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Tips for using social media & social networks effectively for cycling sponsorship

Today’s post focuses on how to use social media & social network platforms in your efforts to secure cycling sponsorship.

Recently I interviewed Carrie Himel,  owner of Social-Pop, a Social Media Marketing company; and, Gordon F. Snyder, Director, National Center for Information & Communications (ICT), Springfield Technical Community College; regarding their perspectives on effective use of Social Media to engage one’s intended audience. Although Gordon and Carrie each have different target audiences and segments, their comments and guidance were very similar, and extremely applicable to cycling sponsorship.

Below is a summary of recommendations from Carrie and Gordon. You can watch my entire interview with Carrie Himel on the Sponsor My Cycling Club YouTube channel.

Strive to educate your audience through your social media content and communications – Begin by focusing on what’s important to them. Take advantage of using interactions to educate your audience on the value you can provide in helping their business achieve its goals and objectives. As mentioned in “Understanding why companies sponsor”, companies have three basic motivations for sponsorship – making money, saving money, projecting an intended image. Use your connections through social media, e-mail, websites, communications (i.e. – news releases), face-to-face discussions to articulate the value you can provide. Always focus on the prospective sponsors needs first! Understand what they are attempting to accomplish, the problems they are attempting to solve, and how you can help. With this type of approach you will be able to position sponsorship of your cycling club, team, or event as a valuable asset, helping the prospective sponsor to increase awareness for their brand, drive greater traffic and sales.

Incorporate social media into your club or team’s sponsorship marketing strategy & plan by - creating relevant content, using key words to help prospective sponsors find you, disseminating content across multiple social media platforms, while striving to establish long-term relationships (not the quick win – it’s a Century, not a 250M sprint).

Create relevant content on your social media pages and web pages – create sponsor centric content on your web, blog, or social media pages meant specifically for prospective sponsors. Focus the content on answering questions a prospective sponsor my ask themselves such as – ”how does sponsorship fit into our overall marketing plan & strategy?” Or, “how will sponsorship help us reach our target audience?” A quote from the bestselling book “THE NEW RULES OF MARKETING & PR” further supports the messages I heard from both Carrie and Gordon – “…..what visitors really want is content that first describes the issues and problems they face and them provides the details on how to solve those problems.”

Use key words on your social media pages to help prospective sponsors to find you – Utilize words and terms that are relevant to companies looking for sponsorship. This can be very powerful in helping organizations find you. Also, if you are using terms used by prospective sponsors, and tying it back to the benefits they are seeking through sponsorship – making money, saving money, projecting an intended image – you are building immediate credibility.

Lastly, Gordon mentioned the importance of documenting your club or teams involvement in activities, and events, through photographs and/or videos, and posting these on Flickr. There are a variety of ways to post photos and videos, share, and link them back to your club or teams site with an explanation of why it is important to sponsors.

Use multiple platforms to disseminate information – Use your website, blog, social media communications, Twitter feeds, News Releases to highlight the things you are doing as a club or team. Using multiple platforms also enables you to reach audiences in the medium they are most comfortable with and prefer. Example – your club exceeded its fundraising goal for a charity, or your team placed well in a local race. Publicizing this is great. Including information on how it helped increase visibility for your sponsors, naming the sponsors, and including a brief statement  explaining why they sponsored you provides relevance to the audience. It’s describing the value you provide to sponsors. Remember, visibility +awareness = interest + traffic (please see “Understanding why companies sponsor” for more information). Anything, and everything, you publish should include a brief explanation of how you can drive sponsor value and interest.

Work towards establishing long-term relationships – As you begin using social media to identify and engage prospective sponsors, remember the word “social”. Carrie advised that we should strive towards a balance in our interactions, specifically “….follow the rules of making interactions with a given contact 80% social; 20% business.” In other words, when engaging and building a relationship, try to remember it is for the long term; not for the short term.

Don’t overlook LinkedIn! – Both Gordon and Carrie stressed the importance of using LinkedIn to build relationships between your cycling club or team and prospective sponsors. LinkedIn is a very powerful business-to-business site enabling you to connect with people involved in making corporate sponsorship decisions – Marketing, Marketing & Communications, Sponsorship Marketing, Advertising, Manager of Sports Marketing, Manager of Public Relations, etc. Through LinkedIn you can see who you know that can make an introduction for you, or join the groups these contacts are involved in. This enables you to start the conversation, understand their goals & objectives are, and shape your message accordingly. (For a step-by-step description of how I used social media to identify contacts, uncover information, and engage a prospective sponsor please see the following post)

With social media, blogs, and the web, you have the opportunity to engage, articulate, and demonstrate how your cycling club, team, or event can drive sponsor value. If your content is not addressing issues which are top of mind of prospective sponsors, you are missing an opportunity to educate them on your value, differentiate your club, team or event from every other organization requesting sponsorship & funding. Not to mention, you are also missing an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership; which also contributes to your credibility. Remember, this could be the perfect way to move a prospective sponsor into deeper sponsorship discussions.

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog post!

Special thanks to Gordon and Carrie for sharing their time and expertise.

Thanks again for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down.”

Related posts & sites

Sponsor My Cycling Club YouTube Channel

Social Media Blogs – http://www.sponsormycyclingclub.com/category/social-media-2/

Carrie Himel, Social-Pop – www.social-pop.com

Gordon F. Snyder’s Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Blog

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Facebook, blogsearch.google.com, and LinkedIN for cycling sponsorship?

How you can use Facebook, blogsearch.google and LinkedIN to engage companies for cycling sponsorship.

The following example demonstrates how you can identify and engage prospective sponsors simply by doing a little research. This is not as time consuming as you might think.

Company sponsors local charity fundraising event

I was aware of a company that sponsored a charity sporting event in my town, and wanted to learn more about them and the potential for engaging them in sponsorship discussions.

A Facebook search using the name of the event – I was directed to the page for the event, providing me with the company’s event committee contacts and event chairperson. The event’s Facebook page also included local businesses, clubs, and groups who “Like”, participated, or co-sponsored. I also uncovered a link to the company’s committee page for community relations/involvement which outlined a description of the community committee’s’ goals, and how the committee’s goals aligned with the corporate mission. Facebook also provided links to external websites for the company. At this point I had the option of leaving a comment on the event page; however, it would probably be better to see what else I could find.

A Google search using the “company & event name” led me to events landing page on the web. Visiting the page gave the event contact information for sponsorship, along with the information and links describing the charity being supported. Good information to have. I kept digging.

A LinkedIn search using the event committee’s chairperson’s name enabled me to identify this individual as the Special Events coordinator for the company. This is an excellent contact to approach regarding sponsorship.  Looking at this individuals profile also provided valuable information on other employees at the company, including the Marketing & Communications Director for Special Events. It just kept getting better and better!

blogsearch.google.com using the event name came back with a lot of useful information about the event, including impressions from participants. Reading various blogs about the event led me to the conclusion that the company sponsored event was well attended, well organized, and was a success. I could have left a comment on the company’s event committee Facebook page, congratulating them on a successful event. But, I still wanted to do some additional research to see what else I could uncover, and leverage, to help make a favorable first impression. So, I continued.

A Google search using the “company’s name and community events & sponsorship” helped me identify the Director of Marketing Communications & Community Outreach.

A LinkedIn search for this individual showed their profile page, title, common connections, and LinkedIn Groups they participated in. The LinkedIn profile page also showed others from the company sharing similar roles & responsibilities. Just more intelligence one can use. (Please also refer to “Harness the power of social media to increase the success of your sponsorship proposal” which will provide additional tips & hints for effective use of social media)

A Facebook search returned the Director of Marketing’s profile page, and included interests & activities. As it turns out, this was another area I could leverage for initial contact because we shared a common interest. I also had the option to use the success of the company’s event as the basis for initial contact. Again, I could have stopped here, but I still wanted to learn more to make that initial contact really great.

Performing another blogsearch.google.com search using the Director of Marketing’s name returned what I was really searching for! I found out the executive was delivering a speech at a major event. The subject of the speech was to present the company’s position on sponsorship; describing why sponsorship was important to helping achieve their goals & objectives, while being a good steward of the community!  So now, I have information on the company, their goals & objectives, their position on sponsorship, an idea of the types of events they sponsor. Could have stopped here, but decided to go one step deeper. I noticed the blogsearch.google also delivered a lot of additional relevant information including quotes the Director of Marketing gave in news releases, interviews, articles, blogs, and magazines. I read the articles and gained a lot more insight than I had at the outset of this exercise. I now had a lot of information to pick and choose from, which was very relevant, and could help me engage, shape, and guide the discussions towards sponsorship! (Please also refer to “Articulating the value of cycling sponsorship”)

What’s the moral of the story? Information & research are key!

How does the commercial go? “Spending 15 minutes or less can save you a lot of money on car insurance?” Well, in this case, spending 15 minutes or less can help your cycling club, team, or event end up with more sponsorship dollars!

(15) minutes of research and investigation helped me uncover contacts, goals & objectives of the company, the role of community service, events they sponsored, the importance of sponsorship, and the role of sponsorship in achieving their goals & objectives. I could use many different approaches – congratulations on a well run event or, comment on a shared interest. Another alternative could be to comment, or ask a question, regarding the executive’s upcoming speaking engagement. Lastly, I had the option to comment on one of the many quotes or blog entries I found. Not to mention, I had identified multiple contacts within the company, while identifying committees responsible for sponsorship & community involvement. Lastly, I had also identified shared contacts in LinkedIn enabling me to ask for an introduction.

How can this help you?

With a little legwork, and effective use of the web, and social networking, your cycling club or team can quickly uncover information regarding prospective sponsors. Furthermore, you can use this information to start a “meaningful” dialog; tailoring what your initial contact, method of contact, messages, and approach for maximum benefit. Using the web and social media only increases your chances of differentiating your club, team or event from other organizations simply requesting sponsorship and funding using a generic form letter or proposal. Information & focus (on your audience; prospective sponsors in your case) is ALWAYS paramount to differentiation and value! (Please also refer to the sponsorship proposal and sponsorship letter categories for additional information on creating effective cycling sponsorship proposals).

Hope you enjoyed reading today’s post. I enjoyed writing it! If you liked it – leave a comment. If you didn’t – leave a comment. Would love to hear from you!

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down.”

(Ed. note – Tim Ferriss’ book the “4 Hour Work Week” has couple of methods for contacting individuals which typically seem unapproachable. You can find the first one on p.54 in the section “How to Get George Bush Sr. or the CEO of Google on the Phone” under “Fail Better” by Adam Gottesfeld. You can also find the blog post by following this link. The second is on page 172 & 173 under “Comfort Challenge: Find Yoda”. It describes how to use what you found through research to engage an individual. Very applicable to engaging executives in discussions, and very adaptable to various mediums! These are worth the price of the book alone!)

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Sponsorship Proposal & Social Media – harness the power of social media to increase the success of your sponsorship proposal

Even if you have a fantastic website, blog, and Twitter account, describing everything your club or team does, you are not guaranteed your sponsorship proposal will be seen, or be successful in securing funding.

Simply tweeting  “We are seeking sponsors for 2011” via Twitter, publishing your sponsorship proposal on your web site, or sending out generic sponsorship proposals and letters blindly is typically NOT going to cut it for securing sponsors. Don’t get me wrong, you might get some interest, and you may be lucky enough to land a few. But, are you really leveraging available tools to help you connect with companies that could have a genuine interest in sponsoring your club or team?

Here’s the deal, social media tools as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to name a few, can provide you with the information needed to identify companies that can be prospective sponsors. I’m not talking about building a fancy, whizz bang, web or blog site, or blasting OUT a 100 Twitter updates into cyberspace to TELL what your club or team is doing. No, what I am describing is a way to use all of the tools we use in our personal lives to LISTEN to what companies are saying, UNDERSTAND their potential needs, and IDENTIFY how sponsorship could augment their existing advertising and PR campaigns to solve a problem. By LISTENING, your club or team, can gather valuable information, quickly determining which companies might be interested in hearing YOUR story. This isn’t about driving people to your website, blog, etc….sure, that’s important – LATER! To be successful in the sponsorship process, you need to prospect, find companies, and people in those companies, that have a need, and want to hear your story. By gathering intelligence you do a few things – you qualify which company might have a need, who within the company is driving and making decisions, and therefore might be the best person to establish a relationship with, approach, and be amenable to your story!

In the past, most of us would gather information about potential prospects by – buying lists, reading the newspaper, identifying who is moving into town, expanding, hiring people, releasing a new product, etc. But in today’s information age, by the time you see this information in traditional forms; it’s old news; everybody already knows it! However, if your club or team is using tools like search.twitter, blogsearch.google, while researching company pages on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, you are already a step ahead. Taking this type of approach enables you to achieve a few things – a) you have identified valuable information early, and, b) you are able to begin thinking of how to align your club or teams value with the company you are investigating. The whitepaper “Selling in the Age of Social Media” states that using social media can enable you to “zero in on companies that contain the specific criteria best aligned with our products”; in the case of your club or team, your products are the benefits you provide.

So, here are 5 quick tips for your club or team to identify, connect, engage, qualify, advance, and close sponsorship opportunities, faster and more effectively than you ever have before.

Use tools to find companies that are prime sponsorship candidates – experiencing change; new products being released, targeting new market segments, expanding, growing, relocating, cost cutting initiatives,  ……these are all signals of change, and signs that sponsorship can offer potential value.

who is saying what, where, when, why and how” – Listen, and observe, “what they are saying?” And, equally important, “who is saying it?”, using “which tools?” This gives you clues into what is of concern or interest, who you might approach, and how you might approach them.

Customize your approach - Craft your messages around the problem they are trying to solve, or the desire they have to change something (i.e. – increase market share, increase visibility, increase sales……). And, establish a dialog using the tools they are most comfortable with. If the person you are interested in engaging “Tweets”, follow them, and communicate via Twitter.

Be a “private eye” – no, not literally! Use social media tools to investigate companies; identify who you might know, what their activities are, groups and communities they belong to, interests, etc..Determine how you can use this information to advance your sponsorship efforts.

Referrals still work wonders (and always will) – Investigate if you, a club member, or teammate, knows “someone-who-knows-someone”. You know what to do if you know them. In the case of the latter, ask for an introduction.

The more you understand about a company; their business and sponsorship goals and objectives; the better your chances of identifying companies where your club or teams value will resonate most! In addition, you are also quickly identifying who within the organization will be most receptive to your messages. Lastly, by using social media tools to their full potential, you can ensure maximum effectiveness for your club or teams sponsorship proposal.

Leveraging social media tools to improve selling effectiveness (which is essentially what you are doing during the sponsorship process) is a rapidly evolving, and highly discussed area. I found two very helpful whitepapers on the subject – “Selling in the Age of Social Media” by InsideView, and “Making Social Media Effective for Business” by Impact Interactions. Both whitepapers will provide your club and team with useful information to leverage social media for success.

As mentioned, this is an extremely HOT topic. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Thanks for visiting. Remember, until next time, “keep the rubber side down!”

Al

P.S. – The FREE e-Book, “Top Ten Tips For Securing Cycling Sponsorship”, will be available on our site next week!

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