Over the last few months, I’ve had discussions with many companies to determine if there’s a good fit between them and the sponsorship properties that our firm represents. This intense period of sponsor solicitation has strengthened my resolve that you need to have “real” conversations with “real” people to effectively market your sponsorship program. Here’s a few reasons why:
1. Almost every time I think I know what a company wants, I’m wrong. Beneath the high-level layer of visibility, branding and customer acquisition that all companies want, there is a deeper level of business challenges that represents the real “pain” that a company may be experiencing. This is a layer that you will never find on a company web site, annual report or Facebook page. For example:
- A sports retailer that is more concerned about building traffic for a new store than promoting their brand to a much broader market;
- A credit union that needs to broaden their market and/or products because many of their traditional customers are retiring;
- A developer that wants to communicate their unique value proposition so that their audience understands how they are different from the competition.
These are all issues that you need to uncover before you propose any kind of sponsorship if you want to be taken seriously by a prospect.
2. We need to educate our prospects about the value of sponsorship marketing. There are a lot of preconceived notions about sponsorship as a marketing tool, many of them negative. Most companies who are not actively involved in the sponsorship marketing discipline view sponsorship more as a “donation” than a legitimate marketing exercise. This has been brought on by years of selling “banners and logos” as the primary value proposition for sponsorship investment. And in today’s tight economy, companies don’t have time (or the resources) for weak-kneed sponsorship proposals that promise more “brand awareness”. As a result, we need to spend time educating prospects about how an effective sponsorship can help solve real business problems.
3. Many companies know their “pain”, but don’t know how to make it go away. Many companies (especially SME’s) do not take a strategic approach towards solving their business issues and if they don’t know what they want, how can you possibly solve their problem? So, a big part of selling a sponsorship opportunity revolves around understanding the issues at play and if there’s a fit, offering concrete ways to help solve these challenges. In order to be effective at this, you need to have a good understanding of marketing so that you can establish yourself as a credible solutions provider.
4. Without trust, there is no communication. In order to have meaningful conversations, a level of trust needs to be established. This cannot be done by completing an online application or sending an e-mail – it can only happen when you realize that pitching a sponsorship opportunity is not all about you; it’s all about them. The only way to really effectively establish this level of communication is by taking a sincere approach towards understanding their world and how you can help make it a better place with a timely, relevant sponsorship solution.
The bottom line – to be effective at marketing your sponsorship program, you need to be a good listener, not a good talker. Sure, the final pitch is important, but without the proper content, you’re wasting their time, and yours.