Rule #3 – Create an excellent proposal
This is your sales pitch, make it count. Of course it needs to have the essential information in it like your proposed schedule of events, info about your program, info about yourself, other partners who have already committed, etc. Perhaps more importantly, it needs to be visually stunning. People don’t read much anymore so pictures are almost literally worth a thousand words. Not to mention most companies out there get hundreds or even thousands of partnership proposals every year so make yours stand out. Paint the picture of what it could be like for your potential new partner should they sign the deal. Shoot for a proposal that is visually stunning enough to make them want to know more about your program and actually read the information you’ve provided them with. Personalize it by including their logo on the title page, renderings of the car with their logo on it, etc. to give them the sense that you are truly interested in their product instead of just handing the same proposal to everyone including all their competitors. Also tailor the information in it to more accurately reflect what you know about their goals and products.
Finally, include a non-binding letter of intent to show commitment, professionalism, and outline what exactly you are thinking for the terms of the deal as far as what your wants and needs are but make it clear that those terms are still flexible and negotiable so you can create an agreement that best reflects both parties’ goals. Don’t promise anything you aren’t absolutely positive you can provide. If you only have the budget to run a partial season, only promise a partial season but if it’s likely your budget will get bigger let them know that you will do more if your budget permits.
The biggest battle with partnership proposals is getting them into the hands of the person that actually makes the decisions, especially as you target larger companies. If you have to send a proposal in blind then your chances are slim that it will even be seen by the appropriate person. Try everything you can to get at least the name of the right person. This is why networking is important at those sausage fest SEMA parties I hate going to. Don’t hold your breath for replies either. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine but 99% of the companies you send proposals to will never get back to you even with a rejection email. They will simply leave you wondering whether or not they’re going to get back to you so don’t wait forever to send the next proposal out to your second choice. Personally, I wait one week and if I haven’t heard anything back at all, then I assume they’ve rejected it and move on to sending out the next proposal.
Although the Marketing Manager of Fig Newtons would probably be pleased with the size and visibility of their logo on Ricky Bobby’s car, try to avoid making promises that you haven’t thought all the way through.
Rule #4 – Don’t make a bad deal
Another one of my biggest pet peeves is when I have a potential partner tell me they’ll only offer me dealer cost on their products because that’s what other teams are getting. You can’t blame the company in this situation; they’re getting to be a part of those other team’s programs for nothing. STOP SELLING YOURSELF SHORT. Realize that if a company offers you their cost on something they’re not actually investing anything in you. Worse yet, if they offer you dealer cost, they’re still making money off of the deal. Sometimes however it’s a necessary evil to accept a deal like this although I try and avoid it at all costs. Does dealer pricing help you? Sure it does, so if it’s something you absolutely need and that’s the best deal you’re going to get then accept it, but in return don’t de-value the rest of your partners that actually invested something in you by giving that company the same amount of value in return. If the company that gave you a free set of wheels gets the same in return as the company that gave you dealer cost on an exhaust system you are de-valuing the wheel company’s investment in you. If I were the owner of that wheel company I would not be happy. Here’s my tip, try and create a partnership with a retailer that carries a lot of brands instead of accepting that deal from an individual company. That retailer can give you dealer cost on hundreds of different brands that way when that exhaust company says they’ll only give you dealer cost you can say no I already get that from my other partner. Then if they truly want to have their brand promoted on your car they will come back with a better offer.
Also beware of partnerships that can end up costing you more than they’re worth. For instance, as much as I would love a twin-turbo kit for my 370Z, if someone offered me one for free I would have to pass it up. Why? Because that free twin turbo kit is going to cost me a lot of money in support mods. I would have to pay for installation, build the motor, get a new radiator, larger oil cooler, a new clutch, dyno tuning, etc. Not to mention my operating costs would now go up tremendously with $12.00/gallon race fuel instead of $4.50/gallon pump gas that I could run staying NA. All of a sudden, that free twin turbo kit has drained my budget and I can’t afford to do as many events as I promised. Now I have a bunch of pissed off partners and a 650 horsepower garage ornament.
Always be a worthy brand ambassador to your partners. If the media asks if you’re available for an interview, photo, etc. the answer is always yes. That’s extra exposure for your partners that they weren’t expecting and it costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time. It’s the little things that will separate you from the rest of the teams they support.
Rule #5 – Under promise, over deliver
Once you’ve locked in that partnership, the hard work begins. One of the most common complaints I hear from companies is that they will provide a team with product and never hear from them again. It costs you nothing but time to sit down and create a monthly email or a post-race report to send to all your sponsors. They love it and it keeps you on the front of their mind. Constantly be thinking of other things you can do that cost you little to no money but make you stand out from the rest of the teams. Do a nice photoshoot and send them photos for them to use on their website or social media. Invite them out to your events even though they’ll probably never show up. If they do show up, give them a ride around the track if it’s possible. If they advertise in magazines and you’re good enough in photoshop, create an ad for them using your car. They may use it they may not but they’ll notice the effort either way. With any luck those partners will invest in you more the next season because you made that extra effort.
So there you have it, my advice on getting the support you need to get out there and race, drift, or whatever you’re trying to do. Oh, and always be discreet with the terms of your partnerships unless you get permission to do the opposite. So thank you to BC Racing Suspension and Fast Intentions for allowing me to publicly discuss some minor details of our past agreements. In return, they get some exposure on MotoIQ that they weren’t expecting (see how that works?).