Some sponsors receive dozens of unsolicited proposals a month. Some receive hundreds. Others, thousands. It’s no wonder so many sponsors are overwhelmed by the process of sponsorship proposal assessment. Below, I’ve outlined three things you can do to streamline the process and get a more strategic result.
Receive fewer proposals
“Yeah, right”, I hear you say. “Whaddaya got? A wand?” Let me assure you, you don’t need a wand and it is possible to reduce the number of proposals you get.
If you’re in the situation where there is a nonstop stream of mostly terrible proposals arriving in your inbox, chances are you’re spending way too much time on this first step of assessment. For some sponsorship managers, proposal wrangling makes up 90% of their jobs. Not only is this unnecessary, it’s also a real waste of your limited time, which could be much better spent on strategic work.
(For more on the real role of a best practice sponsorship manager, see this blog.)
Some companies try to reduce the workload on this step by implementing an online submission form. This may automate gatekeeping, but it really doesn’t allow the great opportunities to shine. I don’t recommend it and have a much better alternative: Sponsorship guidelines.
Create a set of sponsorship guidelines that are:
- As open as you can be about your target markets and objectives, without compromising confidentiality.
- Very specific about what you expect of your partners and what is required in a proposal, in order to be considered.
- Flexible enough so that it accommodates many types of sponsorship opportunities, while keeping them within your strategic framework.
- Clear about any exclusions or limitations you may have.
- Realistic about the timeframe you need to approve a sponsorship, and the lead-time you require prior to an event.
- Real contact details, including your name and a direct email address (even a sponsorship@ email address is fine).
For a huge head-start on creating sponsorship guidelines, you can download a sponsorship guidelines template. From there, it should be a matter of maybe an hour to get them very close to perfect, and you can always tweak them going forward. (They don’t have to be perfect to do the job well.)
Now that you have them, you want to make them available through all of the channels where you get enquiries or receive proposals, such as:
- Put a copy on your website, along with a downloadable PDF.
- Include something like this on your voicemail, “Please note, we do not consider proposals that don’t fully comply with our sponsorship guidelines. You can find a copy on www.ourwebsite.com/guidelines.”
- Ensure your switchboard provides the same instructions to anyone calling up to “speak to someone about sponsorship”.
- Also ensure that your senior executives (and their offsiders), as well as your regional managers, have a copy. Often, they will say “yes”, just because they don’t want to say “no”. This gives them an alternative that is better for everyone.
What you will find is that the number of proposals you receive will drop significantly, as anyone who is a bad match or unprepared to do the work will opt out, and the quality of the proposals you receive will be much higher.
Ask the right questions
Even if you’ve reduced the number and increased the quality of proposals you receive, chances are you’ll still have quite a few. The two most common ways of assessing them are based on some kind of scorecard or based on ad hoc criteria (or just gut feel).
While a scorecard is more useful than basing selection on no firm criteria, the process of changing what should be clear answers to strategy-based questions into some arbitrary number is a bit convoluted. My strong preference is to create a set of internal evaluation criteria that, in large part, mirror your external sponsorship guidelines. I advocate a three-part evaluation, asking the right questions and letting the picture paint itself. There is no need for a score if the direction against objectives is clear.
Step 1: The Wringer (as in “put the proposal through the wringer”)
This is all about strategic fit, and includes questions about whether…
- The sponsorship is relevant to any of your key target markets.
- It provides benefits that are leverageable against your overall marketing objectives.
- You have (or can get) buy-in from multiple business units or departments.
- The proposal was prepared in compliance with your sponsorship guidelines (an indication as to how easy the partner will be to deal with).
- The offer contravenes any of your exclusions.
The beauty or failings of most proposals will be crystal clear by the time you get to the end of The Wringer.
Step 2: Feasibility
The next section is about whether you have the lead-time and/or the hours in a day to develop and implement a leverage plan and manage the sponsorship. You also want to consider whether you have the required skill-set in-house, or in the pertinent region, or whether you will need to outsource the implementation of your leverage strategy.
Step 3: Money
The final – not first! – thing you should look at is the cost. If it’s too much, or unrealistically priced, you can always negotiate or try to access other budgets or make up some of it with contra.
If you want another big, running start, there is a Proposal Evaluation Criteria template in my new book, The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
Leverage before you say “yes”
At this point, you will have very few really great opportunities that are still under consideration. The final step in assessment, before you move to negotiation, is to leverage the sponsorship. That’s right – leverage before you say “yes”.
Get your key decision-makers together in a room – representatives from all of the relevant departments – and go through the process of developing a leverage plan. That process will achieve a number of things:
- You will know the degree of buy-in you have. The more buy-in, the more thoroughly and cost-effectively the sponsorship will be leveraged.
- You will identify any opportunities or issues before you’ve signed anything.
- You will identify the specific benefits you need to negotiate to support the leverage ideas you have and the specific needs of your stakeholders.
That’s it. Your assessment process is cleaner, more strategic, and will get you further along the leverage and negotiation process for the best potential partnerships. A straightforward leverage brainstorm process – perfect for use with your stakeholders – is included in The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
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