For organizations and events looking to partner with brands, knowing how to find and secure a sponsor can be tricky. Even if your organization sticks with its outreach to brands through the dozen or so contacts it takes to get a meeting, that’s not a relationship you can put in the win column yet.
If you're in sponsorship sales, Winmo's free ebook, How to Get Sponsorship for Your Event, explains how to navigate key parts of the partnership process. We've broken the discovery meeting out because what you do before you jump on that conference call or walk into their building can make or break whether you secure their support.
What is a discovery meeting
A discovery meeting is exactly what it sounds like. You’ve sent a proposal and someone in your target partner’s brand thinks your organization might be a good fit for their audience. It’s an opportunity for both sides of the deal to express what they need, want and expect to gain from the partnership.
Organizations looking for sponsorship partners usually have a good idea of what they need the brand to provide, but often times they don’t know, or haven’t quantified, what value they’ll provide for the brand. As you become more experienced and confident with sponsorship sales your understanding of what brands need to see in order to sign off on a partnership will grow.
There’s a good chance the person you need to talk to inside the brand has more experience of this negotiation than you do. Even if you’re dealing with a small brand, they probably receive requests for donations of product, time or money at least once a week.
What do organizers need?
As an organizer you’re looking for a confirmation that you’ll get as much or as many of the things on your shopping list. That might be the ever-popular cash-money donation, or it might be something like beverage service, t-shirts, volunteers…anything that’s going to make the event or conference go smoothly. You'll also want to know:
- How the brand will help promote the event.
- What the brand needs from the organizers.
- Timeframes for approvals.
What do sponsors need?
Brands need something very different. Yes, they want your event to go off without a hitch, especially if their name is attached to any part of it, but at the discovery meeting they have a list of questions that need to be answered. For example:
- What makes your audience a good fit for our product?
- What are the benefits to the sponsor?
- What sponsorships are available, and how are they packaged?
- How will audience engagement be measured?
- How will the event be promoted, and to what extent does that include the brand?
- Who will be the point person on each side for questions/logistics?
In addition to those, your homework to make sure the brand understands how serious you are should include:
- What similar events has the brand sponsored in the past?
- What segment of the brand’s audience will your event appeal to, or is the brand trying to get exposure to a new audience?
- Will the brand exposure be limited to the event, or will it be broader/longer term?
- Does the brand have initiatives that line up with your event, and could be incorporated?
- Have you looked at the brand mission, goals and brand image guidelines to make sure the way you’re asking them to use the brand is consistent with their policies?
How you make it a win/win.
Doing your brand homework is a good place to start. If the brand knows you are approaching the partnership in a professional way, it sets the tone for the relationship going forward. As with any negotiation, you should view the discovery meeting as a place for collaboration, not combat. If the sponsor is going to be cutting a big check for you, it’s understandable that they might be interested in more granular details. If they’re offering product or in-kind payment, that needs to be balanced against the event’s needs and the brand’s goals.
Ultimately, both sides need to believe they’re getting what they need from the partnership, otherwise it won’t work for either of you in the long term.