loader image

Stellar Partnerships

Stop pitching start fishing

Stop pitching, start fishing

At his inauguration, US President John F Kennedy made an impassioned speech to his fellow Americans. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. He put forth an ambitious vision of change and renewal. He didn’t tell the audience he had a gold, silver and bronze version of programs and ask them to choose one.

I spoke recently to the former marketing manager at a well-known chocolate company. She told me of the 300 unsolicited proposals she received every year from non-profit partnership seekers. Of those, a guaranteed 299 got a polite ‘no’ and went straight in the bin. Why? The senders hadn’t bothered to consider whether they were relevant to the corporate or even loosely aligned to their publicly stated values and areas of interest. They were pitches about what the company could do for them, without considering what the corporate might need themselves.

There are thousands of books on the art of pitching. They all detail the secret formula, three key things to say and how to ‘always be closing.’ But if you’re after significant, sustainable corporate partnerships, then you need to stop pitching and start fishing.

Does that sound like heresy? You’ve probably got a slick looking PowerPoint deck with lovely images ready to tweak for a corporate pitch. But if you’re pitching without knowing what’s important to the corporate prospect, or the interests and motivations of the people in the room, then your pitch is on shaky ground. The best way to spend your time is in the discovery phase, asking some really targeted questions. The questions should help you get a deep understanding of the corporate’s priorities, pain points, motivations, timing, budgets and key decision makers. Go fishing for insights and information that will help you frame why a partnership with you is a great fit.

We’ve been working with a diverse bunch of corporates recently. What we’ve learned is that their priorities typically fall into three main categories:

  1. Marketing

Corporates are under pressure and increased scrutiny to be more, do more and sell more. That means a focus on authentic brand engagement, customer loyalty, inspiring content, access to new channels and new audiences.

  1. Employees

The upheaval of COVID has focused corporates’ attention on staff wellbeing, talent attraction and retention, enhancing the employee value proposition and keeping staff engaged in hybrid working conditions.

  1. External pressures

Corporates are experiencing pressures from all sides, including competitive business environments, legislative changes, ESG requirements, cultural shifts and socially conscious consumers.

They’ve got a lot on their plates to deal with and they need your non-profit to understand their situation and be part of the solution.

The more time you spend on the discovery phase, the more likely you are to hit their hot spots. Then the pitch really isn’t a pitch after all- it’s a written proposal that confirms all of the elements you’ve already discussed. Sure, you may be asked to present to their leadership team, but you won’t be trying to hit a moving target. You should be feeding back everything you’ve learned during your fishing – and they’ll be nodding their heads thinking ‘they really get us’. It’ll be less of a pitch and more of a confirmation that they’re ready to proceed.

Imagine what happens if you haven’t gone fishing for insights. You’ll be presenting a ready-made set of offerings that may bear no relation to what actually matters to the corporate. You might have the best slide deck or nicest video in the world, but you’ll receive polite nods and never get a call back.

John F Kennedy managed to inspire a nation and put a man on the moon. Think what you could do for your corporate if you take time to understand their needs- and what you could achieve together.