Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You Never Know What The Answer Will Be - Part II

A couple of months ago I wrote about Andrew Odom’s book “Your Message Here” and how it inspired me to think outside the financial box and pursue sponsorships as a way to help finance my build. 

(Want to Buy His Book? Click Here!  Your Message Here!)  

The getting-sponsor-process basically works like this: In exchange for donated materials, labor, or cash; sponsors receive social media exposure for their products and/or company in the rapidly growing world of Tiny Houses.  
(To read my first article Click Here:  You Never Know - Part I)

I am more than giddy to report that my efforts have, for the most part, been very well received. I have met some amazing people, and helped the Tiny House movement gain momentum by sharing the creative and inspiring stories of other house builders who have gone before me. Since, however, this process of finding sponsors is far from common and not very intuitive; I decided that a “Part II” to my original article might be helpful to you.

Finding and securing sponsors has been a fun, challenging, and very rewarding experience. But there have been three particularly difficult learning curves to conquer.  And these are the areas of my project that I am sharing with you today, with the hopes that you may be able to learn from my efforts.

Research, Research, Research!

One of the hardest parts of finding sponsors is finding the “decision makers” for each company.  Depending on the size of the company, and their marketing strategy, finding out who you need to talk to can be tedious and frustrating.  In small companies, it is often the general manager who will make the final decision for where to spend their marketing budget.  Medium size companies will probably have a sales manager who also performs the role of marketing manager.  And, very large companies will most likely have a marketing manager or even a consulting firm who assists them with this decision. 

The main thing to remember is the larger the company is, the harder it will be to find the decision maker.  That challenge alone may leave you deciding to only pursue local companies with whom you already have a relationship. (like your local hardware, tire, flooring, or décor store) 

Before you embark on this first step, I recommend that you become very familiar with internet search engines like Google, and Bing, and Linkedin; as well as think a bit about your level of comfort in dealing with people at multiple levels of an organization, and then go from there. Maybe your sponsorship strategy is broad and aggressive?  Maybe it’s narrow and conservative?  In the end, however, remember that your strategy is totally up to you and the amount of research that you’ll need to do will be a direct reflection of your strategy.

Organize, Organize, Organize!

When it comes to keeping track of “stuff”, I am lucky.  I am a list-making-spreadsheet-creating queen.  If you’re not adept at Excel, however, you can accomplish this task just as easily with a notebook.  Either way, the goal is to stay organized, focused, and on task. 

As you do your research, and then start contacting sponsors, you should note the following information for each one:
Company Name
Corporate Phone Number(s)
Decision Maker
Decision Maker’s Email Address
Type of Product They Sell
What do they need from you?  (“follow up call on 06/01”, “email them outline”, etc…)
Did you send a Thank You card? A Sponsorship Outline? A Sponsorship Agreement?
When is the product due to arrive?

In addition to this basic information about each sponsor, and in order to ensure that you have contacted the sponsor enough times to let them know you’re serious (but also to make sure you don’t bother them) you’ll also need to make a note each time you call or email them.  This information is what I refer to as “my matrix”.  And mine, I have to admit, is BEAUTIFUL!!!!  

Above all, consider that it is very likely that your initial email will go into a SPAM folder since the recipient has never received an email from you before.  You cannot assume they received it, and for that reason, a follow up phone call is always needed.  Sometimes you’ll call first and introduce yourself and your project and then email them additional details. Sometimes, you’ll “cold” email them first and then call to follow up and ensure they received your email.  Sometimes your “opportunity” will be met with enthusiasm and support.  Sometimes your request will be considered a complete waste of their time and they’ll inform you of such.  Sometimes they’ll just completely ignore you no matter how nice you are, or how many emails you send, or voicemails you leave for them.

And that brings me to my third point…..

Inspire, Inspire, Inspire!

My sponsorship strategy is pretty aggressive.  I spend almost an hour, every single day, updating my information matrix, contacting sponsors, following up, and writing thank you cards.    It’s tiring, even for a super high energy person like myself.  And for that reason I added this subject to the list.

If you have a goal, make sure you are clear with yourself about what that goal is because you’re going to need to remember it, after hearing the sixteenth person tell you that they’re not interested in supporting your project.  Remember:  Social media advertising may not fit the marketing strategy for every company.  The ones who do “get it” however, are truly appreciative and supporting and enthusiastic.  Your “job” is to find those companies! 

Your “job” is to inspire them to follow the Tiny House Movement, and support their local community, and the sustainable living community, and your project.  Your “job” is to inspire them with your story about why you want to build a Tiny House, what you going to do in it or with it, and why they should consider your project worth of their time or product.  Although your Tiny House build is likely not a charity (I get asked that, a lot) it should be an inspiring story nonetheless.  Try to find that one point about your build, or your life, that makes people smile and nod.  Then they’ll WANT to help!

And last but not least, your “job” is to inspire yourself to keep going!!

Since I started this process in February, I have contacted 84 different companies / individuals.  I have sent hundreds of emails, and made well over a hundred phone calls.  I have met with some of them in person, I have told my story countless times, and my stamp inventory has been depleted by all the thank you cards I have mailed.

So, you may ask “Has it been worth it?”

So far, I have $7,593.00 worth of product that has been provided by 13 different sponsors. My sponsors are both large and small companies.  The products range from flooring, to custom made upholstered furniture, to kitchen fixtures.  My garage and project room are brimming with paint swatches, and fabric samples, and tools. 

So, yes, having 30% of my build costs covered by my sponsors so far, had been very worth it.  Almost, every day I see the pile grow and I am inspired to keep going, to keep moving forward towards my goal of building my own Tiny House. 

But, even though I have realized a fair amount of success thus far, I am not done.  I have 14 sponsors in the “still deciding” mode and many more to initiate contact with. A Tiny House is a BIG project and it’s only me. I have so much farther to go and more stories to tell….

Not until I sleep in my tiny loft,
in my tiny house,
on my new tiny spot,
will I be done,
 telling my tiny story.

(and probably not even then)


  1. Good information, Michelle, and thanks for sharing the sticky parts - an important addition to Part 1! Perseverance sounds paramount to success.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

    Irene (On The Road)