The Basics of Selling Sponsorships on Your Podcast

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the-basics-of-selling-sponsorshipsSo you’ve built up a large audience of loyal listeners and you want to cash-in on the attention you’ve gathered. You can go to an advertising network and ask them to help monetize your audience, but they take a big cut off the top and you lose editorial control over what goes into your advertisements. Instead, you’re going to go it alone – it’s exciting, but you should be careful.

You’re on the edge of the abyss, where you have to burn the midnight oil figuring out how you can sell sponsorships, who you should sell them to, what should go in the spots, and how to make sure that you aren’t accidentally breaking any unwritten rules along the way.

For the next six months, this is what you need to know to sell sponsorships for your podcast.

The Preliminaries

As you start going around to potential sponsors asking for money, you need to have a few key pieces of information figured out ahead of time. Having these on hand will make the conversations flow smoothly, and by not leaving the specifics up to other people you’ll be in a better negotiating position as you close the deal.

Defining the Spots – The first thing you need to get out of the way is what types of spots you’re selling. To help when pitching companies, you’ll probably want to stick to the standard format of a 15-second pre-roll spot and a 60-second mid-episode spot.

However, depending on the length of your podcast and your style, you may want to have multiple 30-second mid-episode spots, 90-second end-of-episode spots, or a single 120-second mid-episode spot. You can experiment to see what resonates best with your audience, but to begin with you want to come up with something simple that you can sell to potential sponsors.

Knowing Your Price – Immediately after figuring out your spots, you need to figure out what you’re going to charge for them. Coming up with a price is part art and part science. On the science side, you’ll want to look at similar podcasts and see what they’re charging, how their listenership compares to yours, and how many spots they’re selling per episode.

On the art side, you’re going to want to base your number on what’s unique about your audience, why people should care about reaching them through you, and how your voice is one-of-a-kind. When you balance these two sides, you’ll end up with a price that you should stick to for at least a dozen pitches before tinkering with it.

Audience Information – Finally, the last big piece of information you’ll need before approaching potential sponsors is what your audience is like. Yes, the average number of downloads, the number of subscribers, and the number of website visits you get are all good to have on hand. But, what advertisers really care about is an audience that can be vividly describe in a single sentence.

For example, if you can approach a high-end paper supply company and explain to them that your audience is incredibly passionate about handcrafted goods and that price is no object to them, you’ll be far more likely to close a deal than if you went in with just your numbers. It might seem like your audience isn’t unique, but it almost certainly is. To find out what’s unique, you should start by asking listeners to fill out a survey at the end of one of your episodes and gather information on who they are, their spending habits, and what they care about. It’s only a short journey from the survey data to a well-written story you can pitch to sponsors.

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It’s Selling Time

Once you’ve had someone proofread your factsheet, you’re ready to go to advertisers. You should expect to be rejected or ignored time after time, especially in the first couple of weeks. You’re an unknown name and it’s going to take a while before people are comfortable trusting your audience numbers or forking over money for an advertising spot. To help alleviate this pain, there are two tactics you should keep in mind.

Finding Podcast Sponsors

Your success rate in closing sponsorship deals will be greatly improved if you focus on reaching out to relevant companies. It’s a straightforward tip, but it’s one that many people ignore in favor of getting household brand names to give them a portion of their yearly advertising spend. Instead of going down that path, you should start by taking what you already know about your audience and begin contacting companies who will be interested in reaching that group of people.

For example, say that your audience has a strong interest in the DIY space. You cover topics ranging from the Internet of Things, to WiFi specifications, to Chinese hardware manufacturing, to FCC regulations on antennae. While these themes provide you with interesting material to talk about, they also provide you with a way to pick appropriate sponsors – DIY companies, organizations that influence specifications, people trying to build a brand around international manufacturing, and government regulators. With some quick Googling you’ll be able to quickly come up with a list of 100 organizations that you can reach out to. It’s all about focusing on your niche.

Building Connections to Advertisers

Once you have some potential advertisers in mind, you need to convince them to schedule some time on your program. You should never underestimate the power of a cold email that you send directly, but there are things you can do that go the extra mile for companies you really want to work with. Many times, your guests will be a great place to start in building relationships with advertisers. Assuming that your guests are well-connected in your industry, they’ll either work for companies that have an advertising team or will be able to notify you when their employers and partners are looking for podcasts to advertise on.

To best take advantage of this opportunity, reach out to your past guests and explain that you’re going to start accepting sponsorships and ask if they know anyone that may be interested in a potential sponsorship – it’s as simple as that. Once they get back to you, you’ll typically find yourself with a warm introduction to someone that controls the purse strings.

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Final Thoughts

Selling sponsorships may seem like a dark art that you need to outsource to a third-party, but if you’ve been able to build up a regular audience for your podcast you should be able to close a few deals. With the above in mind, focus on selling 3 to 5 sponsorships and test what works, what doesn’t, and what needs tinkering. Starting with this manageable goal will set you well on your way to being fully booked a year ahead of time.

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