Prospecting – Is it really a numbers game, or a lottery?

By Tim Wood and Bruce McKaskill
(Reproduced from the October 15, 2018 issue of The Sponsorship Report)

“Sponsorship is a numbers game. Just pump out the proposals and you’ll eventually find the partners.”

Pearls of wisdom? We think not.

In our opinion this particular piece of advice would certainly rank in the top 10 all time bad strategies for prospecting new partners. Even more concerning is how often we hear this from very senior people.

So let’s set the record straight. Best practice sponsorship is NOT a numbers game. It’s a filtering game. And rightsholders should do most of the filtering before they begin.

In fact, we would say the fewer prospects you approach, the better your chances of success. It is WHO you approach, not how many.

Remember, the default position of sponsors is to say no, simply so they can get on with doing their job. So you are already on the back foot. Throwing proposals around like confetti just makes that ‘no’ a lot easier and faster.

The art of taking your story to market is twofold: targeting and provoking. Here, we’re talking about targeting, and targeting is about preparation or filtering.

When you discover who is most likely to be interested in your story you can then tailor your approach with a creative provocation, but that comes later, so for now let’s stick with targeting.

So, where do you spend your energy?

We have found that the vast majority of rightsholders are short in two key areas:

  1. Time
  2. Quality leads

It’s a dangerous combination because without one you won’t get the other. So you must decide what is the best use of your precious time. Think of the old analogy of the two woodcutters; one spends 80% of the time sharpening his axe, while the other rushes into the woods with a blunt instrument. You know the rest of the story.

When it comes to sponsorship there are a finite number of corporate brands that are interested in partnering with you and you can only approach them so often, perhaps every 2 years. That’s market reality.

So before you go to market and burn a prospect with a poorly-targeted approach, your task is to know exactly who your hot prospects are. Clearly understand who is going to invest time and energy into looking at your opportunity. That’s filtering.

Filtering prior to going to market also enables you to spend more time on fewer prospects. So instead of approaching say 80 or 100 potential prospects over a year, perhaps you approach only 20 or 30 red-hot ones.

But the real bonus is, once you know who is most likely to respond, you can invest more in each individual approach via a creative provocation to ensure you stand out (that’s the second part and a topic for another time).

So the numbers game is really just a lottery with about the same chance of winning your dream outcome.

Instead, we’d suggest you get laser focussed on the brands that matter so you can knock their socks off.

The Fit Sponsorship Academy is led by Tim Wood and Bruce McKaskill, principals of Australia’s Fit Sponsorship Group, a sponsorship sales and consulting agency that has been delivering results for the arts, cultural, community and cause sectors since 1999. 

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