Corporate partnership. For your organization, the term tends to invoke images of budgeting, of sponsorship agreements, and of maintaining effective and productive partner benefits. But as a concept, partnership is about more than that. It is about cooperation, about shared connection, and about mutual interests.
We can use this original meaning to direct and develop our partnership programs, and to make sure we are asking the right questions – while looking in the right place for answers.
Take, for example, setting up corporate partnership agreements for your upcoming year. As you look to creating, maintaining, or advancing your corporate partner relationships, consider as well that the companies in question will be doing just the same thing. You are not the only one poring over draft budgets, and making decisions about expenditures. Your current, and potential, partners will also be embroiled in drawing up fiscal plans.
The question to ask, therefore, is “when do companies decide their marketing and sponsorship budgets?”
You might be tempted to make the question “when does the company’s fiscal year end?”, and therefore to find the answer yourself. But this can be misleading. The month in which a company might decide their marketing budget could be at many different points before the end of their fiscal year.
Rather than creating your own answers by relying upon fiscal year cycles, the most effective and most accommodating thing to do is to talk with companies about their plans. Since almost all corporate sponsorship/partnership fees are paid from a company’s marketing budget, I advise my clients to ask each of their current and prospective corporate partners when the company makes expenditure decisions for the coming year – and, more importantly, when they want to have a conversation about partnership that best aligns with their budget decision-making process.
Asking these questions is a way of demonstrating that your association is concerned with the company’s needs and best interests. This is important on more than one level: not only does it show respect and consideration for your professional relationship, but it can have a real impact on their decision-making itself.
An anecdote by way of example:
I was interviewing a corporate partner for one of my clients, and asked them whether it would be important for my client to set up a discussion about partnership in the upcoming year, before the company sets its budget. The corporate partner’s response was enthusiastic and enlightening. They described their process, explaining that they allocate the same amount of money for the association as they did for the current year, because they don’t know what the association will offer corporate partners for the coming year. If they could talk with the organization beforehand about opportunities for the coming year, they might well be inclined to increase their partnership support.
By including your partners in the conversation, adjusting to their needs, and considering their requirements, your organization has the potential to not just strengthen relationships, but also to enjoy gains. Partnerships, after all, are about meeting the needs of both the company and your association.
Does this topic intrigue you? Bruce spoke on this subject at SURGE 2017, a free virtual summit we hosted over November 7-9th. Click here to access the replay of the session.