1) Begin developing your prospect lists. The time is now to segment your lists of repeats, potentials and new prospects. My team continues to believe the best, most targeted lists win the day. Unfortunately too many organizations go to the same well over and over then ask where the new partners are. The fact is you haven’t cultivated them. And, once the marketing plan starts it is too late.
2) Your prospectus. Now is the time to start evaluating what that 2017 program looked like and adding some fresh ideas and new premium programs. Introduce new inventory you’ve never offered before, like “naming rights” for a seminar or small program. Release something new every year to keep items fresh. Have you been thru two cycles without a buyer for a particular offer? It needs to be repackaged or replaced.
3) Start strategic conversations with your linchpin sponsors. Here is what I mean: begin with sponsors who’ve signed with you in the past and sell them a new program – the best opportunity. Provide a right of first refusal. Then approach your smaller sponsors – the ones who have engaged before, but not consistently. Next, go to the suppliers in your industry who’ve never sponsored before and promote opportunities. Then go after your associate prospective members who are not a member quite yet and never sponsored. This tiered approach enables you to grow your circles out – starting with the core and then moving outside.
4) Sell the business objectives the sponsor might need rather than the features offered. Instead of selling the coffee break, sell them a networking opportunity with 100 people in your industry. This offering will give them the opportunity to say a few words and introduce themselves to a few key prospects. Keep in mind the business objectives may change over time, and so should the sponsor program for the valued company.
5) Sell all the time. Your sponsorships need availability 365 days a year and leverage all the assets the association has to offer. The single live event is a thing of the past. My guess is you have incredible content and availability – you need to sell from that 365-perspective and look for partnerships that enable you to be successful in this effort. Also consider the sales team in place. Can a meeting planner effectively leverage the program while executing a great event? I’m not sure they have the bandwidth to sell full time. Consider moving sponsorships into a full-time sales department or at the very least – the membership department and have them focus on that sales effort. Again, sales must be ongoing.
6) Pricing is my last point. Pricing is very important and the sponsorship opportunity needs to be set up in correlation with what it’s worth. Consider these: Is it exclusive? Does it provide one-on-one access to members? Is it something that’s never been offered before? What has been the competition in the past for this type of sponsorship? These considerations will determine what the pricing should be rather than your internal costs to execute the sponsorship. This aspect is an essential part of pricing we often forget.
Don’t let the competition lap you here. Follow these 6 planning points and get on the stick.
For additional content on association sponsorship growth, check out The Prospectus Your Sponsors Want to See and Three Reasons Your Sponsorship Program Might Not Be Growing.