I was recently asked, “I think SponServe’s content is great. I especially like your focus on making sponsor relationships and selling the core focus through efficient management. But, how do I actually build and maintain meaningful sponsor relationships?”
This got me thinking and the question forced me to unpack my methods and analyse (we all know how much I love to do that) what key things I do when trying to formulate and build a meaningful relationship with a sponsor.
I ended up with a list of 4 things, that I consciously try and achieve in order to build and maintain a balanced and meaningful relationship which will hopefully create some security, annuity and long-term networks for both the organisation I work for, and myself.
It is imperative that you research your sponsors. Be sure you know what is going on with their business and use tools available to stay up to date.
Some of the things I do are:
- Read their website and related websites (for sponsors who have multiple brands). Get to know what they do, their objectives, their people and their news.
- Follow them on social media, both the company and your key contact(s). Get an idea of what the current issues they are interested in are (what their stance is and thoughts are) and search for some alignment.
- Google Search – Find out what’s being said about them, what their public profile is doing and any announcements about their activity.
- Google Alerts – Free to set-up and delivered daily to your inbox. This way you are always across any news relating to your sponsor and you won’t be caught off-guard when you speak.
This one is a no-brainer but how do you do it effectively?
Balance is the key for me. You need to keep your communication balanced and open and that’s why I focus on 4 methods of communication.
- Email – for ongoing communication, insights and information sharing.
- Telephone – for the regular check-in, to ask questions and to finalize things.
- Face-to-Face – for the less regular but very important catch-ups. These shouldn’t just be delivery related or for updates; sometimes a quick coffee when you are nearby goes a long way!
- Social Media – show an interest in their content; like, share and comment on their posts. Become an advocate!
There is a place and way to use all of these. As you can see, my quick synopsis shows very different uses for each of them but make sure you balance what you speak about.
More Than Just A Transaction
If you really want to build a deep and meaningful relationship with a sponsor, then it needs to be about a lot more than just the transactional stuff. If you can manage the day-to-day delivery of sponsorships in a time-effective and thorough way then you will have the time to dig deeper into the relationship.
I am not speaking about becoming best mates. A deeper relationship is one of mutual respect and understanding which drives towards a common goal of a really successful partnership. How you engage in these non-transactional conversations can be tricky but there are a few things that can help with that.
- Ask questions about them.
- Ask questions about their business.
- Be open and transparent about yourself and your business.
- When talking business, be specific and also investigate how you can help to make it work better.
Nothing annoys me more than when I see someone trying to act how they think another person expects them to act. In my experience, respect does not come from your appearance and presentation (granted you need to be respectable) but rather from your actions and transparency.
There is nothing wrong with being yourself, if you are good at what you do and act respectfully. That’s how you will earn respect with your actions. So how do you do that with a sponsor?
- Be yourself – You don’t want to get caught out acting like a different person to who you normally are. It’s the quickest way I know to lose trust.
- Deliver what you promise.
- Be on time – Respect others’ time because we all know how busy sponsorship managers can get, however, everyone is busy so you need to respect other people’s time.
- Stay professional – Dress respectfully, be your ‘before 10 pm' self and listen rather than talk!
When I am establishing a relationship with a sponsor, I try and stick to a formula, that being:
For every conversation that I want to have with a sponsor which is transactional i.e. talking about their contracted benefits, renewal or payment etc, I try to have 5 other non-transactional interactions with them.
This allows me to provide insightful value and extract valuable intel that will help drive a more mutually beneficial relationship going forward. This point is my secret ingredient and where you can make a real impact towards transitioning your relationship, however, everyone is different and you need to find your own mix and what works best for you and your partners.
Mark Thompson // Director
Mark specializes in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.
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