Your Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Sponsors.
There are several different ways to go about monetizing your site. While most small blogs and other free sites get by fine on embedded advertising like that found on Google AdSense, there are significant financial benefits to finding your own sponsors.
This does mean having to commit to making sales calls, meeting sponsor requirements, and invoicing. In addition, you will need to keep open lines of communication with these sponsors in order to evaluate your site's performance and adjust your contract accordingly.
There are some very big positives to all this extra footwork. Ad networks that share the profits with affiliate sites are often unpredictable. It is hard to determine what your income will be from one month to the next, and while self-sustained sales are also more month-to-month, you have much more heads up on what you can and can not expect to see in your balance sheets. This is in addition to the benefit of being able to sell extras like sponsored posts, videos, banners, and/or text links.
Remember, it is your site. Should you not have control over what does and does not appear next to its content?
Here is where those existing ad networks can come in handy. Do a Google search for a topic related to your site. If you run a tech blog, searching for the names of various platforms you frequently write about will reveal ads next to the results.
These ads are more often than not placed by businesses that are searching for new ways to find new customers. Be they local or international, this is a very quick way to build a short-list of companies to cold call for your site.
Cold calls are done by virtually every type of media outlet, and any experienced business owner will undoubtedly know what to expect when a salesperson calls. That is why it is important to start the call off by asking who you might need to talk to about potential sponsorships. Once you have that person on the phone, be brief and get to the point.
You may want to start the call off talking about the benefits of targeted advertisement. If you found their business by way of Google AdSense, they have likely either identified or are actively experimenting with the world of targeted ads. One of the big flaws with these platforms is that they are only as effective as the person's search engine profile allows. You have the advantage of being a proven targeted site with an existing audience and the ability to put your sponsor's message out in ways affiliate ads can not.
For example, offer a deal that gives your sponsor four sponsored posts per month. That is one post every week, roughly, that is related to the business your sponsor works in. It may or may not directly reference their brand beyond a disclaimer at the top of the article. The more useful your article is to your visitors, the better it will be received. The sponsor becomes part of the message, and your visitors will (consciously or not) associate the brand with the useful information you provide. That is something embedded advertising does not do.
Amazon, GoDaddy, Squarespace, Audible, and many other companies allow for affiliate sales. All you have to do in this case is submit your site and obtain either an affiliate link or a coupon code. You will receive a portion of any sales made using your credentials, and you do not have to make any cold calls to do so.
Affiliate marketing is a big deal right now, and hundreds of businesses across the world are diving in with both feet. For many of them, this is the first or only type of online advertising they take part in, and it benefits them because they do not have to pay out a dime unless actual sales are made.
The downside: You do not get any money unless you actually generate sales. While typical presence sponsorships are brand recognition plays, this type of sponsorship puts the advantage clearly in the advertiser's court. Whether you plaster their brand all over your site or not, you do not get paid unless you actually bring in sales.
Just because a company offers an affiliate program does not mean it does not also take part in traditional paid advertising. It never hurts to make a call to these companies (or their public relations team) to see if a deal is possible.
Avoid empty banners that say something like, "Your Company Here." Doing this makes your site look somewhat desperate for sponsors and could actually damage your chances at finding a good one. Yes, it might make total sense that this banner space should be used for something, but wouldn't it be better to use it to advertise specific areas of your site (or other sites you own) in lieu of an eyesore like this?
You might also want to avoid conflicting sponsors. If you land a contract with a Web hosting company, then putting their ads next to another Web hosting company will diminish the message.
It is also very important not to burn any bridges with sponsors. Many companies go through PR and marketing firms that work with several different businesses in the same industry. If you fail to come through or decide to break a commitment with a sponsor, it could hurt your ability to get sponsorship with another company down the road. Do your best to make promises you can keep, and be willing to put in extra effort if you fall short. Perhaps you missed a sponsored post's due date by one week? It could be worth more to the sponsor to get an extra week (or two), or maybe even an additional banner.
Perhaps the most important rule of thumb when dealing with sponsors is to be flexible. They are paying you because you can do more for them than a service like Google AdSense. If you can prove to them that you are willing to go the distance with them, they are more likely to be loyal to you when their advertising budget renewal comes around.