When's the best time to approach sponsors?
Timing can be everything when making a case for sponsorship support.
If your proposal is on the right desk at the right time, it stands a much better chance of gaining a favourable response.
There are some key times of the year when marketing - and, therefore, sponsorship - budgets are allocated; so it's worth bearing this point in mind when deciding when to make calls or send documents detailing your sponsorship offerings.
Of course, different companies work to different budget cycles. Some set budgets annually; some six-monthly; some decide on their spend on a quarterly basis; and for some marketing planning is done on a month-by-month or even a week-by-week basis.
But there are certain times of the year which represent a natural dividing line, either because of accounting procedures, or patterns in the marketplace or simply a change in the season.
January is a time when many companies take stock of their market position. Whilst November and December would seem to be the natural time to prepare for the coming year, in most markets Christmas and the whole end-of-year rush will often push budgeting onto the back burner.
Of course, there are always exceptions - the Travel market is one. For most Travel companies, being visible from the very beginning of the year is an absolute must, so they will almost invariably tend to do most of their marketing planning for the coming year in the previous November and December.
For many companies, the new tax year, which starts in early April, can be a key planning time. Although companies' own financial years vary widely, March and April tend to be the times when profitability becomes an issue.
The weeks leading up to the first week in April may see spare funds being "offloaded", a tactical move often driven more by decisions made in a company's accounts/finance department than by marketing considerations.
Knowing the "shape" of a sponsor's sales curve can be most useful in determining the optimum time to make an approach. May and June are big sales months in many marketplaces. Time spent researching (or simply considering) this aspect of a potential sponsor's business can be time well spent.
If your sponsorship property is an event that will happen around the time of a company's sales peak, it's well worth drawing this to their attention, as part of your sales pitch.
Whilst July and August are popular holiday periods, some companies do undertake marketing planning during these months. Where autumn, winter and/or Christmas sales are of critical importance, many companies will want to fire their opening marketing salvos right at the start of September, to take full advantage of the available market potential.
The "trick", of course, is to find out when decisions are being made. Whilst it's good practise to send sponsors occasional updates about what's been happening, it's important not to badger them. Doing that can result in that worst of all results - the reply, "I'm sorry, she's in a meeting", every time you call.
Much better to establish, as soon as possible, the best time to get in touch, so that your approach can stand the best chance of being heard and your proposal can be seen as relevant and worth pursuing.
A good way of building rapport with a potential sponsor is to contact the executive right at the start of their appointment by a company. In the process, finding out the optimum time to send or arrange to present sponsorship proposals can a valuable first step towards clinching the deal.