As meeting professionals, we add value by taking care of everything clients need to host successful events. Did you know that can also include finding sponsors?
Why events need sponsors
We know that B2B and B2C events need sponsors for the money and influence: recognizable names lend legitimacy to an event and encourage registrations. If you increase sponsorship for your event, your miracle-worker status will rise even higher in your client’s eyes.
What sponsors need from events
Sponsorship is expensive so most businesses won’t sponsor irrelevant events that don’t provide a good return. An organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, will sponsor an event when their own business interests intersect with the interests of the main audience attending the event. When this happens, the likelihood of a good return-on-investment—through future business deals—increases.
What you need to know about potential sponsors
As a sponsorship facilitator, you must put your CFO hat on and think about what great return on investment (ROI) means for a sponsor. Research questions like:
- What does this business need?
- What’s the management team’s main priority right now?
- What does successful sponsorship look like?
- How can the sponsorship being proposed help meet those needs?
Where sponsor leads come from
But before you can do all that, you need some leads. Sponsorship prospects aren’t always found in the usual suspects like warm leads (i.e., existing partnerships with businesses or member associations, or past event sponsors).
Cold leads come from doing your homework about the event you’re planning, the industry it’s in and the opportunities that the event brings. Cold calling isn’t for the faint of heart but you warm up your leads by presenting an irresistible offer to a sponsorship decision-maker. If you do your homework, your pitch will work because you’ve shown how sponsorship is a can’t-miss business decision.
Success means the freedom to act
When you’re hired to find sponsorships for your client’s event, you must educate your client about how you’ll achieve success and the leeway you need to do so.
Sponsorship success happens when you have the freedom to act quickly and decisively on behalf of your client. You’ll need this leeway to negotiate effectively with prospects who are considering sponsorship but want something different than the offer being suggested. For example, when you have your prospect on the phone and ask what would get them to the (sponsorship) table, you must have the authority to act on this information. When you can do that, you’re far more likely to get a yes, right then and there.
Your job is keeping your prospective sponsors happy and you do that by:
- Developing a range of sponsorship options (and staying flexible).
- Changing the offer if you aren’t seeing the results you hoped for. Don’t be afraid of abandoning options that aren’t working.
- Grinding the needle until you get to an optimal position for your client and the sponsor.
- Thinking on your feet! You might have someone on the phone interested in a scenario you haven’t thought of and this moment requires creativity.
Engaging the decision-maker for success
Skilled independent planners know how to quickly access the decision-maker because we’ve learned that negotiation scenarios work best when this happens. Otherwise getting to a YES outcome is diluted by a strong possibility of NO. Decisions are often made quickly during these conversations…so talk to the right person.
Lessons learned about bringing sponsorship deals to the table
Success comes from learning and here are my top sponsorship lessons:
- A sponsorship might be a one-hit wonder and it’s up to you to learn from it. Are they testing the sector’s waters? Was it a wrong fit?
- The buying process for sponsors is about business engagement. When there’s engagement—which you create with preparation—the deal is clinched.
- The rules in this article apply to any industry sector and when you also know the broad-stroke issues facing the sector, you build a stronger base to negotiate from and increase the likelihood of success.
And finally, if you do it all right, businesses will come to you and ask to be a sponsor!
Meeting professionals are indispensable and, as an independent planner, you can add even more value by offering sponsorship sales to your suite of services.
CanSPEP member Rita Molinari is a Certified Meeting Professional with 20+ years of experience bringing people together to form successful business partnerships. Connect with Rita at www.linkedin.com/in/ritamolinari or 416-358-5207. The Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP) is a dynamic, diverse and innovative society of independent event professionals with a leading national voice in the event industry. It is the only association in Canada that offers an exclusive membership to independent event planner entrepreneurs. Formed in 1996, CanSPEP provides forums in which members exchange ideas, develop skills through educational programs and create a public awareness around the profession of event planners.