We are all still stuck at home in our new normal. We live with a steady hum of fear that the coronavirus is lurking around the next corner, ready to pounce on us like Hobbes does Calvin.
We worry about our businesses, our jobs, our families. We wash our hands incessantly. We binge watch shows we never even heard of 3 weeks ago. And we suddenly understand the meaning of “avoiding each other like the plague.”
It will be a huge relief when we are on the other side of this pandemic, when the restrictions are lifted and we can get out of our homes.
I can't wait to exhale once we’ve reached the peak and are headed back down the mountain.
Here's an interesting thing to note: of all the people that perished on Mt. Everest between 1921 and 2006, a mere 15% of them perished on the way up the mountain. The vast majority occurred on the way back down.
You see, it’s easy to get lulled into a sense of security when you’re on the other side of achieving a goal. As most business-owners know, the moment you expect nothing to go wrong is exactly the time it will.
The good thing is that we know this, and we can plan for it.
The alpinists who climb Everest, they know it too. They leave ropes and ladders and gear during their ascent up the mountain so that it is there to assist them on their way back down.
The very things that keep them alive on the way up, are the things that will later keep them alive on their return to normalcy.
We are reaching the peak.
We need to lay some more rope.
Any sales person who has worked for me knows that they should never utter four specific words. Those words are: I’m waiting for them.
I’m a forward movement type of guy. If you’re not moving forward you’re moving back. Innovate or die. That's the type of philosophy I live by. It’s why I’m a runner, a cyclist and a triathlete. It's why I'm an entrepreneur. I want to always be moving forward, faster.
We should never be sitting around twiddling our thumbs and waiting for somebody to get back to us. We should always - always - be thinking of what we can be doing to help grow our clients' businesses and solve their problems.
The same logic can be applied to sponsor relationships.
Now, more than ever, your sponsors are in the same mindset as you: their revenue has tanked, they’re struggling to keep the doors open, they’re anxious about having to lay off or furlough employees, they’re wishing and hoping and praying that everything gets back to normal but they know deep down inside that the very definition of “normal” has changed.
They're nervous. Maybe just like you.
That's exactly why we have opportunity.
Like the alpinists laying rope, now is a perfect time to be thinking of what you can do to help your sponsors bridge the gap to the new normal. As the saying goes,
"Life is a boomerang. What you give, you get."
So you pretty much have two choices when it comes to sponsor relationships in a time of crisis.
Choice #1: sit around and wait for your sponsors to make a decision whether or not they’ll work with you in the future.
Choice #2: do something about it.
What should you do?
Funny you ask. As it turns out, I’ve heard a couple of nifty ideas that may help stir the grey matter in your brain.
You’ve most likely switched your event to a virtual one. (Even if you didn’t, this still applies). Perhaps the most important aspect that drives success of virtual events is the participants’ level of social engagement throughout the experience.
Unlike physical events in which the peak social engagement period is highly concentrated on one, maybe two, days - social engagement with virtual events can peak for days, weeks or even months if you’re good.
Why not include your sponsors as an integral part of the social engagement element of your virtual experience? In fact, here are a few off-the-cuff ideas that participants can post on social media:
(Editors Note: Nothing says global pandemic survival like a good Haiku contest)
Every company I've talked with has offered their participants some sort of variation on RPVD (Refund, Postpone, Virtual, Defer).
A dramatic few have engaged sponsors in their cancelation offering.
Why? Beats me.
How about giving every single participant a “book” that includes offerings from each sponsor (thanks to Bill for this idea). By doing this you’re accomplishing many things all at once:
Once we are past the peak and let out of our homes, the local restaurants and retail stores are going to struggle to stay in business. We all have the power to act, right this minute, and help ensure that we get down the mountain safely and back to our new normal.
That’s exactly what it means to lay down the rope.
Let me know you're doing to keep your sponsors engaged.