It's a tough time for all companies right now - there's no denying it. Either your business has tanked (almost every industry sector) or your business is busier than anybody wants it to be (like, say, medical professionals).
Event sponsors are no different.
I'm hearing a lot of nervous talk from race organizers about what they'll do about sponsorship when we are on the other side of this pandemic. I'm here to tell you, that if you're waiting for the other side of this pandemic for you to do something about it, you're too late.
You're not just going to lose sponsors because they've run out of money. You are not just going to lose sponsors because they are pulling away from the endurance business.
Yes, they may back away for a year or two - but that's not losing them. If they saw value, they will be back.
You are most likely to lose sponsors because of some simple, easily addressable flaws in your communication.
I've said it before and I will say it again, you must communicate with sponsors early and often.
You must absolutely, without a doubt, keep your sponsors updated with your thinking before your participants find out. Before you post it on social media. Before you put it on your website.
If you don't do that, you are not treating your sponsors like a valued partner. If you don't do that, your sponsors will spend their money with other companies that hold them in higher esteem. Period.
Sponsors do not want to hear about your event from anybody else. They do not want to have to call you to find out that you're canceling.
You. Call. Them.
It's the easiest investment in your future revenue.
Don't email them. Definitely don't mass email them. Pick up the phone and dial. The people who show the leadership to have the tough conversations are the ones that garner the most trust and respect.
Be that person.
And while you're that person, let's talk about your participants for a minute.
In the same way you'll lose your sponsors by not communicating with them early and somewhat often, you'll lose your participants by not communicating with them early and more often.
McKinsey & Company is a massive consulting and research firm that works with some of the largest organizations in the world.
They have developed a methodology around creating happy, loyal customers. It's called the Three C's
The three C's of customer satisfaction: consistency, consistency and consistency
There's actually a lot that goes into it, but the bottom line is about consistency in thought, purpose and action.
It is about communicating consistently in a way that builds trust and lets people see that you live up to your promises. It's about integrity and transparency with consistent and meaningful outreach.
I've seen and heard about many event organizers who struggle over the decision to cancel or postpone. They finally make a decision and send an email to their participants with instructions on how the canceled events are being handled. Then they go home (or, really, go to the other room), maybe have a drink to celebrate the suddenly reduced stress, and go to sleep feeling satisfied that the participant crisis has been averted.
You made a decision. You got the communication out. You feel good. It's done.
You think you proverbially doused the fire with a proverbial toss of water. but for all you know, that canister could've been filled with gasoline. You could wake up to find your entire business is aflame.
A crisis is never over until your stakeholders tell you it is. If you take things for granted, feel like you've solved your problems in one email, and stop communicating, you're throwing fuel on the fire.
Consistent communication is critical. I got a great example the other day from Bill Burnett at Streamline Events.
Bill has an event in late June. He doesn't yet know if he is going to cancel, postpone or keep the date as is. He doesn't have any new decisions. He doesn't have any news. There's nothing new to say.
So what did he do?
He communicated with his participants. And he did it with empathy, facts and transparency. He personalized and humanized it. Even though he had no new news, he created value and trust in his communication. Check it out.
I've been thinking about you and the incredibly awesome community we have built together around the Cohasset Triathlon. I mean seriously, who else would love to cram themselves in a wetsuit to dive into 60 degree water? You are the best!
The last three weeks have been excruciatingly difficult for all of us. Way too many losses to list. I'm now going on 3x walks a day (my poor dogs) to de-stress. I'm not a big podcast guy, but I highly recommend a new podcast called "Unlocking Us" by Brene Brown. During my walks, Brene has shared helpful ways to cope through the collective grief we share in this new normal. Step one, as Brene preaches it, is to name how you are feeling (and so on).
Will we suit up on June 28th? It's too early to tell. But it's important for you to know that we are starting to look at all of the alternatives. Be rest assured I will be completely transparent with you in the weeks ahead.
n the meantime, take deep breaths, but good to yourself, and listen to the advice from Brene Brown.
Now is not the time to sit around and wonder what to do. Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself.
Now is your opportunity.
It's your opportunity to lead, to comfort, to communicate and to be consistent.
The future of your company depends on it.