You have an event and want to get sponsorships for it. But where do you start? What do you do if you don’t have any existing sponsor relationships? As someone who’s landed more than 2,000 sponsorships for multiple projects over the years, I’ve found there is no magic bullet or list of secret tactics for getting sponsorships. It really comes down to two things: preparation and effort.
> Start with a good value proposition. Many people don’t build a good value proposition, even though it’s the summation of your event or project. Most event organizers will describe their events too simply, without enough description to entice potential sponsors. Here’s a classic mistake people make when explaining their event to sponsors:
The wrong way: We host a marketing event.
While short and sweet might make sense, it doesn’t give a sponsor any idea of whom they’re reaching at your event or why your event is the right fit for their sponsorship dollars.
The right way: Our event focuses on teaching marketing managers, marketing coordinators and CMOs how to do marketing more efficiently and with better results.
Describing your event using this type of language will help a sponsor understand if their products will reach the audience or demographic they want to reach. To build a great value proposition, answer these six questions about your event:
1. What is the mission of the event you are trying to get sponsors for?
2. What are the demographics?
3. What is your audience size?
4. What benefit does a sponsor get?
5. Is anyone else on board, or has anyone talked about this?
6. How will this help my company?
As you start to engage in conversations with potential sponsors, any questions they have for you should be easy to answer with your new value proposition.
> Where do you find sponsors? There’s a huge asset already at your fingertips—it’s your contact list. And no, I’m not assuming you already have a ton of potential sponsors in your address book. I’m talking about anyone you have an email address for: friends, family, contacts and acquaintances.
Build a spreadsheet with your contacts and send them personalized emails. Don’t ask for sponsorships, but ask for referrals to people they might know who could be a good fit. Use parts of your value proposition to explain what types of sponsors you’re looking for, and make it easy for your contacts to help you. You’ll be shocked by how many sponsors are within your reach simply by asking for referrals or introductions from people who know you.
> Research other events in your industry. What companies do you see sponsoring multiple events in your niche? Visit their websites. Go to their events. If you see companies that sponsor multiple events similar to yours, odds are they’ll be interested in sponsoring your event as well.
> Follow-up emails and calls are extremely important. Whether you’re emailing your personal contacts, following up on a referral from a friend or cold-calling a potential sponsor, you must have a good system for following up. Most people give up after their first attempt at outreach. We live in a world of overstimulation and overscheduling. Follow-up is essential to landing sponsorships, and don’t forget to be creative and put in extra effort.
Remember: Getting sponsorships is a nice way of saying “doing sales.” It’s going to take persistence and constantly tweaking your pitch. Don’t get discouraged if you hear the word “no,” and understand if you put in a part-time effort, you should only expect part-time results.
Jason Zook is an entrepreneur, unconventional marketer, speaker and author of “Creativity For Sale,” a self-published book for which Zook sold $75,000 worth of sponsorships. Find him on Twitter.