How many community or local business events has your company sponsored in the past year? Perhaps you participated in three, four or even more. But how much attention did you really get for all the hard work and time you invested?
With the arrival of spring-and summer just around the corner-you may be invited to take part in everything from community fairs and chamber of commerce events to parades and 10K runs. And while community events can be a great way to raise your company's visibility and increase sales, it's easy to get lost in the crowd of sponsors.
If you want to get the most from your sponsorship dollars and avoid becoming just another name on the program, follow these five important tips:
1. Set a real goal. Too often, entrepreneurs participate in community events without a hard and fast marketing rationale. What do you hope your event sponsorship will accomplish? Is your goal to familiarize prospects with a new product or service, improve brand or company name awareness, or produce sales? Set a tangible and measurable goal, and then participate in only those events that will enable you to achieve it.
2. Reach your best prospects. An important key to successful event marketing is to select events that draw members of your unique target audience in sufficient numbers. Evalu-ate each event proposal to determine what percentage of the attendees fit the profile of your best prospects. Ideally, the majority should be able to use what your company offers.
Stay away from events that promise high visibility yet fail to deliver qualified prospects.
3. Send the right message. Not only should an event you sponsor draw the right attendees, it must also have an appropriate theme and venue. A great event presents your company in the proper context by reaching your prospects when they're in the right frame of mind to consider what you offer.
If the appropriate venue doesn't exist, consider bringing your prospects to an event on your own turf. For example, Quadrille Quilting in North Haven, Connecticut, has joined with two other quilting shops to create their own events, called Shop Hops. The three retailers invite customers to buy "passports" to have stamped at each shop, where they can win prizes and enjoy refreshments. The first, two-day Shop Hop, which was held on Super Bowl weekend 2005, brought Quadrille Quilting a full month's worth of sales.
4. Earn goodwill. There are countless opportunities to participate in fund-raising events for the charities and nonprofit groups your customers support. But while contributing to these types of organizations and events is definitely a good practice, it's often hard for growing businesses to stand out from the crowd. One smart option is to create your own fundraising event and act as the principal sponsor. Follow the example of Stanley's Tavern in Wilmington, Delaware. Over the past 11 years, it has raised $550,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America by organizing an annual celebrity golf tournament. It has earned the restaurant, which Delaware magazine has named "Best Bar and Grill," significant community goodwill and well-deserved recognition.
5. Spotlight your company. No matter what type of business you own, if you want to put it in the limelight, you must take a prominent position in any event you sponsor. To stay within your budget, pare down your list of community events to a select few (or even one) that reach the right prospects in the appropriate context and allow you to shine. Rather than sponsor a single runner out of hundreds in a charity race, step to the forefront and hang a banner above the finish line. After all, why be a runner when you can "own" the race?