You were all-in with that sponsorship. They splashed your company brand all over the cover, put your banners on display, and gave you credit on the radio and online. You even got to address the audience at the podium, and you had a table front-and-center for you and your guests. You were going to be a household name to your target audience, and the phone would ring off the hook.
Not so much.
The phone didn’t ring, and no one was beating your door down. Did you waste your money? If this is your situation, then I can say without reservation, yes, you did, but not for the reason you might think…
You wasted your money not because the sponsorship was a bad idea, but because you weren’t prepared to take on that sponsorship. The fanfare and notoriety was nice, but what was your strategy for making that notoriety pay off? It’s nice to be known, but if you can’t bring it home and feed the kids, what’s it worth?
Spending money on “sponsorships” for things like award ceremonies, non-profit banquets, and community events can be extremely valuable to your brand reputation, but you’ve got to have a plan to convert that exposure to dollars. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen companies sponsor an event, a publication, show, program, or a cause without asking the most important question of all: “How does this help both of us?” Literally millions of dollars have been spent in the last year in my market alone on sponsorships and events, only to leave the sponsor disappointed.
Here’s how to make sure you’re ready to buy that sponsorship:
1. Ask questions: “How does this help us both (buyer and seller)? What avenues do you provide for me to capitalize on this sponsorship three months after the event? Can you share your list of attendees with me? Do you have a plan to introduce me to your major donors, prospects, or decision-makers?”
2. Create a system: Make sure you have your own system in place for networking and follow-up. Pay attention to who shows up and is involved in the event. Find out how to approach them in a professional way afterwards. Be creative, but be professional.
3. Prepare to present: Be ready to meet a prospect. Do you have an impressive introduction piece? I realize web and digital are critical, but they have not replaced the pocket folder, brochure, or a great piece of creative collateral that emblazons your brand into your prospect’s mind. If you don’t have impressive stuff, call me and let’s get it done.
4. Control your message: When you sponsor something, make sure it’s brand appropriate and that you stay in control of your message. Don’t allow the publication or the event coordinator to produce your ads, banners, or other marketing materials without sticking to your quality and brand standards. I almost always insist on producing my clients’ work for these events to keep the quality and brand intact.
Don’t waste your money. Have a plan. Do it on purpose, and follow up. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. One last thing: don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Well, it’s a donation for a good cause, so I don’t need to get anything from it.” If you think like that, eventually you may hurt your profits and be unable to help anyone, including yourself.