March, 2009
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Build Your Business: Event Sponsorship


Welcome to Smart Tips, a monthly ASHI Reporter feature written by one of North America’s most successful home inspection firms, Carson Dunlop & Associates. Each month, we will feature a new article that provides  sound approaches to strategic business growth, all field-tested for success by some of the most experienced home inspectors in North America. Whether it’s sales and advertising strategies, tips on making your business more customer-centric or how to evaluate public relations opportunities, our goal is to stimulate your interest to work on your business rather than just in it.

At first glance, sponsoring a real estate event to gain visibility for your company within the real estate community may sound like a great opportunity, but before making a commitment you need to know how to take advantage of it.

If you are the type of person who can circulate in a large group, make contacts and establish relationships, this may be a wonderful opportunity. If this is not your style, you may want to focus elsewhere. In our experience, sponsorships are expensive and time-consuming and the payoff is marginal unless you are a natural at building relationships in group situations.

If you decide to sponsor an event, here are some tips that will help make it worthwhile.

Tip One: Be demanding and ask for something in return.

When an event organizer asks you to commit to sponsoring an event, he is asking for a favor. It is reasonable for you to ask for a commitment in return.
For example, the organizer may want you to contribute $200 to the event in exchange for having your name appear on a list of sponsors that will be prominently displayed on each dinner table at the banquet. What can you ask for in addition to being on the list?
  • A list of attendees and a list of prize winners or award winners so you can send follow-up notes, including congratulatory letters, to the winners.

  • Help arranging an office presentation. If you don’t have a contact at that office, this could be valuable.

  • An invitation to the banquet, but only if you are good at “working the crowd.” If you are not good at mingling and getting business cards, then attending the banquet is just another expense.
Golf events require a different approach from what’s effective for banquets.

You may want to play golf. The organizers will certainly want you to play. This is a commitment of several hours to three people. Decide how to make the most of this opportunity, and let the organizers know your preference.
You may ask to be grouped with agents you know so you can reinforce your relationship.

You may not want to play with agents you don’t know.
You probably don’t want to be paired with non-agents unless there is a business opportunity.

This is a big commitment and may be a gamble, but if you love golf and people, it can be an enjoyable day with some business possibilities.

Tip Two: Don’t always give them what they ask for. Make a counteroffer.

If you must say yes to a sponsorship, you may want to offer something that is more palatable to you. You will still be saying yes, but with a slight variation.

Here is an example: Say the organizer of a golf tournament asks for $400 in exchange for your name on a sign located at the third hole. You could say that you will donate a free home inspection for an agent to give to his or her client. It still represents a $300 or $400 value but, more importantly, the prize winner may be a good prospect.

Tip Three: If possible, go with a high-visibility prize instead of cash.

Most organizers are looking for two things: money and/or prizes. The money is harder for them to get, so that is likely the first thing they will ask for. They will want money in exchange for your company name listed in a high-profile location. The more money you spend, the higher profile the location. This kind of sponsorship is not memorable. In our experience, if you are going to contribute a prize, a high-visibility prize packs more bang for the buck, and the cost is not as much as you think. A 20-inch color television set has a larger impact as a prize than sponsoring a table and doesn’t cost as much as some other commitments. The organizers usually see this as a significant prize. Its impact is far greater than the dollar value. Our preference would still be to contribute something that is more likely to result in a sales opportunity. Giving away an inspection, for example, will certainly result in someone contacting you to use it. If he or she has never used you before, this is your chance to impress a new real estate agent.

As part of our sponsorship, a representative from our company presents the prize to the lucky winner at the banquet. Some years, we have given other prizes that have less grandeur, but create a big stir nonetheless. We donated two remote-control cars. While it was not a grand prize, it worked well. We put our logo on the cars, charged the batteries and put them on the prize table ready to roll. Needless to say, it didn’t take long before agents were racing our cars around the room and on the green during the putting contest. Two extra pre-charged batteries ensured the fun continued. The problem with these types of prizes is that everyone, including the winner of the prize, will forget who donated it. You want your public relations campaign to create awareness in targeted areas that will not be forgotten. While this is a challenge, it is important to your marketing and sales efforts.

The lesson: If you don’t have much to spend, get some visibility by being creative.

Tip Four: The beginning of the banquet is prime time, so work the room!

We usually go only to the banquet. The banquet is in the evening, so it does not conflict with your work schedule. And, it provides more of an opportunity to chat or buy someone a drink. If you attend the banquet, the socializing before the meal is the best time to make contacts. For the meal, you are stuck at a table with about seven other people and, because of the loud chatter, often you can’t talk to the person across the table. You likely will only speak to the people on either side of you. If you have a basement contractor on your left and an accountant on your right, you might as well sit back and enjoy the meal. But eat quickly so you can get up and socialize. Standing near the bar is often a good strategy.

If you are not a natural socializer, this part of the banquet can be an awkward time. If you can’t make the best of this time, don’t bother going to the banquet. It’s not uncommon to see a group of home inspectors clustered together chatting at banquets. They may feel comfortable and secure and they all have something in common, but they are wasting their time and money.
After dinner, awards and prizes are given out. This part of the evening is the hardest time to engage anyone in discussion. And after the prizes, people are tired, ready to go home and less receptive to chat.

Remember that in order for event sponsorship to work for your business, you will have to be an active participant in the process. The simple act of sending a check to cover part of the cost of the event is unlikely to yield any rewards for you.

This article is based on content from “Building Your Home Inspection Business – A guide to marketing, sales, advertising, and public relations,” authored by Carson Dunlop and published by Dearborn Home Inspection. Carson Dunlop also authors the Home Reference Book, Essentials of Home Inspection, the Illustrated Home and, most recently, HORIZON, a unique Web-based reporting system.

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