The Sponsorship Marketing Funnel
Have you ever heard of marketing funnels? What about sales funnels?
The purpose of these funnels is to create a reliable means of following along with the customer journey, or the steps that a lead takes to become a customer.
Well, in the case of sponsorship, it’s about the assets you apply at each step to help leads become a customer.
If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about just yet, I promise you that you will by the time you’re done reading. Check it out!
What Is a Marketing Funnel, Anyway?
It will help you better understand all the aspects of a sponsorship marketing funnel if I first explain how a marketing funnel in general works.
The marketing or sales funnel is part of the sales process. The funnel describes the start of a lead’s journey until they convert into a customer.
It’s called a funnel because most leads start at the widest part (the first part of the funnel) while only some converted customers make it all the way to the end, which is the narrowest part of the funnel.
Most marketing funnels are divided into four stages or steps, although some are more complex than that. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll just focus on four stages. They are as follows.
The first stage of the marketing funnel is awareness. A lead has seen your advertisements, be those on social media, email, around the Internet, or even through a radio or television ad.
This lead hadn’t heard of you before, but now they know who you are. That’s really about it to this stage, as the lead is nowhere near ready to make a purchasing decision.
The next stage of the marketing sales funnel is interest. At this stage, you’re trying to build interest in your products and services to get your lead in the mood to buy.
You’ll do this by adding opt-in forms to your website and using lead magnets to get the lead to sign up for your email newsletter.
From there, you can begin nurturing the lead, aka building a professional relationship with them by engaging with them through the content you send.
You’re not trying to close a sales deal yet, but only build up the lead’s interest in your products/services.
You’re educating them fully so they have all the information they need to make a purchasing decision on their own when the time is right.
Now that the lead has all the information they require for that purchasing decision, it’s up to them to take some time to mull things over.
They’ll consider factors like the cost of your product or service and how much they really need it.
If you took the time to segment your audience based on criteria such as pain points, then there should be a clear need that the lead has that your product or service can fulfill.
Once the lead has had some time to think it over, one of two things will happen.
The lead will either exit the marketing funnel without having made a purchase, causing you to lose them (for now, there’s always retargeting later) or they’ll make a purchasing decision.
Once the lead buys your product or service, they’re considered a customer, so the conversion process happened successfully.
Then the goal is to get your new customer to make repeat purchases and become more loyal to your company.
So What’s a Sponsorship Marketing Funnel?
Okay, so now that you have a clearer idea of what a marketing funnel in general is, we can take that information and apply it to the sponsorship sphere.
I’m sure you’re wondering how, but it will all make sense shortly.
First, a caveat. The stages of a traditional marketing funnel and a sponsorship marketing funnel are not different. It’s how you apply your assets that makes the two funnels different.
Sponsorship Marketing Funnel Phase One – Awareness
Remember, the first stage is only about building awareness.
Think of what kinds of assets you can provide to your sponsor to help them achieve more product and service awareness.
Well, logo placement, although not very valuable, would achieve the objective. This is one of those rare times I’ll let it slide.
If you have a large following on social media, then you could post about the sponsor on social media. You could even thank them during a speech at the beginning of your event.
Now, if you know me and you’ve read this blog before, then I know what you’re thinking. Don’t these sound like the exact kinds of things that I tell you not to offer to sponsors? Ding-ding, you’re right!
I tend to vilify these assets a lot because many sponsorship seekers think those are the best assets they can come up period. That’s definitely not the case. As you’re going to see throughout the rest of this article, there are far better out there.
For building awareness, these assets are fine. Just know that even though they get the job done, they’re still not worth very much.
These assets are like that fast food craving you have from time to time. You spend $5 and the food hits the spot, but it wasn’t very nutritious. You could have done better, but in this case, it sufficed.
Sponsorship Marketing Funnel Phase Two – Interest
Next, it’s time to think about what kinds of assets you could offer a sponsor to build interest among an audience in their products and services.
Don’t just use any general audience but your audience.
Let’s say your prospect is a car dealership. What would it take to get your audience to care about this dealership and its vehicle inventory in particular?
It’s going to take a whole new set of assets to get your audience engaged. One such asset you could put on the table is sampling.
Samples products are usually quite simple, be that food samples, beverage samples, perfume samples, the whole nine.
In that same vein, you can also offer trials. A free or limited trial of a product or service is a great way for your audience to try it out before they commit.
At the very least, you can redirect your audience to the sponsor’s website. They’re already aware of the sponsor by now, so if the sponsor’s site is designed to convert, then they will build their audience even with an indirect asset like this one.
With these assets, you still haven’t generated any sales for the sponsor, which means you’re still pretty far removed from ROI. However, you are moving leads down the funnel, and that does count for quite a lot!
It’s for that reason that interest assets are more valuable and thus worth more than awareness assets. They’re not the highest-valued assets by far though.
Sponsorship Marketing Funnel Phase Three – Desire
The third group of assets according to the sponsorship marketing funnel is designed to kindle your audience’s desire.
For instance, going back to our example of a sponsor who sells cars, one of the easiest ways to get someone interested in a car is by offering a free test drive.
If not that, then you want to inspire them to come down to a car lot or a store, in the case of sponsors who sell something besides cars.
Desire is more than awareness and it’s even more than interest. It’s about directly inspiring them to make a purchasing decision.
You’re kind of holding the keys to the kingdom here with these assets. Depending on how you frame the sponsor’s products or services, your audience will either decide to buy the sponsor’s products or services or they won’t.
As you can imagine, desire assets are more valuable than interest assets and far more valuable than awareness assets. However, there is still one more group of assets worth more.
Sponsorship Marketing Funnel Phase Four – Action
I call the last stage of the sponsorship funnel action rather than purchasing decision because an audience member isn’t always buying something.
Perhaps they choose to donate their money or sign up for a trial product. Whatever the outcome is, they’ve taken action. It’s still a decision, but a decision of a broader nature.
Of course, making a purchasing decision is its own form of taking action and the outcome that most sponsors will find advantageous.
By the time one of your audience members decides to buy, then you’ve guided them through the entire sponsorship sales funnel with your assets.
Now you’re driving ROI for the sponsor, and that in turn will drive more ROI for you.
Sponsors will be happy to pay you more generously for your assets, and they’ll often want to work together with you again for another year (perhaps even several years!) because you delivered such optimal results for them.
Putting It All Together
It’s not as easy as limiting the number of awareness assets you provide to a sponsor and jumping right to the action assets, even though that sounds good.
For one, it’s really hard to come up with action assets that will lead to the outcome you want, which is why they’re so valuable.
More so than that, a sponsor doesn’t usually want all action assets. They want your audience and their potential customers to travel through the sponsorship marketing funnel.
The right mix of assets is only something you can determine by having a discovery session with your prospect and asking them what their current challenges and outcomes are.
It really will be a mix, as driving multiple outcomes for a sponsor is always more desirable to them than driving just one.
The sponsorship marketing funnel looks a lot like a standard sales and marketing funnel but uses assets to drive an audience from one stage of the funnel to another.
The assets you offer should be a mix of all four stages of the funnel to guide your audience through the various stages of the sponsorship marketing funnel and inspire them to make a purchasing decision or take another action.
It can be hard work coming up with the right assets and is only achievable by picking a sponsor’s brain during the discovery session!
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.