The Profitable Podcaster

3 Solid Ways to Find Your First Sponsors

Sponsorship is the main monetization goal for a lot of podcasters, but there are often some misconceptions around how it happens. You might think that you don’t have enough downloads to get sponsors. Or that once you *do* get enough downloads, brands will magically start reaching out to you. You might assume that you need an “in” with any company to get a brand deal.

I’m here to tell you: you don’t need a ton of downloads, brands will not just reach out to you, and you don’t need an in! So how do you find potential sponsors for your podcast? We’ll talk about 3 ways:

1. Tapping your network and connections
2. Reaching out companies where you’re already using their products.
3. Finding sponsors of similar podcasts.

Presented by Nexcess and Podcast Liftoff.

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Intro: Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about a free email course I have called Five Fast Fixes to grow your podcast.

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Sponsorship is the main monetization goal for a lot of podcasters. But there are often some misconceptions around how sponsorship actually happens. You might think that you don’t have enough downloads to get sponsors or that once you do get enough downloads, sponsors will magically start reaching out to you. You might assume that you need an in with a company to get a brand deal at all. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a ton of downloads. That brands will not just reach out to you and that you don’t need an in.

One of my first sponsors, [hover.com] was a pure cold outreach that ended up being a $5,000 deal when all was said and done. Just starting out, I was pumped. And I didn’t have a ton of downloads and I didn’t have an in. 

So how do you find potential sponsors for your podcast? That’s what we’ll talk about in today’s episode.

Hello. And welcome to Make Money Podcasting, where I teach you how to make your first $10,000 with your podcast. On this show, you’ll learn tried and true methods to increase your revenue and turn your podcast from a money pit into a money maker. 

Hi, I’m your host, Joe Casabona. And my podcast has been making money from day one without a lot of downloads. I’ll share everything I know with you here on Make Money Podcasting presented by Podcast Liftoff, and Nexcess

Joe Casabona: So how do you find sponsors for your podcast? We’ll look at three tried and true methods. And this is going to be in the order that I recommend you try them. 

First, is Tapping Your Network. The second is the Tools and Products you are already using. And three are sponsors of similar podcasts. 

And let me just say right off the bat that this is going to be much more effective once you define your mission statement. And once you have some content that demonstrates you are able to reach the brand’s target audience, even if you’re not reaching it today. 

So if you need a little bit of guidance on your mission statement, check out Episode 006. That’s over at [makemoneypod.com/006]. And you can find any show notes and resources for today’s episode over at [makemoneypod.com/007]. Okay. so let’s dive into this. 

Number one, Tapping Your Network. Maybe you’ve heard the old adage about getting investments or getting funding for your business, right? It’s that first, you should look at friends, family, and fools before you start looking at angel investments or venture capital. And that’s because these are the people who trust you the most, who presumably will be the lowest stakes.

And so I recommend doing the same thing while I would never call any of my sponsors fools, you want to look at friends and family and people inside your network. These are people, like I said, who trust what you are doing already. And so you don’t necessarily need to demonstrate that you have a lot of downloads today, or that you have a huge reach today, you’ve built in public, or you’ve established trust with these people in some other way.

When I started my How I Built It Podcast, I was fully focused on the WordPress space where I already had a bunch of contacts. So finding sponsors was pretty easy for me because I already had the relationships and I knew that these folks had some budget to spare. And again, this is important, right? I knew I was focused on specifically WordPress development businesses.

And I had an idea of which companies in the WordPress space that I had a connection with would be willing to support this content. So if you are going to take this route, reach out to people in your network who align with your show’s audience.  And it’s easiest to do this if you’ve started a podcast in a niche you are already a part of.

So if you’re starting from scratch, a new niche, new audience, new connections, and new network, this is gonna be really hard for you, right? Because for example, I moved from the WordPress space to the creator space, and specifically like speakers, authors, and coaches, I don’t have a lot of contacts there yet, or I definitely don’t have as many contacts as I did in the WordPress space.

So reaching out to potential sponsors of a brand new project is a little bit harder for me to do here. But like I said, in the WordPress space, I was well-established. And well-known people trusted what I did. And so if I asked for money, they were betting on me. 

And this is actually the case for the presenting sponsor of this show, Nexcess. I have a personal relationship with them and I told them I was starting this show and who the target audience was, and they trust what I do. And they thought that this audience would be a good fit for one of their products. A product that you’re going to hear about in a second, actually.

So when you take this approach, I’m not telling you to actually go to like your mom or your dad and say, “Hey, give me money to sponsor my podcast.”  Or I’m not saying like go to your friend who has a business in a completely unrelated space. Though I’ve had a couple of friends do that just to support the show. What I’m saying is you likely, unless this is your first day in your niche or in your show’s niche unless it’s your first day in your show’s niche, you probably have a network of people that you can reach out to. And you could say, “Hey, look. I’m starting this new project. Here’s where I am. Here’s the mission statement and the audience. I’m looking for a supporter and a partner in this. I was wondering if you’d be willing to sponsor?” Or if you’re already launched, right? Show them the episodes and say, “Hey, I’m getting modest downloads right now. But I’m reaching these people. I’m building my mailing list and more people are sharing the show. And its people that I believe you are also targeting or you’re also going after. So if you want to support what I’m doing and reach this audience, I think you should sponsor my podcast.” 

So that’s number one. Tap your network. Reach out to the people that you know personally who trust what you’re doing, who understand your work, and see how well that goes. 

And one more thing here. You might actually get some constructive feedback, right? And, maybe they’ll say, “Hey, we can’t sponsor right now.” But reach out in a couple of months,  or they’ll say, “You know, we’re really looking to target these people or work on this type of content.” That’s the other big benefit of working with someone you have a connection with is that instead of just doing like a straight-up rejection, they might be more willing to work with you on something that’s more mutually beneficial. So that’s also something that you should keep in mind when you’re reaching out to people in your network.

So there you go. Number one, tap your network, reach out to friends, family, and other friends, not fools.  And we’ll look at the other two after a word from our sponsor. 

Sponsor: This and every episode of Make Money Podcasting is brought to you by Store Builder from Nexcess.

As a podcaster, you might be wondering what’s the best way for me to implement some of the things that we talk about on this show. How can I easily make money with my own website? And when it comes to setting up an e-commerce site, you kind of have the choice between an easy but limited platform or a limitless platform that you need to manage yourself, taking precious time away from your podcast.

Until now, Store Builder is e-commerce made easy for everybody. It saves you time and delivers a storefront that lets you get to business. As someone who has set up multiple e-commerce sites, I can tell you that store builder has been a much easier experience than anything else I’ve tried. Answer a few questions, add your content, and sell. 

Store builder was created and is supported by the e-Commerce experts at Nexcess. I host all of my important sites, including the membership for my own podcast and this podcast at Nexcess. Get the speed, security, and support you need when you need it. Whether you’re selling podcast merch, offering a supplementary course, or you have a membership or subscription. 

Are you ready to monetize your podcast the way you want to? Head on over to [makemoneypod.com/storebuilder] all one word, to try it for free for 30 days. That’s [makemoneypod.com/store builder]. 

Thanks so much to Store Builder and Nexcess for sponsoring this and every episode of Make Money Podcasting. 

Joe Casabona: All right. So let’s move on to the second way that you can find sponsors. And that’s by using tools, products, or services you are already using.

So if there’s a product you love and you’re in a position to recommend it to your listeners, it’s worth asking the company to partner up with you. And I should say that I mean, this only works if it’s a tool within the same niche as your podcast, right? So if you are a graphic designer who uses Figma all the time, but your podcast is a Disney fan podcast or a Star Wars fan podcast, then you’re probably not recommending Figma to your Star Wars podcast listeners. But, If you are like, if you’re a podcaster who targets creators and other podcasters, then a good fit might be Riverside, right? And they’ve sponsored my main show for that reason. So, if there is a product that you love, it’s worth reaching out to the company and asking to partner with you.

And don’t start off with, “I love your product.” right? That’s like great. It’s not the best way to start a pitch. I made that mistake a lot early on. And also later on you know, I get, especially if later on, when they started reaching out to me like I just got excited. But don’t start out with, “I love your product.” Reach out and explain to them that your podcast reaches the same audience that they’re trying to reach. And that because you use their product, you can recommend it from a very personal kind of heartfelt way. Talk about your experience using the product, and maybe even point to a time when you talked about it on your show. This helps reinforce that you’re willing to recommend it.

And again, this is another misconception that I had when I first started that if I talk about a company or a product for free, they’d have no reason to sponsor my show. But doing it for free won’t hurt. The brand has campaign goals. They have talking points. They have specific dates that they want a campaign to run. And that’s what they’re paying for. Not a single offhanded shoutout buried in some other episode. So think about that as well. Think about the tools that you use that cater to the same audience that your show caters to, and reach out and say, “Hey, I was wondering if you’ve ever tried sponsoring podcasts. My podcast reaches the same audience that you’re trying to reach. I use your product. Here’s a way I’ve used it recently. Here’s a time I recommended it on my show. Are you willing to partner up for a campaign where you sponsor the show?” 

So that’s the number two. Tools, products, and services that you are using. Again, that has good brand alignment and a good kind of target audience alignment.

The third way and the final one that we’ll talk about here is look for sponsors of similar podcasts. This is definitely the one I don’t recommend the most, I guess I recommend the least. Because this is, this can be risky, right? Because if you probably hear like Squarespace on a bunch of podcasts, and so you might be like, “Oh, well. They sponsor podcasts. Let me reach out to them.” I’ve made this mistake myself. 

But they are looking for the biggest podcasts. They are a general-purpose product that has a wide reach. And so they’re looking to sponsor huge podcasts where they’ll definitely get a return on their multi-thousand or even multimillion-dollar investment. So they are not, they’re probably not going to pay you a couple of hundred bucks, for, you know, maybe a thousand downloads. Because they understand that they probably won’t get any purchases from that. That could be risky.

But that said, here’s what I would do. Here’s what I did. Do listen to your podcasts or listen to podcasts like your own and take note of who sponsors the show. When I say like your own, I mean in the same category that talks about the same subject matter. But also seem to be around the same size, right? Don’t look at the top 10 tech podcasts in Apple podcasts or on Spotify unless, you’re in the top 10. But if you’re in the top 10, you’re probably not listening to this. 

So don’t look at the big shows, right? Maybe go to Apple podcasts and look at the shows that they recommend that are like yours. Or go to Good Pods or Listen Notes and they’ll list similar podcasts to yours, and listen, and see if people are sponsoring those shows. It’s easier to kick off this conversation when you know the company is already open to podcast sponsorship, right? Because then you don’t have to convince them to try podcast sponsorship.  You just need to convince them to also sponsor your show. 

And like I said, beware because if the show you listen to is big, they’ll likely want to pay what’s called a specific CPM or Cost Per Milli. I can’t remember if I’ve talked about that on this show or not. But it’s basically, that they want to pay a certain amount of money per thousand downloads you have. So if the CPM is $20, then for every thousand downloads, they give you $20. And that’s about the industry average right now.  But that also means like if you get a hundred downloads per episode, they’re gonna give you two bucks. So that’s not really worth it. Right. So just be aware of that.

And bigger sponsors will also have certain expectations. Right? I had a sponsor one time, they’ve sponsored a lot of big podcasts and they reached out to me to do a run for my podcast. And their insertion order was pretty rock solid. And I decided to go with them because I wanted to use their logo on my slide deck, right? For my sponsor deck. 

So they paid me CPM based on what I told them my average downloads were. Which at the time was around 6,000 or 7,000. This was like really at the height of my web development era, of guests, right? Now, I’m doing a little bit of a pivot download or down a little bit.  But I think the content is a lot better.

Anyway, so they agreed to pay me about a hundred dollars, less than what I usually charge. And again, I wanted that. They also wanted to do three episodes, not my minimum four. And they wanted these specific dates and I agreed to all of that. I gave away the boat basically.  And so, they also had a clause in their contract that said if I don’t come within 10% of the download numbers, so in this case, if I said 6,000,  if I didn’t make it to 5,400, I’d have to do a make good episode which means that I’d have to do another episode for free within I think some timeframe.  

And then finally, they wanted to change their ad. They had a very specific script. And each month they wanted me to do a specific script. But the problem is, and I told them this multiple times, I don’t do live reads during my interviews. Some of my interviews are recorded well in advance. And then my episodes are usually scheduled about a month in advance. So by the time they’re emailing me, telling me to use this campaign, that show, the show coming out that month has already been scheduled for a few weeks. So it was a big problem. I think they paid me for one of the three episodes and I said, “You know what? Instead of just doing a make good, just don’t pay me for the other two ads that ran.” And we called a day.

So I’m telling you this because while this approach could work from a kind of market resource search standpoint you, know that people want to sponsor, those people sponsor podcasts, make sure it truly is a good fit as far as subject matter and size of your podcast.  So for this approach, compliment them, and thank them for supporting podcasts. Ask them if they’ve considered sponsoring podcasts of your size, and let them know why you think they’d be a good fit. And then again, maybe point to a time when you’ve already talked about them. And if you haven’t talked about them yet, do it on your next episode, right? Mention them and why this might be a good fit, and then point them to that episode.

So, you know, it’s a little bit of a long game. Sponsorship is a long game. You’re not going to reach out to a company on Monday and have a check by Wednesday.  But you want to start planting seeds as soon as possible. 

So, there you go. The three ways, maybe the three first ways I’d recommend trying to find sponsors for your podcast. 

  1. Tap Your Network
  2. Look at tools, products, and services you’re already using. 
  3. Look at companies that are sponsoring similar Podcasts. 

But that’s it for this episode. 

Thanks so much for listening to Make Money Podcasting presented by Podcast Liftoff and Nexcess. For all of the show notes and a small write-up and to subscribe, head over to [makemoneypod.com/007]. You’ll also be able to share it with a friend if you go over there. So,  that would also be deeply appreciated. Again, that’s [makemoneypod.com/007].

Thanks so much to our sponsor, Nexcess.

Until next time. I’m Joe Casabona, and I can’t wait to see what you make.

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