8 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Sponsorship Opportunity

Local communities and organizations–be they service clubs or professional groups–depend on sponsorships to make ends meet at some of their events.  This is also true for association trade shows and exhibitions.  In most cases, the dollar amounts for sponsoring events of this sort are modest–ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

How many times have you been asked to be a sponsor?  How many times have you offered to sponsor a select event in order to help out someone in your network?  Both situations have the potential to give you huge exposure if done well.  In addition, sponsoring an event for someone on your word-of-mouth marketing team enhances the relationship, because you are helping that person meet a goal.

When you consider which people you will network with and where, you’re being selective.  Choose carefully, too, when you’re thinking about sponsoring an event.  Is it a good investment of your time and money?  Whether you’re being recruited or are volunteering, ask yourself the following questions before deciding . . .

  • What is the target market for this event?
  • What kind of exposure do I get for my investment?
  • Can I get this kind of exposure without this investment?
  • Do I get direct access to the audience?
  • Does it make sense for me to be there?
  • Which business or networking goal does it help me complete?
  • Are other sponsors my competitors?
  • How does this enhance my credibility with the person I’m helping?
  • Why wouldn’t I do it?

All of these questions help you determine the value of a sponsorship opportunity.  Now, imagine one day being in charge of putting on a huge event.  Suddenly, someone from your network steps forward to offer you a substantial sponsorship because she heard through the grapevine that your event needed money.  How would you feel about that person?  You can create that same feeling toward yourself in someone else by offering that exact gift.  Be selective, and offer your support in person.  In effect, you are making a tidy “deposit” in your relationship bank account.  This act of generosity definitely comes back to you in time, but for now it simply nurtures the relationship by helping someone in your network meet her goals.

This week, think of the people in your network.  Who do you know that is planning an event–a conference, an open house, a 10K fundraiser–who could use your financial support?  To strengthen your relationship with this individual, offer as much help from your business as you can provide.

Have you sponsored an event in the past?  If so, I’d love to hear about your experience and how it impacted your relationship with the person in charge of the event.  Please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Expose Yourself!–“Navigating the VCP Process(R) to Networking” Series

TR Garland (pictured with me in the photo below) is a friend of mine and co-author of one of my most recent #1 best-selling books called “Building The Ultimate Network.”  He’s also considered a top trainer for the Referral Institute. 

For some time now, we’ve both observed a need to drill down on one of the most important and foundational concepts to networking – The VCP Process®.  Four months ago, we started a much-anticipated 12-part monthly series of blog posts which addresses this and contains some very timely information for networkers across the globe.  Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 4 of the series.  Enjoy.

EXPOSE YOURSELF!
(Part 4 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

In Part 3 of this series, we encouraged Business Networkers to honor the chronological steps of the VCP Process®.  In other words, we pointed out that generating a steady stream of referrals takes an investment in time — as well as in the people in your own network.  Take action, we recommended, and become visible.  However, be cautious about “too much Visibility”.

Today, we’d like to revisit and expand upon the following concept that was introduced last month:  If you put yourself out in the marketplace as a person of value, others will want to connect with youYour role is to EXPOSE YOURSELF to your local business community in a valuable way so that people feel a personal connection with you and feel compelled to assist you.

Let’s dig deeper . . . If you’ve sought out Business Networking training and education in the past, you’ve most likely heard the following phrase: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.  However, today, we ask the question: “WHAT…do they know you for?”

You see, we believe that there is a strategic way to go about gaining Visibility in your local community.  We believe that if you lead with positive intentions and follow up with valuable contributions, professionals will, in time, feel a personal connection with you and feel compelled to assist you (i.e. pass you qualified referrals and/or connect you with Referral Partners).  Attempting to expedite the VCP Process® is almost never a good decision.  And sometimes, it may even backfire.

You may have observed this type of behavior before where people shift into what’s considered to be ‘Visibility’-overload.  In other words, every chance they get they’re doing random “stuff” (yes, that’s the technical term) to be visible without having any sort of thought out strategy.  Do you know what a “Drive-By” is at a networking event?  It’s when someone’s strategy (of lack thereof) is to meet everyone at a mixer.  As such, they’re focused on passing out their business cards to anyone and everyone versus staying in a conversation for longer than 60 seconds.  Has this ever happened to you?  What was your perception of this person?

This and other “Random Acts of Networking” ultimately defeat the overall objective which is to build trust and credibility through cultivating relationships.  Our fear is that people might be placing a lot of time into gaining Visibility, but NOT being able to capitalize on it.  And, it is for this reason that we’d like to introduce the term HYPER-Visibility™.  It’s when people try to get everyone to know them, see them, and hear them through a variety of different means in an effort to expedite the VCP Process® to Networking.  Whereas, in actuality, it typically backfires and may even be detrimental to their reputation and perceived as overkill.

As alluded to before, try not to be plagued by HYPER-Visibility™ and ask the question:  “WHY…do people know you?”

Is it because you:

  • Have volunteered to setup and break down your visitors table at your weekly networking event?
  • Have recently been awarded the “Helping Hand Award” in your local community?
  • Have numerous satisfied clients/customers who say positive things about you?

Or, is it because you:

  • Are at every single networking event in your local community (i.e. you’re everywhere!)?
  • Are the person who adds people to your weekly newsletter without permission?
  • Are constantly conducting ‘off the wall’ introductions (called Sales Manager Minutes in BNI) in an effort to be remembered?

Please be cautious that sometimes if those (albeit memorable, but) ‘off the wall’ introductions have nothing to do with training your network, they may not serve you well.  Being over the top could actually push some people away who might otherwise be keen to learning more about you.  Please also be aware that sometimes when you’re in roles of increased Visibility, your actions are clearer and even amplified.  For example, if you volunteer to help support your local networking group – or even any association or charity – your visibility will be enhanced and you’re typically in the spotlight or under a microscope.  Be cognizant, be strategic, and be prepared.

Visibility is an intricate part to the VCP Process®.   When strategically planned out, this exposure could be your biggest ally.  When attained for no particular rhyme or reason, it could be your biggest enemy.  Hmmm . . . food for thought, isn’t it?

In closing, we’d like to recommend that you consider that there are actually two different interpretations to the title of this blog post “Expose Yourself!”  First, it can be interpreted as the means by which you strategically and professionally navigate the first step of the VCP Process®.  Or, it can be interpreted that sometimes when you are too visible or seeking visibility for the wrong reasons (or with the wrong approach) you actually “Expose Yourself!”  Moving forward, our recommendation is to conduct an inventory of what steps you’re taking on a weekly basis to become visible within your own local community.  Then, decipher if they are effective at doing the job of helping you move beyond Visibility to Credibility.  If not, then please consider revising or replacing

We thank you for reading today’s post and extend an invitation to be on the lookout for next month’s contribution to this series – Part 5 called “Audit Your Activities.”

Generate More Business by Offering Value-added Advice

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service? 🙂  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

The First Phase of the VCP Process–Visibility

Last week I wrote a blog explaining the VCP Process, which is a huge part of the foundation of networking. Because this process is so crucial to effective networking, I promised to write a blog entry for each of the three phases (visibility, credibility and profitability), and today I’m going to talk about why it all starts with visibility.

The first phase of growing a relationship is visibility: You and another individual become aware of each other.  In business terms, a potential source of referrals or a potential customer becomes aware of the nature of your business–perhaps because of your public relations and advertising efforts, because of your social media presence or perhaps through someone you both know. This person may observe you in the act of conducting business or relating with the people around you. The two of you begin to communicate and establish links–perhaps a question or two over the phone or via e-mail messages about product availability. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, but you know little about each other. A combination of many such relationships forms a casual-contact network, a sort of de facto association based on one or more shared interests.

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more information you will obtain about others, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater will be your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can or should refer business.  Visibility must be actively maintained and developed; without it, you cannot move on to the next level, credibility.

I’ll talk more about credibility next week, but it’s important to understand that visibility brings the opportunity to build credibility, and credibility is what will get you to profitability, where you’ll actually benefit from your efforts. So many times people try to jump straight from visibility to profitability, and that’s not real networking; it’s just an obvious ploy to get something from your new contacts. That’s nothing more than a bad attempt at direct selling and a big waste of time.

So, how do you go about creating more visibility for your business? What are some strategies that have really worked out well for you?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Use Reporting to Strengthen Your Network

Playing the role of reporter by interviewing a member of your network for an article or while doing research on a subject he’s familiar with, for example, is a great way to elicit information and advice from members of your network.

How can this benefit you? The reporting approach benefits you in two ways. One, you learn more about your network member. Two, he appreciates the visibility you give him. Also, he will probably be more willing to meet and cooperate with you in other situations, thereby strengthening your relationship, and others will seek you out as an authority or ask you to do articles or research on them. People in business like exposure, especially if it’s free.

Here are some tips on how to properly begin playing the role of reporter and getting more from your network:

  • Interview your subject to get information worthy of being publicized–something he’s doing or has achieved, or simply his opinion.
  • Take pictures of, and with, your subject when appropriate.
  • Publish the information for its largest possible audience in school, church, community, local or national publications.
  • If appropriate, offer to include your network member’s name in any article or research to which he has contributed information.
  • Distribute complimentary copies of your articles or findings to people important to your targets.
  • Make no guarantees that what you write will be published.

After you’ve interviewed one or two of your network members and gotten some exposure for them, come back and leave a comment letting me know what occurred as a result of your efforts. I’m betting you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. 🙂

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