"Sponsored by Sphere"In today’s economy it is imperative that you think “SMART” when it comes to spending money to promote your business. By Smart I mean – Strategic, Methodical, Authentic, Realistic, and Targeted.

Strategic marketing can take many forms. For instance you might consider a sponsorship program to market your small business offline. Sponsorships are an excellent way to increase your visibility in the community and endear you with your target audience. People like to do business with companies that support a good cause, organization, event or goal.

Methodical marketing is simply having a step-by-step plan to implement your marketing strategies.

Authentic marketing is being true to your company’s mission, your own overall goals, and transparent to your customer/audience/prospects. People prefer to do business with companies that they can relate to, and when you are authentic and true to your brand, people know.

Realistic marketing is knowing what you are capable of doing, what you can afford and what is in your best interests. Your marketing should support your mission and have a high probability of success. Hedging your marketing bets means you do your homework, consider the pros and cons of any type of potential sponsorship opportunities and make wise choices.

And targeted marketing simply means you are staying within your niche or at least serving the niche with your sponsorship dollars (unless you plan to go after or create a new niche for your business).  If you plan to spend any amount of money on sponsorships, the more targeted your approach and your audience, the higher levels of success will be realized. It is important to try and make your advertising budget go as far as you can. In doing this, you have to consider every possible angle. Spending money without breaking the bank marketing your small business offline is not only important, it is critical to your ultimate success. You have to be able to justify your marketing by creating a realistic budget and anticipate how many “qualified” people your sponsorship will touch or affect.

Three tips to sponsorship success:

Make a list of the organizations that align with your mission. And start contacting them to see what their needs are and if your company can fulfill those needs.

Work with the orgazination you are sponsoring to come up with a win-win promotion. Think about bartering your services for a piece of the “advertising pie.” What will you gain from the “exposure?” What extras can you gain from supporting them, such as a list of their clients/supporters/and partners? In-kind sponsorship is often just as important (or more important) to the organization’s goals. If you are printer for instance and the group needs printing for an event, become a sponsor.

Social networking begins at home. I am not talking online networking. I am talking about face-to-face events where you can meet stakeholders and other supporters of the organization or cause.  Get to know the leaders, the movers and shakers. Be a mover and shaker. S.M.A.R.T. Sponsorship can add greatly to your bottom line. It can give you an excellent return on investment of time, talent and treasure.

Check out what one company did with the Sunkist “Take a Stand for Kids Charity.” A perfect example of a cause-related marketing program in action.