Feb 27, 2012 at 08:32 PM
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Confessions (and Learnings) of a First-Time Sponsorship Seeker

This is the third installment of a weekly Monday series called Confessions (and Learnings) of a First Time Sponsorship Seeker. Before reading other articles in the series, we'd suggest going back and reading Part I or Part II.

In my previous article I alluded to how my first attempt at wooing a potential sponsor fell way short of the mark.

I created what I thought was a good sponsorship proposal, full of facts and creative marketing ideas; all nicely presented in a printed 12 page color booklet. I was pretty chuffed with myself. Go team.

However, what I failed to grasp were some of the fundamentals when it comes to attracting potential sponsors and connecting with sponsorship managers.

Not being the greatest at cold calling people (I didn't have an existing lead) I decided to skip this phase and go straight into developing the sponsorship proposal.

This was a mistake for a number of reasons. When I did finally get to speak with the sponsorship manger a few weeks after sending in the sponsorship proposal, we had a brief yet interesting discussion which highlighted a number of flaws in my naive sponsorship strategy.

Things I discovered during our conversation...

- She receives at least 50 sponsorship proposals per week. She simply doesn't have the time to look at them all.

- She is responsible for national sponsorship programs. My sponsorship proposal focused on my local state. The suggestion was to contact the local stores directly.

- It was the wrong time of the financial year to be submitting sponsorship proposals. Budgets have already been set and new ideas would be considered later in the year.

- My sponsorship proposal is way too long. It needs to be cut down and concentrate on the facts and value to the sponsor. Less fluff, more stuff.

That was frankly the best 5 minute conversation I could have had. It highlighted how important it is to contact potential sponsors and develop some rapport before you even contemplate submitting a sponsorship proposal.

What I embarked on was a direct marketing campaign to a single recipient. And the response rate for a typical direct marketing campaign is about 1% to 2%. I didn't give myself much of a chance now did I?

Back to the drawing board...

With this experience under my belt I’m determined to approach things very differently. I went back and read chapter 5 (creating a hit list) and chapter 7 (sales process) of The Sponsorship Seekers Toolkit. They talk about finding the right potential sponsors and making contact with them BEFORE you even contemplate creating a sponsorship proposal.

I now realise why this is so important. If you don’t understand or know firsthand what a potential sponsor is looking for, what their marketing strategy is or what they value, then you don’t stand a chance. You'll never stand out in the crowd of all the other sponsorship seekers vying for their attention.

Spend the time doing the proper research up front (especially if it’s outside your comfort zone) and avoid wasting time on sponsorship proposals that will simply never fly.

For my next foray into sponsorship I've created an 8 step plan:

1. Create a hit list of about 20 potential sponsors based upon initial online and offline research.

2. Find out who I should be speaking with from each organisation – try to avoid gate keepers like PAs and receptionists.

3. Attempt to organise a warm lead where possible from my existing network of contacts.

4. Contact each of the potential sponsors by phone and do an initial investigation of the viability. Questions to include:

Am I speaking with the right person? What are the primary sponsorship and marketing objectives? What represents a unique opportunity for the sponsor? What are the lead times for sponsorship proposals?

5. Prepare a 2 page preliminary letter that concentrates on the basics: what, when, why and how. Send this off requesting a meeting.

6. Where successful, organise a face-to-face meeting to discuss opportunities as outlined in the preliminary letter. Solicit feedback etc.

7. If the meeting goes well and they would like more information, prepare a detailed sponsorship proposal incorporating details from the meeting plus budgetary requirements.

8. Meet face-to-face and deliver the detailed sponsorship proposal. And if all goes well celebrate the new partnership and get cracking on the implementation details ;-)

What next?

So now it’s time to put my plan into action and get the hot list of potential sponsors together. Stay tuned for updates on how well my 8 step plan works out and if I have any success in getting to the meeting stage.

Kym Oberauer is the author and head sponsorship seeker at Practical Sponsorship Ideas; dedicated to sharing experiences, tools and resources to help you find, attract and keep your sponsors happy.