If you are like most people, you want to save time and simplify your life. One of the simplest things you can do to achieve both is to have a clear plan. When I look at almost any instance in my life (work or otherwise) when I’ve become bogged down, it’s because I’ve been fuzzy about what I want to achieve and conversely, when I have clear objectives or goals, things seem to happen much easier.
Too often, organizations considering strategic partnerships as a means of achieving marketing objectives are not able to articulate the actual outcomes they want to achieve through these collaborative arrangements. This results in a lot of wasted energy at the recruitment, implementation and performance measurement stages.
So, putting aside all the textbook jargon related to setting objectives, here are my basic rules on how you can simplify your approach towards recruiting strategic partners and sponsors.
Start with where you are – in order to develop an effective partnership, you need a clear understanding of the current situation to determine your starting point. Simply stated, you can’t plan a trip without knowing where you are. The same principle applies to a marketing environment. This includes an honest assessment of your current status (in measurable terms) whether it be public take-up on a program or service, percentage of members participating in an event, revenue generated through a specific fundraising activity, etc. A SWOT analysis and competitive analysis are two useful tools to assist you in this exercise.
Determine where you want to be – Once you know where you are, the next step is to set a vision for where you want to be over the short-term and long-term. For example, if there is a high level of awareness for your program or service but not a lot of take-up, you need to understand the barriers to take-up. Based on this analysis, your focus may shift from partnerships that build awareness to those that build audience knowledge or credibility, or move your audience to action. In this instance, another partnership that focuses on awareness will not get you any further towards achieving your goals.
Narrow your list of potential partners – Now that you are clearly focused on what you want to achieve, narrowing your list of potential partners should be much easier. This stage may involve some initial research and/or discussions with potential partners.
Be realistic in what you want to achieve through any partnership – A partnership is not going to solve all of your marketing challenges; rather, they should be viewed as opportunities to fill the gaps in your overall plan. By breaking down what you want to achieve over the long-term into a series of time-specific, manageable steps, you will be able to set clear, measurable objectives that can be tracked and evaluated. For example, the first phase of a new partnership might focus on generating awareness and knowledge about your product, program or service while the second phase might focus on specific activities that move the audience through the causal chain (buying cycle).
What does all this have to do with sponsorships? – The same principles apply to recruiting sponsors, only in reverse. If you can understand what a potential sponsor wants to achieve and arrive at a realistic understanding of how you can specifically help them achieve their objectives, you are on your way to developing a successful sponsorship and long-term relationship. Conversely, if a potential sponsor cannot articulate his/her goals or has an unrealistic view of what the sponsorship can deliver, you are setting yourself up for an unpleasant experience.
So, whether you are recruiting strategic partners or soliciting sponsors, your first priority has to be identifying objectives. Once you take this critical step, you’ll be amazed at how easy the rest of the plan falls into place.