Behind the Summit #5: Landing Virtual Summit Sponsors

This week's behind-the-scenes episode talks about how I secured my first $8k in summit sponsors with another $4-6k potentially in the works, without pitching!

If you’ve been following along with my summit planning journey, you know that I had no plans to pursue sponsors for my summit this time around. 

The last time I tried to get sponsors for one of my summits, I didn’t have much success, and I didn’t enjoy the process. So I wasn’t planning to try again. 

I was expecting this week of summit planning to be pretty low key as I waited to hear back from the first and second round of speakers that I pitched last week.

Little did I know, some awesome people had something else in mind. This week, much to my surprise, we’re talking about how I secured my first $8,000 in summit sponsors with another $4-6k potentially in the works.

All of these sponsors are either speakers at my event, or were introduced by a mutual connection, which has totally flipped the script on how I think about summit sponsorships. 

I used to think getting summit sponsorships required cold outreach to big companies and making hard pitches to prove the value of my summit to skeptical potential sponsors. 

I now realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough credit for the fact that I’ve created an incredible event that people might actually want to sponsor.

This week, I'll walk you through exactly how these sponsorships came to be, as well as updates on the other things I'm working on behind the scenes to prep for my summit, including:

  • The updates I'm making to my All-Access Pass this year.
  • How my speaker pitching and follow up is going.
  • All the details about my sponsorship packages and sponsor onboarding process.

Some links used are affiliate links.

All-access pass updates

Before we get into the juicy details about my perfect-fit sponsors, let’s touch on the other things I did this week as part of my summit prep. The first task on my list was to make some simple all-access pass updates along with one pricing test.

Update Integrations

I use ThriveCart for my cart platform and LearnDash as my membership area where I host my all-access pass for buyers to log in and get the content.

I had to go in and update the integrations from last year so buyers will get access to this year’s all-access pass. Kate and I set up empty courses for now, that we'll fill up as we receive materials from our speakers. We’ll also need to update the list of what’s included on the ThriveCart checkout when we’re closer to registration opening and we know more of the contributions.

Higher Bump Order Price

Next, I decided to test a higher order-bump price this year. For the past 4 or 5 events I’ve hosted, I’ve added an order bump on our all-access pass so that when someone goes to purchase, they can check one box to add last year’s presentations to their order for $19. That has converted for us at 27%! 

I decided to bump it up to $27 this year and see what happens.

Update Email Sequences

On a less exciting note, I also updated our email sequences and the integration between ThriveCart and ConvertKit to make sure buyers get added to the right email sequences after they purchase. This included:

  • Duplicating our purchase email sequences – ConvertKit now allows someone to go through the same sequence twice, but I duplicated them anyway for cleaner statistics this year.
  • Adding new purchase tags – I updated the tags to this year’s summit year instead of last year’s.
  • Duplicating abandoned cart sequence – I did this to know exactly how many people abandoned the cart at checkout, and how well our emails helped convert into sales.
  • Updating ThriveCart integration - I also had to go into ThriveCart to update the integrations there so that people are sent to the new email sequences and get the right tags after purchasing.

Because I was just making updates to the system that was already set up from last year, it was all relatively simple and straightforward. If you’re setting it up for the first time, know that it gets easier and it’s worth setting it up right the first time.

Speaker pitching and follow-up

The next thing I did this week was continue with my speaker pitching and follow-up.

Round 1 follow-up: I sent a quick email to a few speakers letting them know I wouldn’t bug them but wanted to follow up one more time.

Two speakers said no because they're speaking at another designer summit right before mine, and they didn't want to say. This made me a little annoyed because one summit basically took half my speaker roster from last year and put their summit on a few weeks before mine. But I guess it is what it is at this point.

Round 2 follow-up: I pitched my round 2 speakers the previous Thursday so I followed up with a few of them on Instagram on Tuesday. This is super low-pressure outreach to check in and see if they saw my email or had any questions.

There are a few I chose not to follow up with because their social media had been silent for a few months so I figured they may not still be in business, and I have enough speakers.

Pitch round 3: Finally, I pitched my round 3 speakers on Thursday this week. I choose to skip a few of them because I already have plenty speakers. I even added in a couple of extras because 2 people reached out with great topics that I decided to include.

As of today, we’re sitting at 34 confirmed speakers with 5 outstanding pitches and one more that I plan to send today.

How I landed my first summit sponsors

Now for the exciting part! Let’s move on to talk about how I landed my unexpected summit sponsors! In last week's post, I said I wasn’t pursuing sponsors this time around. I didn’t want to deal with the anxiety of doing cold outreach to tech companies, and I was afraid they wouldn’t see how awesome this summit is. And even if they did see the value and want to sponsor, I didn’t want to work crazy hard to make them happy.

That’s hilarious to me now, sitting here with 2 confirmed sponsors and 2 more in the pipeline!

I pitched none of these people!

Presenting Sponsor

The first person to start all the sponsorship talk was one of the awesome women who I attempted to co-host with this year. She’d mentioned that she wanted to get in front of everyone as much as possible and asked what opportunities were available.

I sent some options for things I thought we could do, and she wanted to do all of it!

I updated the sponsorship packages on my website, based on what I thought would serve her best, and increased the price since I believe in the value of the summit so much after running it 5 times (although she would also get a discount).

My sponsorship levels included:

  • $1500 package with 2 spots available
  • $3000 package with 2 spots available
  • $6000 package with 1 spot available

I recorded a video talking through what was included in the highest tier spot, that I’d crafted just for her, and offered her a $1000 discount for being so awesome and understanding when I had to cancel our collaboration and because I really wanted to feature her extra.

She didn’t hesitate!

First Premier Sponsor

My next sponsor was someone I pitched in round 2. She responded to her pitch saying she was in to speak and wanted to sponsor.

Again, I just expected that she wouldn’t really want to after seeing the prices, but I chatted with her quick on Voxer to see what she was looking for, tweaked my second package to be a good fit, and sent a video walking through it.

She didn’t hesitate either, and connected me with one of her friends who's also interested in sponsoring.

On accident, I now have $8000 in confirmed sponsorships and I’m so grateful!

Two More Potential Sponsors

I also have two more potential sponsors in the works. One is the other woman I attempted to co-host with. I emailed her the information because I’d promised I would. Honestly, I did a crappy job recording the video for her because when I did it, I was overwhelmed with how I’d fit more sponsors into the summit.

But she was interested, so I'm working on the final sponsorship details with her now.

Lastly, I'm still in talks with the person I connected with through my 2nd sponsor.  We have a call next week since we’ve never met before to get to know each other and talk about the sponsorship options.

It’ll be a great fit if she says yes! 

Onboarding Sponsors

Now that I have some confirmed sponsors, I had to add in an unexpected task of not only onboarding sponsors but delivering on everything I promised. Luckily, our process template from Summit in a Box® has a sponsorship section in it so we just unchecked all those tasks to get them back into our project plan.

  • I bought a sponsorship agreement and got it set up in Dubsado.
  • I created packages in ThriveCart for each sponsorship tier.
  • I set up an Airtable form to get all of the information I needed from them.
  • I sent it all off to the first two sponsors!

Delivering What I Promised

Now I have to deliver on everything I promised! I recorded a video of myself walking through the top-tier package and the tasks we’d need to complete for each bullet point of the deliverables, and Kate mapped it out in Asana and assigned tasks between the two of us.

To be honest, I’m slightly stressed about fitting everything in without it being too much for the attendees, but I know once I sit down and work through the schedule it will be a great event for everyone.

Don't sell yourself short

I was so hesitant to pursue sponsorships this year, because I had an idea in my head about how it had to be, and it didn't seem worth it to me. But this experience has totally flipped the way I think about summit sponsors. 

I now know that summit sponsorships can…

  • Come from people in your niche who are just as relatable as you are.
  • Let you show off people you’re connected to and excited to collaborate with.
  • Be as easy as letting speakers know that there are opportunities available.
  • Feel good and create a beneficial experience for everyone.

And it can for you too!

If you’ve run your event before and had success, don’t sell yourself short! Sponsorships can be done in a way that feels aligned for both you and your sponsors.

It could be as simple as includeing a p.s. at the bottom of your pitch emails or on your speaker information page saying that you have sponsorship spots open. More people may be interested than you think! 



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This week's behind-the-scenes episode talks about how I secured my first $8k in summit sponsors with another $4-6k potentially in the works, without pitching!This week's behind-the-scenes episode talks about how I secured my first $8k in summit sponsors with another $4-6k potentially in the works, without pitching!

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