Happy Birthday Slingshot: Tips & reflections on starting a sponsorship agency
14th June, 2011
While waiting for our bottles of champagne to arrive on the table at our birthday party celebration, I thought about the past year and what I could have done better/differently through Year 1. We’ve had many successes – our most recent being shortlisted for four awards at the upcoming Corporate Engagement Awards as well as a few hiccups, but all in all it’s been such a fantastic year and I can’t wait to start the next one.
Throughout the year, I am constantly asked how I made the leap and so I thought I’d jot down some of my own tips/experiences as a birthday gift to all those thinking about starting up a sponsorship agency (or any service based business for that matter).
- TIP 1: Understand your agency’s value proposition
Without a full understanding of what your business does, it’s going to be next to impossible to explain, let alone convince others to buy into your service. Clearly identifying what it is you do, who you’d like to work with, and knowing what you can’t/won’t do is incredibly important. Do your research and find out what else is out there and what your competitive edge is. And then, as a good friend and someone I regularly go to for business advice said, “Make sure you can explain all this in an elevator between the ground floor and the arriving on the first floor or else forget it.”
Our value proposition in plain English: We build/create things to make money.
More eloquently put, Slingshot identifies opportunities in businesses that new revenue streams such as sponsorship can be developed without having to change the direction or core focus of the business. This creates partnerships and helps generate revenue for activity that is already being resourced. It also opens up new audiences for your business to reach.
- TIP 2: Use a cash flow
The number one failing of a business is not having enough cash flow. Not only understanding how to put one together, but also using it to identify how to develop and grow your business moving forward.
With an educational background in finance, I thought I understood this fairly well, but a textbook understanding of cash flow and how it actually relates to your business turn out to be very different concepts when put into practice. I’d highly recommend speaking to someone who has done it before and get them to help you tailor your cash flow to reflect your business objectives.
- TIP 3: Shout about what makes you unique
If you are considering starting out on your own, I am assuming you already know what will make you different than your competitors. If you don’t know, then it might be worth reconsidering whether or not you should be going it alone.
When you do know what you do better than the next guy, make sure to tell everyone you know. This can be through your website, word of mouth, articles, profiles, credentials, your company blog and actively using social media such as Twitter. Your unique selling point won’t ensure you’ll land every client that comes along, but it will help you get your foot in the door.
- TIP 4: Outsource
Working until the wee hours of every night for the past year has not been my idea of fun, but I did anticipate it and assumed it was part of starting your own business. However it did takes its toll, especially on tasks that I wasn’t particularly good at – such as invoicing and filing. I finally made the decision to outsource some of our non-core activities and it has made a world of difference – allowing me to work on what I do best – being creative and building relationships between brands.
- TIP 5: Love what you do
It is not always easy working in sponsorship and there can be a lot of rejection – both from prospective clients as well as prospective sponsors for projects you are involved with. If you don’t love what you do, then you won’t make it past the long hours and what seems like an extraordinary amount of copywriting that I never knew existed (website, blog, articles, emails…) to find yourself sitting in the VIP room at the Hammersmith Apollo realising that you helped build this. And hopefully in a month’s time admiring those first few awards in our office’s reception!