Investors, bankers, friends, and family: These are the people we traditionally think of when we need to infuse money into a business. Here's a better way.
The bank declined your loan application. Mom, Dad, and the next-door neighbor don't have money to spare. So how can you fund your business's growth, book publication, or live event?
Meet Linda Hollander, the author of Bags to Riches. Her corporate sponsors have included Microsoft Store, Epson, Citibank, Fed Ex, American Airlines, Bank of America, Staples, Marriott, Wal-Mart, and IBM. That's right. When Linda needed more revenue for her business and events, she sought out corporate sponsors and found that these companies were actually willing to give her money!
"Companies are spending more money on sponsorships each year, even in this economy," says Hollander, who is also CEO of Sponsor Concierge. "They will spend over $18 billion on sponsorships this year alone."
Why are companies doing this? It's simple. According to Hollander, sponsorships are giving them better returns than traditional advertising.
Who and what will corporate sponsors fund? You might be surprised. They will fund small businesses, events, life and business coaches, speakers, authors, entertainers, show hosts, athletes, self-help experts, health-and-wellness practitioners, Internet TV and radio shows, podcasts, online and offline magazines, non-profit charities, and social entrepreneurs. Even if you don't fall into this list, it may be worth taking up public speaking or writing a book to funnel more profits into your business! And it's not incredibly difficult either.
"Call the prospective sponsors and send them a sponsor proposal with the description of your customers, demographics, marketing plan, benefits, mission statement and the sponsor fees," says Hollander. "Follow up with your prospective sponsors, finalize the agreement and collect the sponsor fees. Then repeat the process again for yearly renewals."
Are you ready to explore the idea of sponsorships? Here are Hollander's seven powerful tips for success.
1. Make It About the Sponsor, Not About You
One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they wax rhapsodic about their business, but don't talk how they can benefit their sponsor. Sponsors want you understand their company, marketing campaigns, goals and visions. You can learn this in your initial conversation with the sponsor, on social media or on the sponsor's web site. If your prospective sponsor is a public company, you can order the annual report. When you talk to the sponsor, remember to ask them about their goals first, then go into your presentation and tell them how you can help them accomplish their goals.
2. Be Clear about Your Demographic
In the world of corporate sponsorships, your demographic (also called the target audience) is one of the most valuable assets that you can offer a corporate sponsor. There are various ways to research your demographic. Do an Internet search for statistics on your target demographic. What publications do they read? Order a media kit for these publications and get some great statistics about your demographics.
3. Have a Great Platform
Sponsors want to know that you have extended reach to people who buy things (think Oprah). These could be your clients, people on your email list, your company database, your advisory board and your strategic alliances. Remember if you don't have extended reach to lots of people, then others do. Use the powerful strategies of borrowed credibility, media, and joint ventures.
4. Have Cause-Related Marketing Opportunities
Cause-related marketing is a sales or promotional partnership between the sponsor and a property helping the community. People buy more from companies that give back to the community, so the sponsor wants to be known as a good corporate citizen.
By aligning their brand with the life-changing work that you do, sponsors can bask in the "halo effect." So be sure to make this part of your pitch to the potential sponsor, as well.
5. Create a Compelling Sponsor Proposal
The sponsor proposal is the most important, but least-understood, document in the sponsor industry. If you want top-tier sponsors, you need a compelling sponsor proposal. This is basically a business plan--and snapshot of the benefits of your property. It contains the story of your property, mission statement, sponsor benefits, demographics, marketing plan, goals, media opportunities, advisory board, and the sponsor fees.
6. Borrow Experience
Sponsors want experience, but don't worry. If you don't have it, someone else does. Tell the sponsor about your previous experience in a related business. Surround yourself with key influencers on your advisory board. Tell the sponsor about leading-edge companies that you know or have worked with. Get creative to sell the sponsors on your concept.
7. Make Integrity a Part of Your Brand
Sponsors want to see that you have integrity and credibility. They may test you to see if you do what you say. Get them their information on time and arrive early to appointments. Keep in mind that you need to pass their unspoken tests to see if you can handle their brand image.
Sponsorships can be a powerful means to skyrocket your business.
"Sponsors have given me opportunities to grow my business, travel the world, create my own events, do lots of media, and empower more people with my message," says Hollander.
You know you have quality and value to offer your sponsors. Dream big. Now go out and get them!
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka