Using Objectives to Simplify Your Approach Towards Partners and Sponsors

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.



Moving From Selling Benefits to Selling the “Experience”

With over 160,000 non-profit organizations in Canada, the competition for sponsorship dollars is fierce, with some companies receiving 300-500 proposals a week. And like it or not, the reality is that there could be dozens or even hundreds of organizations offering sponsorship features and benefits similar to your proposal. So the big question is, how do you stand out from the sea of competition?

One of the most powerful approaches you can use is to move away from features and benefits as your key selling point and focus on presenting the “sponsorship experience”. In other words, you want to provide an opportunity for your prospect to see, hear, touch or get a taste of your sponsorship opportunity – to appeal to the emotional “hot buttons”. Here are some quick tips on how you can sell the “experience”:

  • Visual Representation – Use visual images to give your prospect a sense of what it’s like to be part of your audience. If you have a conference, show pictures of your customers listening intently to a speaker or show a crowded trade show floor. If you are running a public event, show your customers participating in one of your signature activities. Where possible, show sponsor profile opportunities in these visual images.
  • Auditory and Customer Emotional Representation – Post an on line video (through your web site or a link to You Tube) that features your event or activity and includes audience testimonials. By demonstrating the customer experience, you are providing the prospect with a clear vision of your product and its importance to your audience.
  • Peer-to-Peer Representation – If you have current sponsors, feature their testimonials in your promotional material. Nothing speaks stronger than a third-party endorsement of your product.
  • Impact Representation – If your organization is dedicated to a specific cause, use case studies and statistics to demonstrate the results that are achieved through sponsored initiatives. This provides a clear vision of the good work that a sponsor can be a part of through their involvement with your organization.
  • Creative Representation – Brainstorm for other creative ways you can demonstrate your sponsorship product or brand through one of the senses. For example, if you are an environmental group that is involved in planting trees, include a seedling with your proposal that includes a quote from a community member that benefited from your program (don’t try this on line).

The bottom line is that by focusing on the “sponsorship experience”, you can move beyond logos and other unpersonalized benefits to an emotional level where the prospect begins to visualize themselves as a willing participant. And once you make a connection at this level, the rest is a matter of details.



Adding Value To Sponsorship Proposals

As part of my Designing and Selling Your Sponsorship Program workshop series, I offer 30-minutes of free consultation within 30 days of each workshop. One of the most common questions I get asked in these post-workshop consultations is “How do I add value to my sponsorship packages / proposals”?

The answer is quite simple – you add value by providing benefits that are aligned with the prospect’s (potential sponsor’s) business objectives.

There are a number of ways to do this. The first is to ask yourself, “If I was in my prospect’s shoes, what would I think is valuable in a sponsorship? (hint#1: I’ll bet it’s not just logo-type benefits) and in the same breath, If this was my money, would I get excited about the sponsorship proposal that I have in front of me”? (hint#2: probably not, if it’s just logo-type benefits). If you can’t answer the first question and/or answer No (be honest now) to the second question, you need to do some more homework.

The second way is to take the time to research the prospect’s current sponsorship projects or marketing thrusts to see what they are currently involved in. Thanks to technology, most of this can be done on line. While it may be somewhat dated (what’s been done or what they are currently involved with vs what’s coming down the road), this research will provide you with insight about the kinds of things that are important to them.

A third and even more obvious way is to ask the prospect what’s important to them before submitting a proposal. Not only will you get a sense if what you’re offering as benefits is of any interest to them, you’ll also be sending a clear message that you are also interested in their success, not just your own.

Later, BC