This article is part of the Meeting the Needs Series that is designed to help chamber professionals meet the individual needs of certain market segments. See the footer of this article for a list of posts in this series.
Advertisers and sponsors are incredibly important to chamber happenings and events. Without them, smaller budgets would limit an awful lot of the programming. That’s why chamber professionals are well aware of their importance but how to attract them and hold onto them can be a completely different challenge.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- how to identify and market to an ideal advertiser and sponsor
- what they need from your chamber
- how to get more from each advertiser and sponsor while ensuring their needs are met as well
How to Find an Ideal Sponsor or Advertiser
For as much as chambers may rely on sponsors and advertisers to help them stretch their budgets, it’s important to understand that not every company willing to sign a check over to you is a good fit.
What? Am I really suggesting you turn away money?
Perhaps. Here’s why…
Most companies give the chamber money or sponsor its events because they’re hoping to get more customers out of it. If their ideal customer is not represented in your chamber membership, pass on their money. If you don’t, you run the risk of them being dissatisfied with their investment. You’ll land that sponsorship for a year and they’ll be gone.
If they are exceptionally disappointed in their ROI, they may even tell their business friends and you could lose out on additional sponsors, even those who could be a good fit for your demographic.
Chances are most potential sponsors are a good fit and you will be accepting their money. But before you do make sure you are clear on what they’re hoping to achieve through the sponsorship or advertising and who they’re trying to appeal to. Make sure you can help them do both.
There’s only one reason to take money from sponsors if you can’t provide access to their ideal customer. If their goal is to improve their community reputation, you can likely help regardless of their demographic. For instance, one company in a small town was faced with the difficult decision of laying about a hundred people off. This was a big deal in a small town and the company’s reputation quickly soured. They had to do something.
When they laid the employees off it was in the hopes of keeping from closing the doors entirely. It was the lesser of two evils. However, many local families boycotted doing business with them out of loyalty to those who lost their jobs. The company had to act quickly or they would’ve gone under.
They worked with the local chamber of commerce to pay for naming rights of a beloved festival. This investment allowed them to tie their name to a community event that everyone loved. It showed the community that the company really did care and they used their involvement with the festival as a platform to convey their message that they hoped to one day come back from the difficult financial time and rehire those they had to let go.
Most of the time you want a sponsor who is interested in your membership or event demographic but occasionally a sponsor just wants a second chance to make a good impression.
How to Find an Ideal Sponsor or Advertiser
- Cull your member data and put together marketing collateral materials about your average member. Then look for companies that will want to get in front of that demographic.
- Analyze your event data. What type of non-members attend your event? Sometimes a particular event attracts a crowd that other chamber networking events don’t. For instance, maybe your average member is a middle-aged, white male, business owner but the person who comes to your Christmas Parade is a twenty-something female with 2.6 kids. Make a list of what companies market to that demographic and approach them for that event, not a generic chamber sponsorship.
- Think about what your members (or attendees) need. Have they been asking for certain services recently? If so, go directly to companies that sell that service or product and tell them about the inquiries and suggest a sponsorship that will position them well in front of that warm demographic.
- Locate the decision maker. If you’re approaching a non-member, make sure you speak with the decision maker on the sponsorship. If decisions like this come from a national level, find that out early on to save yourself the time.
- Look at your sponsorship list. Pull out those who have been the most successful. Look for companies like them. While you don’t want to offer the same type of sponsorship to their competition, you could find other events or ways to work with them that would ensure participation of both groups. Can’t very well say no when your competition is seeing a lot of success from the investment.
6 Critical Things To Do Once You Have a Meeting with a Sponsorship Decision Maker
Now that you know who the decision maker is, arrange for a meeting with them to discuss your mutually beneficial proposal. Remember, you want to keep this focused on what’s in it for them.
Never approach a key decision maker with a casual “we can do anything you want.” While that sounds nice, it places the work on them to come up with something that will help them shine. No one knows the event better than you so you should always present possibilities first. You can always compromise later if they have an idea they want to try.
Get Your Data Together
Take your data to the decision maker. If you have data from a similar business that sponsored a past event, bring that too. Here’s what you should be compiling:
- attendance numbers and growth each year
- attendee demographics
- vendor partner information. Who’s in attendance as far as vendors and other sponsors are concerned?
- past social media share numbers and examples (especially if someone posted about a sponsor)
Perfect (aka Personalize) the Elevator Pitch
Make an appointment and give them your pitch. Be brief. Respect their time. Get to the data and share the potential ROI using other companies as case studies. Present testimonials from past sponsors, if available. Help them understand why they should be a sponsor or advertiser and how it will benefit them.
Tie the sponsorship or advertising opportunity in with their company mission or goals. A lot of companies post their goals and mission on their website. Do your research ahead of time to see what’s important to them and use those things in your approach.
Suggest Something Amazing
If you’ve done your research, you likely have some inkling as to what is important to their company. Hopefully, you’ve stumbled across a vision statement or something that illustrates what guides their company.
If that’s the case, think about the company mission and how you can customize a sponsorship that is in line with their company mission or guiding principle. Company mission often trumps the ideal demographic. For instance, a company dedicated to working with non-profits to end childhood obesity may want to hear more about a children’s 5K race but would likely not want to sponsor a pie-eating contest.
Make sure whatever you are asking of them is on target with the kind of company they want to be. After all, a brand is a promise to the customer. Don’t ask them to sponsor something that’s not in line with their brand no matter how perfect the demographic fit may be.
Experiential marketing is a huge trend right now for many event planners. Chambers have been hesitant to embrace it because most see it as cost prohibitive. However, with a sponsorship or advertising money, creating a memorable experience for your attendees or members can be a way to get people talking about you and your sponsor.
Ask the company what they’ve always wanted to do from a marketing perspective and then be ready to use that information to create a customized sponsorship package proposal just for them.
But don’t rely on this for your only success. Some companies don’t have the time to consider what they want to do or they don’t recognize it until they see it. Use what you know about them to come up with some exciting suggestions.
Have a List
Always lead with the customized opportunities but note that creativity is not for everyone. Some businesses just want tried-and-true results. In those situations, make sure you present a list of successful past sponsorships.
Finally, explain to the person what your retention rate of sponsors is (if it’s good). Let them know what your policy is for increasing sponsorships in future years. Some chambers give continuing sponsors first choice of available sponsorships each year. Let them know that this opportunity is a coveted one but that once they become a sponsor, they are guaranteed a spot next year. Speak to selling out and build exclusivity wherever possible.
Add a deadline for a decision in order to drive action.
If you want to be more successful in your chamber sponsorships, ensure that your data supports the sponsor you’re bringing on. You want this to be a mutually-beneficial arrangement. If it’s not, they won’t be back and that means more work for you in the long run as you’ll be recruiting annually for a big part of your sponsorship money.
Want to know more about how to succeed in chamber sponsorships? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Chamber Sponsorships.
Wondering how to meet the needs of young professionals, sponsors, family businesses? Take a look at other articles in our Meeting the Needs Series.