Tools & Resources mentioned during the episode:
Hey, this is Jan. Thanks for joining me again on the VSM podcast. Today, I want to talk about selling sponsorships for your summit because they are a great income stream. But they have so much more benefits for your virtual event. And I want to walk you through the process of what it takes to find the right sponsors, how to approach the sponsors and how to package the sponsorship folks and how to price them, how to find out what sponsors truly want.
So this is going to be a great episode if you want to learn more about the five benefits you can get from bringing on sponsors for your event. And how to implement that as well as how to take action on that. So let’s dive right into this.
Five Reasons You Want to Bring on Sponsors for your Virtual Summits
As I’ve said in the intro, there are five reasons you want to consider bringing corporate sponsors onto your virtual event.
1. More Income
And the first one might be a doozy. And that says you make more money. So the first reason is obviously more income. And this is again a given. This is common sense that when you bring on a paying sponsor, you make more money. But the point of this is super important.
Because you front-Load the income, you make money before the event even starts with a sponsor. And by doing that, you can reinvest in the quality of your event. You can up the production quality, hire a better video editor, for example. You can invest in paid traffic campaigns to bring in a bigger audience.
2. It Helps you Run a Bigger and Better Event
You can level up the content quality of your event in terms of what ad copy you can write or what copy you can write in the emails. So this really goes a long way. And the second reason, therefore, is that you Front-Load the income, which helps you produce and run a bigger and better event.
3. Having Companies As Sponsors Increases the Perceived Value of your Summit.
The third reason is that you are much better positioned when you bring on corporate sponsors to your event, especially if you are not known in your industry yet. Having companies support your event increases the perceived value of your summit. It goes through the roof.
And as VSM student Christopher posted in our Facebook group, any risks or doubts of attendees of getting scammed or receiving low-quality content vanish like a Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough left in the sun. And obviously, we don’t want to leave that cookie dough, that delicious pot of cookie dough in the sun.
But we want to reduce any anxiety, any confusion, any doubts that potential attendees have about signing up for your event, and then upgrading to that all-access pass so that you can earn more money. You can build a bigger list from your virtual event, expand your audience as big as it gets.
And that is why sponsors actually have two ways of helping you do that; helping you earn more money from the event. They pay you. And they help you position your event so that you can get more attendees and get more all-access passes.
4. Sponsors Will do the Best They Can to Promote and Help your Summit Become a Success
Also, the fourth reason is that sponsors are invested in the event, and they are determined to make your event a success because they want to recoup their investments. And therefore, they can become one of the best sources of your traffic for the event because they will promote any event they invest in.
And obviously, they want to spread the word as much as they can. Because they want to show the industry how involved they are and how much they care about giving back to the audience, giving back to the community that you are engaging in.
And you can even leverage them for fun events like doing giveaways, doing live round tables during the summit, hosting live webinars during or even after the summit. Come up with some ideas to gamify the virtual event. That is everything you can do if you have sponsors because they want to go further than your regular speaker.
Because they are so invested in making your event a success for everybody, they want to increase the quality of the event for the attendees. The attendee experience as much as possible. And therefore, they’ll go out of their way to support you in any way they can.
5. You can Build a Long Term Relationship with your Sponsors
And the fifth reason is probably my most favorite one. You can build long-term relationships with sponsors if you do it right. Suppose you focus on providing them value through the sponsorship packages. In that case, it’s not uncommon to see companies sponsor multiple events or even hire you as a consultant after your summit ends.
And I’ve seen this personally. I’ve hosted multiple events for Weglot, a translation company, a saas company. I’ve hosted multiple events, and I’m actually a paid braid brand ambassador for the hosting platform Cloudways. I love working with them. And I’ve been working with them for over five years now. We got in touch because they sponsored the first virtual summit that I hosted.
Keep in mind that when you are building those relationships with the people at the company, don’t think about a sponsor like this giant company. Even if I had WP engine, the world’s biggest WordPress host, sponsoring my event, which they did twice, I didn’t think about WP Engine as whoaaa! I have this massive company that I have to please now and that I have to work with.
Instead, I focused on the person of contact. I focused on that single person. They have needs. They have desires. They have wishes. They have somebody to report to, so they need to be able to show results. And if you can get results for your sponsors, if you show them how determined you are in making the event a worthwhile investment for the company in itself, if you help that person of contact look good in the front of their team or to the manager that they’re reporting to; you increase your odds of getting them as a sponsor very very much.
How to Find the Right Sponsors for your Summit
Now, how do you actually find the right sponsors? I have three points for you in this episode about that.
Make Sure Sponsors are Not Direct Competition
The first point is you want to make sure that sponsors are no direct competition to you. If you’re around a business, say coaching leadership, don’t get Udemy to sponsor your event because they have tons of leadership courses, and you will have attendees run for their courses rather than hiring you.
Better think about software companies software as a service companies, service providers that support your leadership coaching. Think about the tools that you regularly recommend. Resources that you point your audience to already and companies that you’ve worked with yourself. And then avoid having sponsors compete with each other.
That undermines their willingness to promote your event. And it just makes it a lot harder for you to close the sponsorship deals. For example, with my summit in the WordPress industry, I really paid a lot of attention to not having multiple web hosting companies with the same target audience as a sponsor.
I focused on having just one SEO plugin provider and not having, let’s say, Yoast SEO and Rank math. For those who are in the WordPress ecosystem. The point here is you have to be mindful. You cannot just accept every sponsor that wants to throw money at you. Even if that’s tempting, it will not help your event.
Look for Tools, Resources that You Regularly Use and Recommend and Approach Those
So how do you actually find them then? With these three points out of the way, look if you have a tools and resources page on your website, for example. Approach all the companies that are listed there. If you regularly recommend any specific apps, any specific services, or saas tools, approach those.
If you regularly work with a certain type of coaching platform, approach them. If you regularly work with authors, approach them if they want to sponsor your event. You have to be creative, and you have to start with the lowest hanging fruits. So you want to target your previous partners and talk to companies you’ve worked with in the past.
And if you have a good relationship with them, most will be open to at least listening to what you can offer. And then another big one is to build your reputation in your niche. I know this is tricky when you’re just starting out, but you could join podcasts as a guest or organize cohosted webinars and create content regularly.
Try to become a contributor to relevant media platforms. I’m not talking about Forbes or NGO entrepreneur. Start small. Start with the blogs, with magazines that you can get featured on. Work your way up and try to be as present in your space as possible.
A very easy way to do this very low-hanging fruit is to just go on social media where your audience hangs out. Whether that’s Facebook, whether that’s Twitter or LinkedIn. I don’t care. And engage with influencers, engage with people who already have a following, and comment on their posts, share their posts, and demonstrate to their audience that you can add value to the conversations that are going on.
Share your experience on social media, create content, make it a habit to just network with people in your industry. And before you know it, you will build a strong network of partners and potential sponsors. And then, when you approach a company, as I’ve said earlier, focus on finding that right person to speak to.
Don’t send them an email through the website contact form. Everybody does that. It doesn’t make sense. Instead, research their employees on LinkedIn, for example, see who’s working in the partnership department, who’s working in the marketing department, who’s the CMO, who’s the head of marketing, whos the head of business development approach those people.
Try to build a relationship with those people.
Keep Your Pitches Short
And then keep your pitch short. The one thing that nobody has in our time is time. We are all busy. We are all running around like headless chickens having way too much stuff on our plate. That’s true for you as it is for the companies you are approaching and me.
So instead, keep your pitch short. Tell them who you’re running the event for, the target audience, why you are running it, and what the company would get from being a sponsor. In your first email, just try to open that door. And the first message, for that matter. Never send an email to a generic email address.
You either have that email of a specific person to talk to, or you reach out to them on social media and just try to open the door and get them on a call, try starting a conversation, to not give them the full details in that first message. Because they don’t have time to read it. They won’t read it if you send them a 500-word message.
Even if you have everything laid out for them perfectly. Even if it makes a ton of sense for them to become sponsors, they won’t read it or know. For example, I pitched Mike Mccallawoods, one of my favorite authors, to speak at one of the events I’m organizing for our clients. And unfortunately, the fee he charged was out of the budget.
But the call with his agent was canceled two minutes before the call started. Why? Because he didn’t have time to read my email where I outlined the budget that we had for Mike. Lesson learned, keep your pitch even shorter. Even though I already know that I have to pitch speakers and sponsors in a short form, I still go too long sometimes.
So just try to get people to talk to you, try starting a conversation. And then when you get them on a call. Here’s how you sell the sponsorship. If you get them on a call, you should have a list of perks that you think are a good fit for a sponsor.
Those regularly include any form of live engagement with the audience, be it a live webinar, live training, live reviews of something, or an FAQ session, and ask me anything session or roundtable conversation. Anything where the sponsor can engage directly with the attendees of the event.
Anything that would help a sponsor to generate leads and measurable results from the event. Be it a virtual booth where people can sign up to their email list, be it having the tracking pixel on the website for Facebook ads or Google ads or whatever tool platform they use.
Be it pitching a link to a landing page that they’ve set up for the event where people can sign up or download a resource. Let sponsors collect email addresses from the attendees. Do not send them the list. Do not share the list. But let them collect email addresses either directly on the summit website or by linking to one of the landing pages.
And then, if you have that list of, let’s say, ten items that you want to include in your sponsorship perks. Go on a call with somebody who’s a decision-maker at the company you want to become a sponsor, and then focus on what they want.
Listen to their feedback on the sponsorship packages and be flexible. There’s no rule saying that you cannot adjust the sponsorship package for a single sponsor. If they prefer to do a live round table over and ask me anything session, for example, switch it up. Be mindful of what they want. Respect what they want.
And then you will have a good chance of closing the deal. And just to give you a perspective, sponsorship deals, even if you just run the event for the first time, I would not sell sponsorships for less than $1,000. And I would go as far as $10,000 or even more depending on your audience’s size for a sponsorship program.
And the point is, a sponsorship is not a one-time thing. You can keep the summit running on evergreen. We teach you how to do that in Virtual Summit Mastery so that you can promote the summit, essentially, forever as long as you run the next iteration of your virtual event.
So say you have an annual conference. You want to establish an annual event in your industry. You run the summit live, and then you keep it running on evergreen, and the sponsor gets promoted for an entire year on the event. All you have to do at that point, and all they have to do is to continue to drive traffic to that event website, and they get all the exposure for an entire year.
So there are various ways like this that we teach you in virtual summit mastery, how you can improve the value that sponsors receive. But overall, to summarize this episode, sponsorships are crucial points in making a virtual summit a success.
They are one of my favorite ways to monetize a virtual summit because they pay off for years and years and years. I’ve personally earned more than six figures from sponsorship deals alone over the past years. So they are by far the most powerful way to monetize virtual events.
I believe this to my heart from my own experience because they go into so many different ways. You sell replays. You have the upsells for your existing funnels. Of course, you can do affiliate marketing after the event. Of course, you can even include JV offers during the event.
It’s all great, and all those methods stack up. But just from personal experience, working with sponsoring companies, working with those relevant big players in your industry leads to a lot more exposure for your own brand over the future.
And that brings you in touch with people who then have other strong networks so that you can grow your brand and exposure. And you get to know more important people in your industry by working with sponsors. So that was a rather long episode.
If you want to learn more about how this virtual summit thing works, how you can put together virtual events yourself, download the free cheat sheet that we have on the website, virtualsummitmastery.com/cheatsheet. And obviously, you can also review the show notes at VSMpodcast.com/17 to dive deeper into the materials of this podcast episode. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll catch you on the next one.