Linda Hollander, CEO of Sponsor Concierge and the founder of the Sponsor Secrets Seminar, has been featured by Inc magazine as the leading expert on corporate sponsorship. She has over 20 years of experience as a small business owner, and as the industry leader in teaching people how to tap into the awesome power of corporate sponsors. She's the author of the number one bestseller "Corporate Sponsorship in Three Easy Steps." She's also the CEO of Sponsor Concierge and the founder of the Sponsor Secrets Seminar. Her sponsors include Microsoft Epson, Wells Fargo, Dun and Bradstreet, FedEx, American Airlines, Staples, HealthNet, Marriott, IBM aandt Walmart. Al Lapin Jr. The founder of IHOP restaurants says, "If your goal is to be a success, Linda Hollander has paved the way for you."

Learn more about Linda.

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Full Transcript:

Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and today we're talking with Linda Hollander. Linda has been featured by Inc magazine as the leading expert on corporate sponsorship. She has over 20 years of experience as a small business owner, and as the industry leader in teaching people how to tap into the awesome power of corporate sponsors. She's the author of the number one bestseller "Corporate Sponsorship in Three Easy Steps." She's also the CEO of Sponsor Concierge and the founder of the Sponsor Secrets Seminar. Her sponsors include Microsoft Epson, Wells Fargo, Dun and Bradstreet, FedEx, American Airlines, Staples, HealthNet, Marriott, IBM aandt Walmart. Al Lapin Jr. The founder of IHOP restaurants says, "If your goal is to be a success, Linda Hollander has paved the way for you." So please welcome to the show Linda Hollander.

Linda: Hey, great to be here, ladies.

Passionistas: We're so excited to have you. Thank you, Linda. What's the one thing you're most passionate about?

Linda: Oh wow. Just one thing. Uh, well I'm, I am actually a Sponsor Passionista and that's what I'm most excited about. I love empowering women financially, so they can make better choices in life, so they can live their passion as you teach them to do. Uh, so they can send their kids to better schools, uh, so they can have better lives. Uh, and I want everybody has a challenge and my goal in life is to have people discover and achieve their greatness.

Passionistas: Tell us a little bit about your background and how that led to you getting into the world of corporate sponsorships.

Linda: Okay. Well, remember when I told me that everybody has challenges and especially now where we're working with a lot of challenges, what I did is I started a company with my best friend, Cheryl. And that's why I love forums like this because I am all about women's empowerment. And I've been in that movement for over 20 years. So Cheryl and I though, we met when we were 13 years old at recess and we became bonded. We became, I guess, kind of closer than sisters. And I know you two have a lot of girl power going on. Uh, so we said, "Oh my God, when we grow up, if we do something together, it's going to be amazing and it's going to be absolutely phenomenal." So we started this company, uh, it was all about bags, uh, because I was an art major. I didn't study business at all in college.

Uh, everything I took was art. I thought business was boring. She was a, a cinema major. Uh, but, uh, we got together and we started this company producing bags. And when I say bags, I don't mean ladies purses. I mean, promotional shopping bags, the ones that you see at trade shows and at shopping malls. And our clients were Disney and Mattel and Nissan. And, you know, we had all know, we turned this little silly, stupid idea of producing bags into a multi-million dollar business. Now that's all well and good. And Oh my God, working with your best friend is amazing. Uh, but it wasn't always that way for me, because before I started my business, I was in a dead end job. Uh, I wasn't making enough money at my job. So I borrowed on credit cards and then pretty quickly I saw that, Oh my God, when I went to the mailbox, my hand would literally shake when I opened that mailbox because there were bills there that I could never, ever afford to pay.

And I wasn't living larger or anything. I was just kind of trying to make my rent every month. And sometimes it was, it was a struggle. A lot of times it was a struggle. I had to work with people that I didn't like. Uh, I had a very abrasive relationship with my boss and you know, my heart and my soul was absolutely crying out because I had the fire of an entrepreneur. And this kind of was a toxic situation to be in, in that business. Sometimes at lunch, I would go into my car and I would cry.

And on my, uh, personal side, in my personal life, I was in a relationship with an abusive man. And I stayed in that relationship for many years because basically I thought that was what I deserved. And I couldn't see a way out of it. Fortunately, ladies, one day I had an epiphany and, uh, uh, I fired my boss. Uh, I dumped the abusive boyfriend and I called my friend Cheryl. And I said, do you want to take the biggest adventure ride of our lives together and start a business? And fortunately she said, yes.

So that started me on a trajectory. I was able to move out of my little rent controlled apartment. I bought my first home as a single woman. I was able to travel the world. I was able to pay down that debt. That was absolutely choking me. But what I loved most was mentoring other people in business because they didn't just come to me to order bags. And by the way, we were one of the only female owned packaging companies. So we walk, we work with a lot of women business owners and they said, "Linda, how do I do sales? How do I do marketing?" So then I came up with the idea of creating a women's small business expo because I wanted to show other women how to empower themselves by learning entrepreneurship.

And then I looked and I said, "Oh my God, to do this event the way I want to do it. Cause I wanted to do a really high class event. Uh, it's going to be a lot of money." So that's when I went on the internet and I said, what are these things called sponsors? And I found out that sponsors would underwrite — write this down. If you're near a piece of paper — your business, your event, uh, if you're a speaker, if you're an author, you can get sponsors. If you have a podcast, if you have a blog, if you're a social influencer, if you have a show, you could get a sponsor. And lastly, if you want to start a nonprofit charity, you can get sponsors. And I work with a lot of people who do projects like documentary filmmakers. And then what I'm going to tell you today about getting sponsors. You could apply to your child also. Because if your child is in an after-school group or a sports team, you can use these techniques for your child.

So basically my first sponsors were bank of America, Walmart and IBM. And this was working from my home, uh, actually from my kitchen table with the cat as my only employee. Uh, and, uh, you know, I had no experience. I'd never done an event in my life. Here's what I did though. I sold them on the concept and I'm going to tell you how to get sponsors by selling them on the concept of what you do. And then people would come to the events and they'd say, "Linda, I love this, but how are you getting all these sponsors?" And so now we do events and I do consulting about how you can get corporate sponsors to fund your dreams.

Passionistas: How can people identify their potential sponsors?

Linda: The best way to identify your potential sponsors is by your demographics. Write this down. If you're near a paint pen and paper — demographics are destiny. So I'll give you my demographic. And it, at the time it was women's business owners. So women business owners, oh my God, there's such spending power. There there's such economic power. There. Women are starting businesses at twice. The rate of men, women make or influence over 85% of the purchasing decisions in America. Women in America spend more than five countries combined. So I researched this and that's what I, how I chose my sponsors. Another way to find your sponsors is to look at similar properties and who's sponsoring them.

So what you have now, it's called a property. Whether it's your business or your event or your book or your speaking, or your show, it's called a property in the world of sponsors. So what I did was I looked at other women's business conferences and saw who the sponsors were. And they could be my sponsors too. And people say, "Oh my God, Linda on isn't their budget gone if they're sponsoring this and that?" No, absolutely not. And then you don't have to educate them on the value of what you're doing, because they're already in that particular space.

Passionistas: What are sponsors looking for?

Linda: Exactly the most important thing that you have to sell to your sponsors. And I'm going to repeat it again, is your audience, your audience. The definition sponsorship is connecting a company to people who buy things. So sponsors are looking for return on investment. So let's say you're in the parenting space and you teach parents, parents how to effectively raise their kids. Okay. The mom market, the parent market is a two point $4 trillion market, uh, in America. So that's why sponsors will pay you because you can connect them to people who can buy their stuff. It is basically a marketing play.

Passionistas: What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when they're looking for sponsors?

Linda: Uh, just one. Okay. We'll do a couple. Uh, the first is not charging enough money. Uh, if you don't ask for enough money from your sponsors, uh, basically it's going to hurt you in the sponsor world because you're telling your sponsors that you have nothing of value to offer and it's not worth their time. Uh, basically sponsorship is kind of a team sport. Uh, so what you do is you have one person in the company, that's your hero. And then they tell other people in the company about you. And eventually they decide to give you money and sponsor you. And by the way, stay tuned because I want to tell you how much you can make. So we'll talk about that a little bit later. Uh, but so not asking for enough money is one of the biggest mistakes that people make in the world of sponsorship because they don't take you seriously. And then they have to spend some time with you convince their colleagues about the value that you bring to the company.

So that's one mistake, a and then a second mistake, I guess, is just not believing in yourself because when people are just getting started in the world of sponsorships, one of the things that holds them back is why would a sponsor give money to little old me? You know, who the heck am I? And that's what I thought too. I live in Los Angeles. So guess what? I was in a traffic jam and I'm cursing the traffic jam. I'm hot, I'm bothered, I'm tired. But I look up and I see a billboard for Bank of America.

And that is another way that you could find sponsors is to monitor the media. If there's some company that's putting a lot of money into media campaigns, take note of that, cause they're more likely to sponsor you. So I see this billboard for bank of America and I said, "Oh my God, what if Bank of America could sponsor me?" Now at this point, it was just an idea in my head, um, that I didn't have any events under my belt. I didn't know if it had legs. I didn't know if people would come. Uh, so I went back to my office and basically what I did was I self-sabotaged. Because I said, "What am I crazy? You know, I'm just a little frizzy here, Jewish girl here in her kitchen. They're not going to take me seriously. Uh, and I'm going to get rejected and I really don't want that."

So I buried it for about two, but my passion like yours to help women was so strong that after the two weeks I said, what have I got to lose? Let's let's make a couple of calls. And I did call Bank of America. One person led me to another and uh, I got a guy saying, yeah, come up, come on by. So when I came by to meet them, uh, I wore my one good suit. Uh, I had a car that was more rust than paint and it was embarrassing. So I parked it like two blocks down. So nobody would see that car. And I gave them my proposal. Now, when you meet with your perspective sponsor, don't just bring one proposal. I brought four proposals so he can share it with his colleagues. Thank God. There was a desk between us, cause my knees were knocking.

And so he read over my proposal. He said, "Great. We'll we'll sponsor you." And it was a five figure sponsorship, my very first sponsorship. And I had to act like I did this all the time. And then he wanted to shake my hand and my hand was all sweaty. So I had to wipe it on the back of my one good suit, really shake his hand. Uh, and man, when I got back to my car, I did the happy dance and I waived all the Bank of America's on the way home. So I want to illustrate that even if you're just starting out, even if you have no experience, even if you have no following, I didn't even have a following or a fan base at the time I had my parents and my brother-in-law and that was it. If I could have put the cat on there, I would have, so I didn't have a following either, but you can do it because everybody has to start somewhere.

Passionistas: What's your advice on the best way to approach prospective sponsors and to muster up that courage to do the big ask?

Linda: I think asking for things is especially hard for women because in high school we waited for the cute guy to ask us to the dance. You know, we didn't go up and ask them. So it's kind of been programmed into us from the time where we're young, uh, not to ask for things. So you of kind of get over that the best way to approach a sponsor is by email. They want you to introduce yourself by email because a lot of sponsors have told me, uh, things off the record in the past 20 years. And one of them is that they don't want to be interrupted by a phone call, uh, because they're usually busy with something. They've usually got a boss breathing down their neck. Um, so they want you to introduce yourself by email, uh, and send a couple of emails and then you'll have a conversation with your sponsors. Uh, so that's really the best way

Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And you're listening to the Passionists Project Podcast and our interview with Linda Hollander. To learn more about Linda and how to get sponsors, go to SuccessWithSponsors.com. Now here's more of our interview with Linda.

What should be in that sponsor package that you bring with you to the first meeting?

Linda: Well, it goes into the sponsor package is a description of what you do and make it brief description. I've seen descriptions that go three, four pages. No, no, no. Remember that it should be easy to skim your sponsor proposal. You want to write the benefits of the sponsorship there. It needs to be benefit rich, or you will not get funded. Uh, and you want to write compelling benefits for the sponsors. Uh, some benefits for the sponsors are email marketing, social media, video marketing, award presentations, press releases, spokespersons work. You could be a spokesperson for a sponsor. You could do contests and all of these benefits that I'm giving you are very low costs. Some are they even no cost, but they have a high perceived value to your sponsor.

You want testimonials. If people have given you testimonials, you want to put it there. You want a marketing plan in your sponsor proposal because marketing can make or break whatever you're doing. You don't want to be the best kept secret. So tell your sponsors how you're going to market yourself. How are people going to find out about you? How are people going to read your book or see you speak or come to your event or listen to your show or donate to your nonprofit. So you want that marketing plan in there. Uh, and then lastly, storytelling, the way that we do sponsor proposals that nobody else in the country does is with storytelling. You want your story or the story of somebody that you've helped in that proposal. And I'll tell you why, because a lot of people say, "Oh, well, I'm sending this proposal to a big company and I'm going to fill it with facts and figures" and it becomes dull. It becomes boring. And I want you to stand out from the crowd.

So the storytelling creates an emotional connection and it shows the humanity of what you do. I have put in my sponsor proposals that I've been in the poverty trap, that I'd been in an abusive relationship. Uh, so you know, and that that's gotten me sponsors because it's not a faceless corporation. That's going to sponsor you. It is a human being. Who's going to make that decision and human beings make decisions emotionally.

Passionistas: You also recommend that people partner with a nonprofit. So what value does that bring to your offering?

Linda: It brings a lot of value. Um, most companies now have a social responsibility department because they've realized that cause marketing works and cause marketing CUSC use marketing is so hot that it is absolutely scorching, uh, take Target stores. When you buy from Target stores, they give money to Feeding America. So people feel better about buying at Target and especially the moms feel better about buying at Target. Um, most companies that you're going to see a Subaru has a Share the Love campaign, where if you buy a Subaru, you can choose what charity they're going to to either the Humane Society or Habitat for Humanity or Stand Up to Cancer. They have a few different ones. And people really feel good and really companies want to give back and let people know that they're giving back to the community. Because there's something called the Halo Effect there. Uh, so, uh, and people like to buy from companies that support good causes.

Passionistas: You also recommend that people get media partners. So talk about how that works.

Linda: You approach them the same as you approach your cash sponsors. So, uh, with a media partner, you're going to send the same proposal to them. Uh, but the media is a little bit different because they do, what's called an in kind sponsorship. Now with an in kind sponsorship. It's a trading of benefits and services. No money changes hands, but they give you a whole lot of value. And it is budget relieving. I had a radio station that was a partner of mine that gave me all kinds of stuff. They gave me 30 second and 60 second commercials and a sponsor spotlight. And, and I was up on their website and you know, it was great because I think they had like a listenership of 75,000 people. Uh, and it is budget relieving because it was probably a $25,000 program. Not a dime came out of my pocket. One day I was driving and I heard my own commercial. That was really surreal. I almost crashed the car, but it was okay. Um, but that's how you get media partners.

And I want to talk a little bit about virtual events. Cause a lot of people have been asking me about that. So sponsors will fund a virtual event, but you have to offer them a bigger benefit package. Uh, you don't want to just show their logo, uh, at your virtual event, you want to offer them yearlong benefits, uh, for that event. Uh, and you know, you want to offer a virtual event bag. You want to offer like all of these goodies post-marketing okay. So for an event, there's three phases. There's, pre-marketing, there's a marketing during that event and then there's post event marketing. So the post event sponsorship is after the events over say, "Hey, thanks so much for being on our virtual event. And here's some goodies from our sponsors. We want you to check out." Uh, so you've got to make a pretty complete program for virtual.

And the best combination is a virtual event followed by a live event. And I'll tell you why, because the virtual event, you can promote the live event. Uh, and you know, it's kind of a one, two punch. Because a lot of people are going strictly virtual. It's not as valuable to sponsors unless you have the virtual and the live. If you can only do virtual. Great, but tell them that some point in the future, you want to talk about a live event, you know, whether it happens or not.

Passionistas: And how do people determine the other benefits that they, they have to offer a sponsor?

Linda: It's a real simple answer. You want to ask your sponsor. So the first conversation that you have with your sponsor is a fact finding expedition. You want to make them open up to you. You want to say, Hey, what are your marketing goals? How can I help you achieve them? What are your demographics? What are your upcoming campaigns? When I got FedEx as a sponsor, that's what I did. I talked to him and I said, well, what are you looking for? And you know, he said, well, we don't want a trade show booth. We don't want banners. We don't want signage. And that's what people, most people think sponsorship is. He said, everybody knows FedEx. If we have a trade show booth, they just pick up the little freebies that we have at the booth. And signage does nothing. We want to tell women business owners that we're not the expensive white glove delivery service. And we're very comparable with ups is their, their major competition.

Um, so they wanted a speaking opportunity. They wanted an untoward presentation. They wanted press releases. So if I had come to him and said, okay, we're going to offer you a trade show booth and some signage I never would have worked with FedEx. I delved in. And before I went into my presentation, I made sure that I wanted to find out what he wanted and then offer some brilliant solutions. And then the happy ending to that story is that they sponsored me for four years because we were so attentive to what they wanted.

Passionistas: How do people use research to strengthen their offering to a sponsor?

Linda: It is so much easier now than it ever was before you could do your research very, very quickly. Uh, Google is my best friend and it's probably yours. So you're going to Google the company that you want to be your sponsor. You're going to see their website on their website. You look at their press room. The press room is kind of an interesting thing because it shows how they message the company. It shows the articles about the company. It shows how they want you to perceive their brand. You're going to look at the about us section and then the, the investor relations section.

But don't just stop at the website, go to their social media, too, and see what kind of posts they put out there and tweets and see, you know, what's going on on their social media, but I'm telling you, you could do this really, really quickly. Um, and that's the best way to do research about the company. And when you talk to the sponsors, they want to know, they want to know that you've done the research because that means that you are respecting their time. So if they've got a certain program out there, say, "Hey, I see you're promoting this particular program." And they love that. They love when you show that you've really done your homework.

Passionistas: So now here's the big question. How do people know how much to ask for?

Linda: Oh, this is my favorite. This is my favorite one. Because most people, like I said, no, tortuously undercharge. And then women have a hard time charging a lot of money. So, um, here's what most of our clients get from their sponsors. $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 and a $100,000. Now that is per year and renewable. So let me talk to you about renewals, because remember when I told you that FedEx, uh, you know, sponsored me for four years, that is your, your cash machine is the renewals. If a sponsor likes you, they can sponsor you this year and the next year and the next year. So that's renewables, which are absolutely delicious. And I had a multi-year contracts and renewals with Citibank too. And my clients have had renewals with the Verizon and Dole foods and Black and Decker, just to name a few.

Uh, so those are, remember yearly benefits if you're doing an event, okay, don't go event by event because that's how I did it at first. And I realized I was being stupid because I could get a lot more money if I give them benefits for the whole year. Um, and if you do a few events a year bundle the events, even the virtual events, and by the way, semantics are important. So call it a virtual event. Don't call it a webinar. Don't call it Facebook live, you know, because people really expect those things are free. So call it a virtual event if that's what you're doing.

Passionistas: What did your mother teach you about women's roles in society when you were growing up?

Linda: Oh my God, my mom and I are so different. My mom, when she got married, uh, she worked for a while, but you know, she was a stay at home mom and, you know, she was really, really good at it. Um, and, uh, the only thing was that she was completely dependent on my father. And I saw that growing up and I said, you know what, it's good for their marriage, but it's not how I want my marriage to be. I don't want to be dependent on anybody. And I am. That's kind of what made me very fiercely independent, uh, was seeing my mom. Now, my mom influenced me in some really good ways. Uh, she's an artist and that's where I got my at my art from, and my love of art, my love of beauty, because she had that. And if I have any compassion, if I have any humanity, uh, it is from my mother. And I think the more creative you are, the more successful you are in business. So all of those things, creativity and compassion were gifts from my mother.

Passionistas: What's your dream for women?

Linda: My dream for women is that we can all respect each other's choices. I told you about my mom and how she chose to be a stay at home. Mom. I respect that. You know, I don't think, you know, people like that are any less than the woman who goes out and works every day and need to be even makes more than her husband and is the, the, the breadwinner for the family. So I think that's where we're moving as women is, you know, just to have good choices.

And that's why I'm such a proponent of entrepreneurship because entrepreneurship helps you make good choices. Uh, Oprah Winfrey, you know, she doesn't have to worry about money. She doesn't have to worry about paying the bills so she can work on having schools in Africa and really affecting world change. And it's the same with Melinda Gates and Bill Gates. You know, they don't have to worry about paying their bills every month so they can work on things of a higher nature. And Sara Blakely, two of Spanx who I've talked to. Uh, so that's where I see women's the trajectory of women's success going.

Passionistas: Do you think that there's a particular trait that has helped you be successful?

Linda: Tenacity. Uh, because you know, um, this is your business. If you can't go through the front door, go through the side window, that's kinda been, uh, my definition of success, uh, you know, and do whatever you can to be successful because it's not just for you, it's for all the people that you're going to help. I mean, you have gifts to give to the world. And if you deny people those gifts, that's the ultimate act of selfishness. Cause I'm not even an outgoing person. I'm very introverted, very shy by nature. And that's what somebody told me. They said, you know, I see you go to a party or an event. You don't really talk to people and you're being selfish because you're denying them all the gifts that you have that can help them. So don't think of it as just for you. Think of it. As you know, for transforming the world. When I was doing the women's small business expo, women met their perfect business partners there, and women got the pieces of the puzzle that they needed to create their own multi-million dollar businesses. And on my deathbed, I will be so proud of the work that I did. And it was all because of sponsors.

Passionistas: Linda, you mentioned to us that you wanted to make an offer to our listeners.

Linda: I want to give a gift to the listeners. They can get the number one secret to getting sponsors. If they go to SuccessWithSponsors.com. So it's SuccessWithSponsors.com. Also, if you go to SuccessWithSponsors.com, you can make an appointment to talk with me personally, I do free sponsor strategy sessions. So I will look at what you're doing. We'll work on your winning proposal and we'll work on your success strategy for getting your sponsors.

Passionistas: And seriously, ladies, if you are listening to this and you are even remotely considering whether to do this or not do it, we cannot recommend Linda strongly enough. She is amazing. She's absolutely amazing.

Thanks for listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Linda Hollander. To learn more about Linda and to receive your free gift, go to SuccessWithSponsors.com.

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