Blog Sponsorships: Finding a Match Made in Heaven

Sponsorships Finding a Match Made in Heaven | The Blog Maven The success of your sponsorship program hinges on one thing: whether your blog sponsors are a good match with your readers.  Whether you’re just getting started or have been running a sponsorship program for years, it’s important for both your sponsors and your readers that you get this right.

I had a recent conversation with Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots and Annie of Alphabet Glue about the recent success of their products, and they had some amazing insight into what makes a sponsorship work.

Both of these ladies have sponsored a wide range of blogs – from those with huge readership like Soule Mama, to much smaller blogs with just a handful of readers.  And in both Taryn and Annie’s experience, no matter how many page views the blog gets every month, if the readers and the sponsor don’t “fit,” the results for a sponsor can be dismal.  But likewise, when a mid-sized blog really takes the time to connect the reader and the sponsor, the results can be magical.

In this post, I’m going to look at these two great examples of a successful sponsorship program – on the same blog.  We’ll look at why these sponsors are a good match for this blog, and then I’ll share ways you can have the same success with your sponsorships.

Small Things: A Case Study

Now, before I begin talking to you bloggers – The responsibility for initiating a good sponsor relationship really belongs to the sponsor: it’s THEIR product, THEIR business, and THEIR responsibility to market themselves well.  But if you, as a blogger, know the temperament of your readers, then you can not only advise potential sponsors about whether they’re a good match for your readers, but you can actively seek out sponsors that are.

Let’s take a look:

Sponsor #1 – Wooly Moss Roots

Wooly Moss RootsTaryn and Jeff’s wooden buttons have graced the blogs of dozens of lifestyle writers, but some of their greatest success has been with Ginny of Small Things.  Let’s take a look why:

  • Wooly Moss Roots makes handmade buttons.  Ginny is a knitter (who needs buttons) and she values handmade things.
  • Ginny hosts a weekly Yarn Along where readers share their current knitting projects.  Many of Ginny’s regular readers are also knitters – who also value handmade things.
  • Ginny has a very generous spirit and loves to share the “Small Things” that make up her daily life.  Including…knitting.
  • Ginny has beautiful photographs, and her handmade things usually appear in her posts.

Obviously this is a match made in heaven.  Knitters. Love. Buttons.

But do you know what took this sponsorship to the next level?  In a simple gesture of kindness, Taryn sent Ginny some of her buttons – to preview, to check them out, to see what she thought.  And because this WAS such a good match, Ginny *loved* the buttons and of course, used them in one of her knitting projects…which she shared on her blog.  And the rest is history.  Taryn got more interest in her Etsy shop from a single month of sponsorship on Small Things (just look at this giveaway!), than she had from several months of sponsorship on other blogs…combined.

Sponsor #2 – Alphabet Glue

Alphabet GlueAnnie started out as a blogger over at Bird and Little Bird, but you may know her as an editor at Rhythm of the Home and creator of the popular family crafting and literacy E-magazine, Alphabet Glue.  When I talked with Annie, she shared a very similar story to Taryn’s – that something magical happens when sponsor and blogger really connect.  Here’s what makes her relationship with Small Things special:

  • Alphabet Glue is a magazine for families.  Ginny is a homeschooling mom of six kids.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Alphabet Glue is full of crafts, which Ginny does lots of.  And she does them well.
  • Annie’s magazine only costs $4 and many of Ginny’s readers are cost-conscious.  The reading lists alone in each issue are worth the price, and Ginny can see the great value of the product.

When Annie decided to sponsor Small Things, Ginny didn’t ask for a sample of the magazines.  But Annie is a smart marketer and she sent them anyway.  Now, this won’t always happen, but in this case, Ginny *loved* Alphabet Glue and took some photographs of her kids making crafts from the magazine.  You can see the posts Ginny wrote here and here.

This is clearly a win-win-win situation.  The blogger loves using the product, the readers love learning about the product (and seeing it in action!) and the sponsor loves getting the star treatment – with the end result of great sales.  Everyone is happy.

Finding the perfect match for your sponsorship

Sponsorship Tips for Bloggers | The Blog Maven 3 Tips for Bloggers

  1. Accept only sponsors whose products you use and would share with your friends.  When ads appear in your sidebar, you’re effectively giving these products your endorsement.  If you want to keep the trust of your readers, you’ll allow only sponsors whose products you would really recommend.  There is some trial and error to this, but be intentional in considering your sponsors and when things don’t go well for a sponsor on your blog, take the time to figure out why.
  2. If there’s a product you’re not totally familiar with but think it would be a good match for your readers, go ahead and take a chance with this new sponsor.  But don’t be shy about telling your new sponsors that “sponsorship magic” happens when you can really *see* and *use* their products.
  3. Whenever possible, be awesome and mention a sponsor’s product inside a post.  You wouldn’t want to do this unnaturally (and certainly not in every post!), but your sponsors know the value of this and they’ll love you forever.  And your readers actually enjoy finding out about the things that are part of your daily rhythm.

The result of only accepting sponsorships for products you use?  You’ll be able to have fewer sidebar ads (read this post for more info) and be able to charge a little more for them – because you’ll be giving all your sponsors the star treatment and they’ll be happy to pay more for the high value of sponsorship on your blog.  Plus, you’ll build a lasting relationship with the sponsor that will keep them sponsoring your blog, even in the “off” months.

Tips for Blog Sponsors | The Blog Maven 7 Tips for Sponsors

  1. Look for blogs where the readers would be likely to use – and LOVE – your products.  Remember that high traffic doesn’t always mean great value for your sponsorship.
  2. Don’t just scout a bunch of blogs in a frenzy of “marketing research” – take the time to read some of the blogs you find, interact with the blogger by leaving comments, and become part of the blogger’s community.  Listen to the comments of other readers.  You’ll know within a few weeks whether your products are a good match for that blog.
  3. Don’t jump into any sponsorship opportunities just because they’re “there.”  Consider sponsorships part of your long term strategy.
  4. Results don’t necessarily come in the first month of sponsorship.  It may take several months to develop a relationship with the blogger and the readers.  This isn’t a lever on a slot machine – it’s branding – building a name for yourself over time.
  5. If you want to be competitive and really make a name for yourself on the web, it’s wise to budget 8-10% of your profits for marketing (although it may be much more if you’re just getting started!).  And factor in “freebies” as part of your marketing budget.
  6. If you can afford it, send a blogger some of your products *before* you approach them about sponsorship.  Their response will let you know if they’re truly a good match for you – and if they like your product, you may just get a little extra blog love, too.
  7. If the blogger you find gives you the star treatment, be thankful.  And sponsor them again.

Great blog sponsorships don’t just “happen.”

If you’ve already started a sponsorship program on your blog, it’s worth the extra effort to truly connect the sponsors you love with your readers.  It’s not just about “making money,” but about sharing valuable resources with the people who make up your blog community.  Make sure that if you’ve decided to promote sponsors, you’re giving your readers the best you have to offer, and giving your sponsors the special treatment that will make them want to be a long-term part of your community.

If you’re a sponsor, be generous.  $15 – or even $30 – per month doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of time it takes to do sponsorships well.  Give your blogger something that will set you apart from their other sponsors, and perhaps they’ll be wonderful people and pass that along to their readers, as well.  When you build a great relationship with a blogger who welcomes you to be part of their life, it’s worth more than the sidebar buttons on a dozen “mediocre” matches.  Treat your bloggers like they’re someone special, and you’ll get the same treatment in return.

::

Your Turn.

What do you think?  Have you had any great (or not so great) experiences with sponsorships?  I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment below!

(P.S.  A special note of THANKS to TarynAnnie, and Ginny for the time they took for these interviews.  I wish you all a world of success for your journey.)

44 Comments • Leave yours below!

  1. says

    This was a great article. I opened my blog to sponsorship a few months ago and have done many a giveaway but only got two or three sponsors(which are good fits like your article talks about) . My questions is should I actively seek sponsors or should I let them come to me?

    • jeni says

      I think it’s a little of both. If you see sponsorship buttons on other people’s blogs and they’re products you use in your home, definitely contact those sponsors and let them know why you think they’d be a good match for yours. I’ve never known a sponsor to turn down a blog that really wanted to promote them.

  2. says

    This is such a wonderfully meaty post, Jeni. I so appreciate all the detail you’ve offered with specific examples of powerful partnerships between companies and bloggers. I have found a couple of companies that really match my blog’s vision. I am able to promote them naturally because I use their materials and really love them. I think that most bloggers would love to find that “soul mate” kind of sponsorship relationship. But many companies just shell out ad space without following up with product, freebies, discounts, or any incentives at all. Cash is nice, but it’s not a relationship.

    • jeni says

      I agree – it’s a rarity that sponsors really invest time and effort into the blogs they’re sponsoring. I think if you can find just a handful of sponsors that work with you (to benefit blogger, readers AND sponsor!), you have the best of everything.

  3. says

    Hi Jeni!
    I really enjoyed reading this post. You did a wonderful job!
    Thanks so much for interviewing me, it was fun to chat with you. And thanks for linking to us, we really appreciate it.

    I entered my e-mail on your site to be sure that I get every blog post directly to my inbox and I’m so glad I did. Your posts are so thoughtful and thorough. I am learning a lot, thank you!

    I love what you wrote for tips for bloggers:
    “Accept only sponsors whose products you use and would share with your friends. When ads appear in your sidebar, you’re effectively giving these products your endorsement.”
    I haven’t always been true to that, but I feel it’s really good wisdom.

    I have a question to ask. What if someone contacts you and wants to be a sponsor on your blog, but you don’t feel that they’d be a good fit? I know some would just not reply, or is it better to write back? But what to say? It might sound like a silly question, but I wondered if you had any advice to share regarding that?

    Thanks!

    Love, Taryn

    • jeni says

      I think you should always reply. Always. It might seem easier to just not respond (if you’re the “avoid conflict” type, like me…), but I think it’s still important to thank a potential sponsor for their interest, but let them know that you don’t feel they would “be a good match for your readers.” If you can give them specific reasons why, then DO – it will help them hone their marketing strategy a little, and it also shows respect for them as a business owner.

      Once you reach a certain level with your blogging, your reputation precedes you – you don’t know who’s talking to each other out there, and you always want to be mentioned in a good light, even if a particular business arrangement doesn’t work out.

      ~and I’m glad you’re on my mailing list – I’m gathering some nice things for you folks soon. :)

  4. says

    Great post! I have had a few sponsor/blogger relationships over the years that have been an absolute joy and have hit that “sweet spot” with my readers. I love how you explained exactly how this can work and perspective from both sides.

    • jeni says

      So glad to hear about your experiences, Amy. I’ve been by your blog several times – I actually keep your “age appropriate chore list” post bookmarked so I can refer to it every time we hit a new stage. :) Welcome.

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed it. :) Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of trial and error to it – but you might try researching other artists with similar products and then googling “(name of business) giveaway” to see some blogs where they’ve done a giveaway, and look to see how those have turned out (ie, how many comments are on those giveaway posts). Then you’d at least have the names of a few blogs where sponsorships with art have done well. Just an idea –

      Warmly,
      Jeni

  5. says

    I feel like a sponge as I am soaking up all the valuable knowledge you have so graciously shared with everyone. I can’t get enough! You have a wonderful way of wording things that even those bloggers with little to no experience (like myself) can understand. Thank you! I don’t think our little blog is ready for Sponsorship just yet, but when we are….I now have more tools to help us get started.
    Stefanie recently posted..Our Space Party!!My Profile

  6. says

    I love that this article was sent to me by a blogger who I consider to be a “match made in heaven” for my company. So happy the feeling is mutual!

    I’ve collaborated with a wide range of blogs since our launch and can wholeheartedly say that the points in this post are spot on. As a sponsor it really is important to browse around, read the comments, and get a feel for what value the respective blogger is offering to their readers. Does it fit with the value my company is trying to provide? I also completely agree that it’s important for sponsors to be generous. There have been a couple of cases where I’ve insisted bloggers charge me more because I felt they were undervaluing the benefit my company was receiving. Another thing I think sponsors forget is that many bloggers have a day job. Keeping that in mind, I find it all the more important to be considerate and nice. Nobody wants to come home at the end of the day and deal with a difficult sponsor – that just takes the fun out of it.

    Great piece, Jeni!

    • says

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Cynthia. I agree with you that it takes a lot of work to run a successful sponsorship program, and I think a lot of bloggers sell themselves short with the prices they charge. Glad to hear you have such a great relationship with your bloggers! It’s rare, but once you find it, hang on to it!

  7. says

    So I have had good luck with getting companies to send me products to do reviews on and giveaways on but I have yet to get anyone to pay me for ads, how would I go about bringing that up? If a company has an affiliate program, should I still ask if they want ad space on my site? Im kinda a wuss when it comes to flat out asking if companies want to buy ad space….

    • says

      Hi Parrish, in my experience, affiliate programs are totally separate from purchasing ad space – it’s like a choice the company has made, that that’s the way they’d like to handle ads (as affiliates, rather than “sponsors”). But you’d still be able to mix your affiliate ads in with your actual sponsorships and call them “sponsors” – none of your readers would know the difference.

      But in order to approach a company you’d like as a potential sponsor, I’d call up their PR department (unless it’s a small company, and then call up the owners!) and explain that you’d like to offer them two months of free advertising on your site, with an opportunity for a special rate at the end of 60 days. Send them your media kit and impress them. And then give them the star treatment so they can see the value of sponsorship with you, no matter how much you’re charging.

      In your niche, I’d probably start by contacting people you’ve bought products from on Etsy – since it’s just the individuals – and really do your best to feature the products you’ve bought from them in your posts.

      I know this is long-winded, but hope it’s helpful. :) When you get things going, I’d love to hear how it goes!
      jeni recently posted..12 Best Time Management Tips for BloggersMy Profile

      • says

        Thank you sooooo much, I have learned a ton from you just in this one post lol. I had like zero confidence in trying to sell ad space but now I feel like I have a shot at it. Thank you!!! I will report back with my progress :)
        Parrish RItchie recently posted..Felt Christmas TreeMy Profile

  8. says

    Hi Jeni,
    Love your blog. I launched my blog 4 months ago and I am looking to start making it more professional. I was told about sponsorships by a blogging buddy.
    My question is how soon is too soon to be looking into getting sponsors?

    • says

      Hi Sheridan,

      I think the challenge for a brand new blogger wanting to pursue sponsorships is being able to talk openly about the amount of influence you do/don’t have, in terms of your stats, number of followers, traffic sources, and how engaged your readers are. Most established companies want to see that they’ll be getting a return on their investment when they partner with you to promote their brand, and they measure this any number of different ways. If you already have products you use and love, especially those made by smaller businesses or other moms in the blog space, that may be a good place to start. You just need to be honest and clear about what you bring to the table to promote them, and what specifically you have in mind. If you’re just wanting to put a button up in your sidebar, it won’t have near the impact for the company that other techniques might, like talking about their products in your posts, hosting giveaways, etc. Hope this helps!

  9. says

    Thanks for the tips! I just recently started my blog and it’s becoming a hit, so I’ve started looking into getting sponsorship. This blog post was by far one of the most helpful yet!

    Thanks again :)

    xo

    Every Girl, Everywhere

  10. says

    I am so glad I found your site! I have so much reading to do! I am just starting to grow as a blogger (domain transfer happening soon!) and I have a lot of research to do to make sure that I am taking the right baby steps. THANK YOU for all this info!

  11. says

    Thank you for posting this. I’m checking out your site now and it’s really cool. I’m new to blogging, but am gaining momentum super quick. Got a couple sponsors who contacted me, but just don’t feel they fit. I treasured your advice. Do only what you use and what fits. The trust issue is so key. Your right! Thank you. You have a new follower. :)
    Sarah recently posted..All-Time Favorite Always-Free AppsMy Profile

  12. says

    Thank you for demystifying sponsorships and providing excellent examples of what the sponsor/blogger relationship should look like. I’m a new blogger preparing to create my first sponsorship page and found this information to be invaluable. Do you have any writings on what should be included on an advertising/sponsorship page? I’ve seen several different examples from sites across the web, however I’d like to provide information that is the most useful to potential sponsors and effective in attracting sponsors that are the best fit for my blog.
    Solo Mama recently posted..Liebster Award NominationMy Profile

  13. says

    Wow! My brain can’t take this. So much great info! Thank you for posting this great article and your openness when replying to peoples questions. I think I have a lot to learn from you.

    • says

      Glad you’re finding the site useful, Jessica. If you haven’t already subscribed to the mailing list, you’ll want to – that’s where I post all my very best content first – and there’s lots I share *only* with subscribers. :)

      Warmly,
      Jeni Elliott

  14. says

    hi jeni thank you for the information you provided I’m search for sponsor but really have difficult because no interested readers in engineering fields I get maybe 200 visit/day no more but thank you for helping

  15. says

    This was very insightful information above, thanks!!! I bought my domain name a year ago, but I didn’t start building my site until yesterday!! This has been a project I’ve wanted to pursue for awhile now… My initial home page isn’t complete, but a work in progress! I am very interested in getting sponsors along with sponsoring others.. My question is how do you find sponsors? Is it just by browsing other bloggers websites?I had to learn coding to build certain specifics I wanted on my site! If you check out my site http://www.myfashionontherox.com I only currently have one article on there, but my website is about fashion, beauty, relationships, lifestyle, along with the San Diego day/night life. I know blogging is going to consume my life, and I’m more than exited because I am going to be writing about topics I love!!! If any of you have any advice for a new blogger I would greatly apprecaite it!! I need some tips about sponsoring along with getting ad’s on my site:)

    xoxo
    Roxanne Carmen
    Roxannecarmen@yahoo.com
    Roxanne Carmen recently posted..For all My Sexy Fashionista’s Out ThereMy Profile

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