Do you know how to get the most from your sponsorships?
If you’re building your “brand,” whether it’s your personal brand or your firm’s, the goal is to raise others’ awareness of you. It’s an opportunity to let them know what you stand for and what space you occupy in the market.
An example here: Jeep might sponsor an outdoor enthusiasts’ conference as a way of saying, “We are the kind of car that outdoor enthusiasts drive. We are your people.” Mercedes, in contrast, would never sponsor such an event, because Mercedes doesn’t match the outdoor enthusiasts’ way of life. Sure, some people who drive Mercedes love being outdoors, and some Jeep drivers don’t, but each company positions itself based on the average driver who might purchase and drive their car. Moreover, note that Jeep’s reason for sponsoring such a conference is to raise attendees’ awareness of the brand, its offerings that might be appealing, and so on — NOT to sell cars during the conference.
Sponsorships can be good avenues for business development, but simply posting a firm name on a tent at a high-priced (or even high-visibility) event is unlikely to accomplish that goal. That flavor of sponsorship will build brand awareness, at most. The article notes that, “Firms are zeroing in on opportunities that allow their attorneys to get out in front of a specific group of potential clients, such as industry conferences.”
And truly, getting in front of potential clients (and referral sources) is the only way that sponsorship can make a real difference toward growing your practice. Passive activities, such as sponsorships in name only or simply posting a profile on a social networking site, may have a place as part of your business development plan. You must not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that those activities (or, more accurately, ways of being present) will in themselves lead to new business. To get new business, you do have to interact with people — or, as the article puts it, get in front of groups of potential clients and/or referral sources.
But “getting in front of a group of potential clients” can mean different things to different people. These are some of the considerations I recommend you evaluate if you’re contemplating taking on a sponsorship:
- Who will be present? Potential clients or referral sources are good; the general public is less likely to produce measurable business results. If the event you’re considering does not primarily attract your ideal clients or referral sources, think twice.
- What recognition will you receive as a sponsor? Will your firm name be on the signage, on the event website, on bags or t-shirts? Will you be mentioned during the event itself?
- What perks will you receive as a sponsor? Look for opportunities to mingle with attendees at sponsored luncheons, coffee breaks, or cocktail parties. You’re more likely to be able to meet selected participants if the sponsored event is not open to all comers. This is where you move from a passive to an active sponsorhip.
- Who will attend from the firm, and what is the strategy for making the most of the opportunity? As usual, without a plan, your efforts are likely to produce little. The strategy will depend on your business development goals, the nature of the event, the attendees, and more, but you must be able to identify at least the basic strategy before you commit to sponsorship.
Sponsorships aren’t dead by any means, but your investment won’t yield good results if you take on random sponsorships without a defined objective and a clear plan to reach that objective. The take-away here: think carefully before you sponsor an event or an organization. Once you commit to a sponsorship, be sure you take the necessary steps to make it a win/win.