The end of the year is an ideal time to reflect on the success of the past 12 months while taking a moment to plan for the future. What strategies worked the best for your design businesses, and what would you like to target for next year? What can you do differently and how can you continue to think outside of the box to continue to grow your business?
Creativity is the key to growing and maintaining your business while differentiating yourself from competitors. One way to seek added reach and revenue is by taking on corporate sponsors. Typically we think of corporate sponsors solely for professional athletes, celebrity endorsements, and professional events. However, corporate sponsors are also willing to sponsor small businesses and social entrepreneurs as an alternative marketing method for them to reach a larger audience.
Know Your Audience
One of the first steps to attracting sponsors is to know your audience and social reach. Run a report on your website using sites such as Google Analytics to understand your demographic. Are they primarily male or female? Are they homeowners or apartment dwellers? What is their age range? What is their household income? The more information you can give to your future sponsor the better chances you have to secure a relationship. Knowing your audience can also help you determine specific companies you want to target for sponsorship opportunities.
The Power of the Media Kit
It is imperative to do your research and understand your goals before reaching out to sponsors. A media press kit is a great way to understand a brand’s corporate mission and glean more insight into your audience’s interests. A media kit is a public relations tool that provides information about a company to reporters. If your audience reads a certain type of publication, then review the media kit for that company to further understand your audience’s interests. If you own a website or a blog consider creating your own media kit to provide to potential sponsors. This will compile all your customer research, site statistics, as well as collaboration options and pricing information into one page. See our resource section below for advice on creating your own media kit.
Harness Social Media Strategies
Once you have a full understanding of your demographics, research companies that provide products and or services that are in alignment with both your audience’s interests and your personal brand. Keep in mind companies want to use your influence and credibility to increase their existing customer base. Social Media and site traffic play a significant role in attracting sponsors. Neil Mackenzie of Universal Furniture, and one of the sponsors of The Chaise Lounge, recommends a social media following of about 10,000 prior to beginning a sponsorship relationship. Keep in mind; this is a recommendation and not a requirement. Often times the relationship is dependent upon what you are trying to get sponsored (event, blog post, speaking engagement, etc.) and how engaged you are with your audience. Work to establish yourself as an influencer and trusted source among your audience and encourage your audience to leave comments, testimonials or other feedback on your site. This will help you appeal to potential sponsors, even if your following count is low. Also, consider looking for joint venture opportunities. Drawing upon the experience of others can help broaden your reach and help you look more attractive to potential sponsors. To further grow your following, consider utilizing media opportunities such as your local news, radio or television to increase your credibility and exposure.
After your research phase is completed it’s time to start contacting your future sponsors. Creating a sponsor proposal will make the process easier along with ensuring your message is clear and concise. Similar to a business plan, the sponsor proposal explains your mission, your brand and how the relationship can be mutually beneficial to both parties. Include your sponsorship fees and terms in the proposal. For example, if your seeking sponsorship for a blog post, set expectations on the number of posts you will publish for a certain amount of time. Neil recommends including information about the current project and its needs along with examples from past projects and social media handles to confirm audience size. Be sure to write a compelling and exciting story about your brand. Companies want to be able to connect with you as a person in the same way your clients and readers do. Make it clear why a company would want to sponsor you while outlining the benefits. Give your contact about a week to respond, and then follow up if you still do not hear from them.
First impressions are crucial and how you make your initial contact can set the tone for your future relationships. Do your homework and research the first and last name of the brand representative you are contacting. Sometimes this can be found in their media kit, or on social media sites such as Twitter or Linked In. Big name brands can get hundreds of emails a day. Having a personal connection is a good first step to breaking through the email clutter. It also shows that you are willing to put the time and effort into fostering long-term relationships.
Remember to stay optimistic when starting off on the sponsorship journey. Different companies have different goals, requirements, and budgets and it can take some time to find a good fit. Stay focused on your goals and continue producing great content, service, and value to your audience.
Surprising Ways to Fund your Business by Marla Tabaka
5 Ways to Get Corporate Sponsorship for Your Small Business by Melinda Emerson
How to Ask a Company to Sponsor You by Wanda Thibodeaux