it out yourself. When you send the survey to your audience, mention that it will only take seven or 10 minutes of their time (or however long it is). Mention also how easy it is to do the survey, as it’s full of multiple-choice questions. 

Even if the survey is easy, why should anyone in your audience bother? You need to incentivize them to complete the survey. Exclusive discount codes work well, as do freebies if your business or organization can afford to give away free stuff.  

Promote the Survey

You wouldn’t release a product or service without promoting it heavily first, right? Of course not. You’d want many people to know about your new product or service so they’ll be first in line to buy it.

You need to promote your audience survey as well. You can start a drip email campaign where you introduce the survey, talking about how little time it takes to do and what the audience gets for completing it. 

Once the survey goes out, send follow-ups reminding your audience they have X amount of days or weeks to get the survey done. This way, if anyone forgot about it, they could take the time to do it now.  

Send the Survey 

You just sent out your first audience survey. Woohoo! 

I recommend waiting at least a couple of weeks before you begin tabulating the results. You want to give people the time to complete it. Some of your audience members might do the survey as soon as they get it while others are busy, so it could take them a day or a week or even longer. 

That’s why I recommend sending gentle nudges in the form of follow-up emails to remind your audience that there’s still time to complete the survey.

Create Niches

Although not all your audience responded to the survey, enough did that you think you have some really good information here. That’s great, as your next step is to look through each survey response and then categorize your audience. 

This is how you niche down, and remember, the riches are in the niches. 

You can start with broad audience segments such as male versus female or high-income versus middle income versus lower income. Those segments are broad enough that, depending on the size of your audience, you could have hundreds or thousands of people who meet those criteria.

Your goal is to create as narrow an audience as possible. For example, let’s say you start with your male audience. You can segment your male customers by age, location, marital status, purchasing behavior, and occupation. 

Make sure you’re niching down in the criteria you use for segmenting too. For example, you have a male audience segment from Illinois, but Segment A is from Chicago and Segment B is from Peoria. Or, if you’re looking at their occupation and you have a portion of your male audience who are freelancers, then Segment A includes freelance writers and Segment B is freelance web designers.

Present the Audience Data to Your Target Sponsor

As I said before, your target sponsor doesn’t care that you have 15,000 male audience members. They do care that you have 26 male audience members from Chicago who are in their mid-40s, make $100,000 a year, and work in finance. 

Once you have your audience data, then it’s all about looking for a sponsor whose target audience most closely matches yours. 

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Niching down your audience in sponsorship sales is crucial. Although this means that yes, your audience numbers will look smaller, these segmented audience portions are infinitely more interesting to target sponsors than 30,000 general audience members you know nothing about.

If you’re struggling to get your sponsorship program started, I recommend signing up for my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program. You’ll learn how to form real partnerships with sponsors that will boost your sponsorship sales!