It's a new year and an excellent time to consider your sponsorship operation anew. Here are 13 practices by both corporations and sponsorship sellers that are a good place to start. Time to let these dated, ineffective behaviors or operations go.
Suggestions for corporate sponsors.
- Online forms. The conundrum is that you receive tons of proposals that don't begin to meet your objectives. I get it. My company receives enough off-the-mark sponsorship proposals to make the extrapolation easy. But here's the thing: you're turning away good opportunities and the potential for meaningful relationships with organizations that won't waste their time.
- Logo + cash only ≠ sponsorship results. The key characteristic of corporate sponsorship is the experiential opportunity it offers your product, service, and/or brand. Failing to take advantage of this attribute wastes money and will not generate results. It's the equivalent of buying a TV schedule and not sending the station the spot.
- Poor relationship management. Many factors contribute to successful and enduring sponsorships. Trusting relationships is key among these factors. Participate in these relationships, even when the situation is rocky. Need to make changes? Say so. Facing budget or strategic changes? Say so. Not getting what you need from your partner? Say so.
- Devaluing the qualitative. Sponsorship is a qualitative medium. This is old news. Every person writing about sponsorship has written this since the beginning of (sponsorship) time. It's what makes sponsorship valuable. Don't confuse qualitative with no results. How do you put numbers around improving relationships with key clients?
- Nonprofits don't do your dirty work. While it's true that partnering with a nonprofit can have numerous image-enhancing benefits, turning around your tarnished image is not the sector's job. I'll never forget the look on the face of a young development officer at an organization that preserves Pennsylvania farmland when she asked me whether she should build a relationship with a real estate developer that was persuing her. She was relieved when I recommended she explore the developer's motives and to feel free to say, "No, thank you," if they were not aligned with her organization's.
- Fads and the faded. Can 2013 please be the year that the gold rush of crowdsourced funding (fad) and every company thinking they'll celebrate their women customers by sticking a pink ribbon on their products (faded) ends? Thanks.
Suggestions for sponsorship sellers.
- Gold, Silver, Bronze, and other generic levels. Generic sponsorship packages are all about you and not your partner. That means they're not designed to get results, and you're leaving money on the table. Lots of it.
- Blanket mailings. Blasting an email or letter with a generic sponsorship proposal is the opposite of how to sell sponsorship. Focus on building relationships. Focus on results. You'll see your own results. I promise.
- Poor sales techniques. Being successful selling sponsorship is about two key areas: (1) being creative and strategic in your recommendations to sponsors and (2) having excellent business development skills. If you're not constantly honing these two areas, others will outperform you and your organization.
- Entitlement attitude. This suggestion is for the nonprofit sellers. Yes, the nonprofit sector provides immence value to our communities — services that neither the business nor government sector is willing or able to provide. However, this important role does not entitle your organization to expect dollars and donations automatically. You're competing in a marketplace. Provide value. Deliver results. Be a great partner.
- Plan with enough time. Sponsorship development requires 9 to 12 months and longer for a new event or if you're new to sponsorship. Relieve your stress and build that time into your schedule.
- Poor structure. As noted above in #3, you need a healthy dose of creativity and strategy to make sponsorship work for your partner's organization and yours. Are your sponsors really engaged in your events? Are they shouting from the rooftops that they're part of your event or initiative? If not, one reason might be that you've not structured your arrangement well for you.
Suggestions for corporations and sponsorship sellers.
- Conflating corporate sponsorship and philanthropy. Folks, these are two separate functions. If you're contributing dollars to a nonprofit, don't expect marketing and sales results. If a for-profit event is calling you about a sponsorship opportunity, don't forward them to your philanthropy office. Nonprofits, be clear which support you're looking for so you have the right discussion with the right people and ask for and propose the best ideas.
Out with the old.
Happy New Year! I hope 2013 is an amazing year for your sponsorship results.