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.
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 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
Annie 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t jump into any sponsorship opportunities just because they’re “there.” Consider sponsorships part of your long term strategy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!