The message came out of nowhere. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure if it was even legitimate. Someone who had commented on my blog a few times was inviting me to a conference in California, all expenses paid. I sat in shock as I read the message, especially when he mentioned a few of the other bloggers who were invited, all of whom were definitely out of my league! I didn’t raise my hopes too high, but I did reply that I was interested and would be available to talk via phone later that week.
Turns out, the trip was for real and I had the wonderful opportunity of being a part of David C. Cook’s The Gathering Conference in Costa Mesa, CA. I went as a “live blogger” and met a lot of the David C. Cook team and many other Children’s Ministry workers from around the country. I couldn’t believe my blog had brought me this experience. I had always loved the blog, but more as a “creative outlet” than anything serious. Of course, the hope was that I would be “a real writer” someday, but I wasn’t there yet. The conference was a turning point for me. I began to take myself more seriously and see that there was value in my work.
As soon as I got home, I started browsing Twitter and the blogosphere connecting with other like-minded men and women. I happened upon Bloggy Moms and saw details for the upcoming conference. It sounded perfect for my situation. When I found out it was going to be in Cincinnati (a very do-able drive from my Erie, PA home), I almost fell out of my chair. Could I really make this happen?
I started looking at the costs and while completely reasonable, they were not in our budget. The cars were getting shaky and I had lost some hours at my home day care. This was no time for “special treat” spending. I bookmarked the page and then tried to push the whole idea out of my head.
The next day, I received an email from one of the marketing executives at David C. Cook (someone I had met at the conference). He explained that the company saw value in my work at Growing Kids Ministry and wanted to advertise. Talk about perfect timing (praise God!). I read through the “Find a Sponsor” suggestions on the Bloggy Conference site and sent a proposal over to David C. Cook. They accepted immediately. In exchange for a year of advertising on Growing Kids Ministry, almost all my conference costs were paid. It was unbelievable. Needless to say, David C. Cook is my new favorite company.
From this experience, I realized that people will only put as much value in your work as you do. Before The Gathering Conference, I would have never thought of asking for sponsorship, but now, I’m collecting a bookmark file full of potential sponsors. Sure, they won’t all be as big as David C. Cook, but every little bit adds up. If you’re looking for a sponsor, here’s what I would recommend.
1) Take a Look Around Your Life:
What brands and companies do you return to again and again? What products do you love? What have you already written about on your blog? Target those people. Companies know their best sales-people are people who love the product. Excitement is contagious and if you can convey your excitement and loyalty to a company, you’ve got a good chance they are going to take notice.
2) Be Smart About Asking:
Do a little research and make sure you’re sending your request to the right person (marketing and PR are where you want to go). Check Linked In or check the brand’s home page and get a specific person’s name. If you have any connection or anything in common with them (same college, for instance), be sure to mention that in the first few lines of your proposal.
3) Give Before You Receive:
Remember, this is not really about you. Companies want to make sure they are getting a good return on their investment. So, while the Bloggy Conference is totally awesome and a great opportunity for someone like you, don’t dwell on that. Tell the company what THEY will be getting out of the deal. The more enticing the offer is to THEM, the better chance you have of catching a sponsor.
4) Get Out in the World:
There’s nothing more effective than making personal connections. You know the saying “All things being equal, people do business with friends. All things not being equal, people still do business with friends.” I never would have acquired this sponsorship if I hadn’t gone to The Gathering Conference. Maybe a conference in California isn’t in the cards for you, but there are other ways to make meaningful connections. Contact some of the top-blogs in your niche and ask to interview the authors and feature them on your site. Or ask a small-business owner to share their back-story (again, featuring them on your site). When you do an interview, do it over the phone or via skype. The more personal you can make it, the more of a connection you’ll create. If you see something that someone might like, send them an email specifically letting them know that you were thinking of them. Going back to point #3, make sure you are out there contributing and sharing resources. Sometimes it’s hard to venture outside your own corner of cyberspace, but you’re paving the way for future partnerships. It’s worth it!
5) Don’t Despise Humble Beginnings:
I was very fortunate to gain the sponsorship I did, but it doesn’t always happen in one big sweep like that. Start by asking for small sponsorships or offer a “new advertiser” special. If you go through Passion Fruit ads, you can even create custom promo codes. Once you get your foot in the door, it’s easier to work your way into bigger or more long-term contracts. Everyone started small. You’ll get there!
Hope to see you at the Conference!
This guest post was submitted by Lindsey Whitney from Growing Kids Ministry.
You can catch her on Twitter at @lrwhitney or on Facebook.
Questions, comments, suggestions or concerns about Bloggy Conference? We would love to hear from you! Contact Us.