For many event organizers, potential sponsors are hard to find and even harder to convert. But it doesn’t have to be so difficult. After all, you have something they want: the attention of their target audience.

Follow these five steps to find sponsors for your event, win them over, and building long-lasting relationships that yield sponsorships year after year.

1. Build a list of ideal sponsors

Event sponsors want to reach people who are likely to become loyal customers and strong brand advocates. Use your knowledge of attendees to discover the brands and products they love, then match their interests with potential sponsors. Here’s how to find the right fit.

Find all potential sponsors for your event

To become customers, your attendees have to want the product or service your sponsors sell. Think about the needs of your attendees, list the companies who can meet those needs, and you’ll have a broad range of potential sponsors.

This doesn’t mean you have to stick to the obvious companies. “Let’s say, for example, your event gathers heart surgeons together for an annual summit,” says Chris Baylis, the president and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective “Pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers should be on your list. But what about car dealers? Or mortgage banks?”

Locate the decision maker

Once you’ve listed the companies who could sponsor your event, contact them to ask who makes sponsorship decisions. It may be a marketing or PR manager, a dedicated sponsorship manager, or the owner of the company. Save this information for later but don’t reach out quite yet — you have a little more to do before making your pitch!

Build your list

Organize your list of prospects into a spreadsheet. Include the following columns to help you track sponsor outreach efforts:

  • Company
  • Decision Maker
  • Contact Made
  • Meetings Booked
  • Proposal Submitted
  • Follow-up Meeting
  • Outcome

2. Use data to prove sponsorship value

Companies want a return on their investment. Leverage event data to show who they could reach, how many people they could reach, and the revenue they could generate by sponsoring your event. Be sure to include:

  • Ticket/registration sales: Use attendance records to show how many people a sponsor could reach and how much your event has grown each year.
  • Attendee demographics: Sponsors typically want to know their audience’s age, gender, and location, but you can go even deeper with education level, job title, and income to show purchasing power.
  • Non-attendee demographics: Gather information about vendors and media at your event, especially which audiences they appeal to.
  • Social media actions: Track when, where, and how often your event is mentioned on a website, blog, social network, or news site.

3. Connect with event sponsors

You’ve done the background work to find event sponsors, now it’s time to use it. As you begin to reach out to sponsors, follow these steps to put your best foot forward.

Draft an elevator pitch: Write two to three lines about the type of event you’re organizing, the value to a potential sponsor, and a request for a short meeting. Practice delivering this pitch if you meet a prospect in person.

Connect with prospects: As you approach potential sponsors, your goal is to get a meeting — not close a deal immediately. Connect with sponsors by attending events, interacting on social media, reaching out on LinkedIn, or sending emails.

Follow up kindly: Decision makers are busy, so it’s not a “no” if you haven’t heard back. Show respect for their time by keeping it brief and to the point. Reiterate your value statement and ask to meet.

Meet and listen: Bring your data, but don’t overwhelm by presenting everything. Instead, ask sponsors how they measure success and cherry-pick the information that’s relevant to them. Most importantly, take notes about what they want to customize your proposal.

4. Design your event to attract sponsors

Once a sponsor is interested, it’s time to craft a sponsorship package that reflects both the sponsor and your event’s brands. Work together as you do the following.

Customize your proposal: Sponsorship is a partnership between your event and your sponsors. Use what you’ve learned about their objectives to show how your event can help achieve their goals and justify the spend.

Get them excited: Create an exciting event experience with an experiential marketing campaign. At BottleRock Napa Valley, wineries build out and host areas with hardwood floors, chandeliers, and white leather couches in which their patrons can sit back and sip wines.

“Our winery sponsors really help turn our GA space into what I would consider a VIP experience,” says Jason Scoggins, who manages sponsorships at BottleRock. “Winery sponsors are the perfect fit in terms of our brand and our experience.”

5. Build a long-term relationship

Satisfy the needs of your sponsors so they come back to build exciting experiences attendees love. Use this list to strengthen your relationship with sponsors.

  • Once a proposal has been accepted, make a checklist so that you keep the promises that have been made.
  • Keep your sponsors informed and involved leading up to the event.
  • Stay flexible. If a small adjustment to plans can benefit your sponsor without cost to you, make it with a smile.
  • Be a generous host. If you can extend VIP amenities or other positive experiences to sponsor employees, do it.
  • Share data about the results of sponsoring your event (impressions gained, brand mentions, sales, and leads generated).

With thoughtful research and coordination, you can find event sponsors and keep them coming back for more.

Want to learn more strategies to find sponsors for an event? The 2017 Guide to Event Sponsorship has the top trends and best practices needed to win sponsorship today.

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