You have a lot more in common with your prospective sponsors than you may suspect.
If you think about it, you both offer value, you both seek to be sustainable businesses, and you share a common target market. You are also both seeking to nudge that target market through the buyer’s journey to invest in what you offer.
And since research shows over 70% of buyers conduct over half of their research online before making an offline purchase, your online learning portal is prime real estate for partnering.
Retiring Same Old
Sponsorships of the past focusing upon ads, signs, and logo placements are no longer enough. Brand awareness is still important, but sponsors are looking for opportunities to tell their story and develop rapport with prospective customers (just like your organization is!).
Consider you’re in the market for a new laptop. First, you needed to realize you want a new laptop. Something triggered that need. It could be your laptop failed, but it could also be a colleague talking about their new laptop or some information you encountered about updated features now available that would make your life easier. So you do some research. You check out known brands, bargains, and industry rankings. You note the features that would best suit your needs – speed, memory, graphics card, support – and begin vetting solutions based upon those criteria. You’re definitely in the market now, intentionally narrowing down laptop options. But before you whip out your credit card, you really want to validate your short list. You reach out to that colleague about why they chose the laptop they just purchased. You read reviews of the models you’re considering. You potentially reach out to your social media network for opinions on your short list. You factor those personal insights into your final decision.
Now peering back over your shoulder at that journey from realizing you want a new laptop to making the purchase, how much did a brand placement influence your decision? It matters, but it’s only the very beginning of generating curiosity that may trigger a commitment.
Your prospective sponsors are looking for ways to become an active part of the buyer’s journey. This is valuable to those who are developing a shortlist of solutions – your learners. How can you offer win-win-win opportunities that will delight sponsors, your customers, and offset your eLearning infrastructure expenses?
Embracing New Opportunities
First, understand your value.
Organizations that believe sponsors are only interested in live events because they can’t sell online sponsorships are leaving money on the table. It’s not the “live-ness” of events that attracts sponsors, it’s networking with their prospective customers. If your online sponsorships do not offer this opportunity they will be tough to sell.
Second, build your value.
Not just any online learning portal will be attractive to prospective sponsors. Build value – and traffic — with these key features:
- Mobile first: Research on the modern learner reveals professionals demand access to the content they want when they want it on any device they have handy. A mobile first eLearning platform is future forward and attractive to sponsors who are also keen on cultivating a mobile presence.
- Video rich: Cisco predicts that by 2020 video will comprise 82% of all consumer internet traffic. Video content drives traffic to your learning portal which increases sponsor interest in partnering with you.
- Content commitment: Show your sponsors you have a content calendar you’re committed to delivering on and they will want to be part of the conversation. Stagnating learning portals with dusty content will not earn sponsor dollars.
- Enduring material: Leverage greater exposure for longer durations of time that an online learning platform offers. To do this, you’ll need to show you’re transitioning from event-based learning to learning pathways to sustain traffic over time.
Third, offer value.
Consider these opportunities to negotiate win-win-win sponsorships that sell:
- Brand placement plus: Brand awareness is important, but beef that up with an opportunity for sponsors to tell their story. Hyperlink ads to a vendor white paper, infographic, or diagnostic tool. An ad plus a valuable piece of content is click bait. Tweet thank you’s to ad sponsors with a link to the learning portal page their ad is featured. Price ads by size and duration of time on your site. Bundle site ads with sponsorship opportunities you’re already offering.
- Sell data: Data is the gold currency of an introduction. Offer program sponsors a list of registrants. Offer an opportunity for a sponsor to add a question or two to a program survey – data that will help you both better understand your market. Analyze your own data to help sponsors find the programs where their target audiences congregate to win their partnership.
- Exclusive experiences: When we sell exclusive sponsorship to an event we sometimes draw the conclusion that the exclusivity of the sponsor brand on the event is what we’re offering. Not so much. What’s valuable about exclusive experiences is that your vendor partner can tell their story and develop rapport without competing with so many other stories in the room. How can you offer that on your learning portal? Create opportunities for sponsors to partner on a curated video project, an annual conference faculty only area of your LMS stocked with speaker resources, or career resources for students. Think about who your prospective sponsor is trying to reach and how you can create an exclusive win-win-win.
- Content sponsorship: Organizations often site conflict of interest for now allowing vendors to influence content. Fair enough. But consider what valuable content you can offer outside of accredited programming that your audience needs and wants. Consider a solutions webinar series where industry practitioners and vendor partners present a case challenge and how they solved it together. Consider a technology spotlight series where tech vendors are each given an industry challenge and they present their solution. There’s less chance of annoying our learners with solutions to problems they are facing than crowding logos into a banner ad.
Talk with your sponsors about who they are seeking to reach and what component of that buyer journey you can partner on that will also benefit your learners. Win-win-win sponsorships offer value and they sell.