Securing event sponsors unlocks a world of opportunity for your event and its attendees, but approaching sponsors without an introduction can be awkward at best.
The challenge is especially daunting when you don’t have a point of contact within the organisation, which is why many sponsorship-seekers turn to the internet’s oldest and most trusted tool: email.
Email’s effectiveness, however, is often dependent on the quality of your writing. To help you out on that front, we brought in the big guns: Grammarly, a company whose service is trusted by millions to make their writing clear, effective, and mistake-free.
“When it comes to email, words matter,” says Grammarly content marketing manager Taylor Price. “The words you choose need to convince someone that your email is worth opening. And that starts with a good subject line.”
Give sponsors a reason to open
As you begin to approach potential sponsors, remember that your goal is not to sell sponsorship. “The average person receives over 120 emails a day,” says Price. “If your subject line asks too much or comes off as needy, it’s likely to end up in the trash.”
Instead, write a subject line that gives the sponsor context for why you’re reaching out to them.
“Imagine you made contact with someone that works for a prospective sponsor at a recent networking event,” Price says. “If you’re convinced they’d remember you favourably, it’s always helpful to bring it up.”
A subject line that says “Met you at [event]. Let’s connect!” sets the context for your message and extends an invitation to continue the relationship. The same strategy works when emailing a referral, too. All you have to do is say, “[Referrer name] recommended I get in touch.”
Start off hot
Convincing a prospective sponsor to open your email is just the beginning. Your next challenge is keeping their attention – come off too pushy and the potential sponsor will quickly wonder why they opened it in the first place. The same applies if you aren’t clear about what you are asking.
Striking a balance takes practice. Start off with these best practice tips:
1. Avoid “hope you’re doing well”
“It’s a stock opening that we’re all too familiar with,” Price says. “For in-person conversations, it’s socially mandated. But on email, you risk sounding insincere.”
There are better ways to break the ice and get down to business.
“If you’re writing a high-stakes email that needs to get results, it never hurts to do your homework,” says Price. “You don’t have to stalk someone on social media, but doing a little research can go a long way. Include a sentence or two at the opening of your email to show you’re familiar with the recipient’s work.”
Let’s say your prospect was recently recognised as an industry leader by a well-respected publication. A brief note congratulating them on their accomplishments will demonstrate that you’re interested in their goals.
2. Mention how you’re connected
“Again, mentioning a mutual connection is a huge plus,” says Price. “People are much more receptive if you’ve been referred by someone they know and respect.”
But while it’s important to give context to your relationship to the sponsor, don’t write a novel. Once you’ve briefly mentioned your mutual connection, transition into the purpose of your email.
Here’s an example: “I recently had lunch with [referrer name], who shared some of your ideas. I was blown away! I think your approach would be a perfect fit for a project I’m working on.”
3. Seek their expert opinion
Remember — sponsorship is supposed to be win-win. Asking a prospective sponsor for help taps into their ego. “We like to be thought of as experts,” says Price. “We like to know that our opinions matter.”
The key to success, according to Price, is making your request seem effortless. “Keep in mind that you’re not the only person asking for their time,” he says. “If you let them know how long your request will take, they’ll be more likely to respond — and commit.”
You can demonstrate how much you respect their time by keeping your request concise. “Spare fifteen minutes to give your expert feedback” is only eight words in length and articulates the request perfectly.
Ask for the referral or meeting
By now the potential sponsor should know who you are and what you want from them. The last piece of the puzzle is telling them what you want them to do. Be explicit, and include a clear call to action.
“Would you be able to put me in touch with [referrer name]?” or “Does 15:00 work for a phone call?” are questions that ask them to commit.
Whatever you close with, avoid signing off with “thanks in advance.”
“If you thank a sponsor in advance for doing something, it can come across as arrogant,” Price advises. “Depending on the context, it could make you sound as though you’re expecting them to do something.”
Closing with an expression of gratitude is shown to increase response rates, so while you should avoid thanking your prospects in advance, a simple “thanks” can go a long way.
Take the next step
Sponsorship is a relationship business. The better you can build connections with your potential sponsors and establish trust, the more valuable your event will become. With these email tips from Taylor Price and Grammarly, you’ll be able to start the relationship off on the right foot.
To find out more about the revolution in event sponsorship, download our guide to The New Rules of Event Sponsorships.