My partner and I built our modified Tumbleweed Cypress from September 2013 - September 2014. Over the course of that year, we were lucky enough to receive dozens of discounted or fully sponsored materials from a variety of companies wanting to support the Tiny House Community. These wonderful companies saved us thousands of dollars on our build and, honestly, we couldn't have done it without them. Let me just say: THANK YOU to all of our sponsors. You rock!
HOW DO YOU ATTRACT SPONSORS?
Tip #1: FIND UNTAPPED RESOURCES
Since 2013, when I began reaching out to sponsors, the tiny house movement has increased drastically in popularity. I'm mentioning this because the popularity of the movement could work in your favor. Many companies are beginning to embrace the idea and even looking to market their products to the Tiny House RV community. Nowadays, there's a good chance marketing managers who keep up with social trends will actually be aware of the tiny house movement! That makes your pitch a whole lot easier!
Our dog, modeling our Goal Zero Solar Generator
On the other hand, due to recent popularity, many sponsors have been tapped. It's not a good idea to call companies that have already publicly sponsored another Tiny House RV. Why? Because that company is already invested in another project that is too similar to your own, you are better off approaching a company that isn't already invested. I would assume most of the popular RV appliance companies receive dozens of Tiny House RV sponsorship requests a week. Therefore, they have been "tapped."
Focus on small businesses, local companies and startups. These "untapped resources" will be more willing to sponsor your project. Search Etsy for handmade items and innovative products. Call local carpenters and construction companies that might donate old tools or unused materials. Theatre and film companies are great resources, as they have a multitude of sets that need to be torn down. Antique shops and collectors might be willing to donate a special item - for example, we made our staircase out of sponsored antique crates. Search kickstarter for innovative appliances and offer to promote them. Think bigger than RV specific products.
Tip #2: START SMALL
One of our first sponsors was Scrubba, a small company that makes a laundry wash bag for backpackers. The Scrubba retails at just $55, and even though that's a relatively small amount, we were ecstatic to receive the product! Sponsored products don't need to be big - you're building a Tiny House RV after all! Sometimes a partial sponsorship or discount is enough. Remember that it all adds up in the end.
After receiving your first sponsorship, you can use it as leverage for receiving more. When pitching your project to a new company, mention that you are also sponsored by BLANK, BLANK and BLANK. Before you know it, a few small sponsorships will lead to a big one!
Our dog, modeling our propane on demand water heater
Tip #3: OFFER A SKILL
Unless you're a non-profit or charity, companies are going to want to see a return for their investment. What skill can you provide in exchange for a sponsorship? My partner, Guillaume, is a professional photographer while my background is in filmmaking. We often offer media exposure or professional grade product photos in exchange for a sponsorship.
Instagram is a great resource for product advertisement. Often we offer a few Instagram photos in exchange for a sponsorship (as seen here with Leatherman), or a YouTube video describing the product. We also post logos on our website with linkbacks to the product or company.
For large sponsorships, we offer to bring our Tiny House RV to events to showcase the product. For example, we did this for our sponsored roof in Canada and in San Francisco with Yerdle - a creative Downsizing App for your smart phone.
Our Tiny House RV at a Sponsored Event in Canada
There are many different ways a sponsorship can be mutually beneficial for your project and your sponsor. Get creative, write a proposal and be open to suggestions.
Tip #4: HAVE YOUR PITCH READY & KEEP IT SHORT
When reaching out to potential sponsor, the first thing you'll do is call or email the marketing manager. I personally prefer email because I can send photos of my project, a link to all social media and explain the skill I'm offering in exchange for a sponsorship.
Practice your pitch with friends or family and keep it concise. Get to the point quickly and do your best to sound calm and collected. Be prepare, but don't worry if it doesn't go smoothly the first time around. You can always perfect your pitch before reaching out to the next potential sponsor.
As a rule, try not to call a company at the end of the work day or around lunch time - they might be in a hurry to get off the phone. I've found that mid-morning on Monday or Tuesday is the best time to reach out to potential sponsors.
For more information on how to pitch your project to sponsors, check our Andrew Odom's book "Your Message Here" which includes templates for email requests, traditional letters, and even cold calls.
Our dog, modeling our self-contained composting toilet
Tip #4: FOLLOW THROUGH
If you've promised to do something in exchange for a sponsorship -- do it! And, as a rule, never agree to give a product a good review before you've tested it. If you don't like it, you may not want to promote it!
It's better to be honest when asking for a sponsored product. Try this: "If I like your product I'll give it a good review on my website and promote it on social media. If after trying the product, I realize it doesn't fit my lifestyle, I'll return it."
Tip #5: DON'T GET DISCOURAGED
Don't be afraid to ask for a sponsorship, and don't be discouraged when you are told "no." If a marketing manager is not responding to your request, accept that they aren't interested. Do not overwhelm them with follow up emails and requests. When faced with rejection, always be courteous, accept feedback and try again elsewhere.
Jenna Spesard is currently living and traveling around North America in a DIY Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop host. They are photographing and writing about their adventure and occasionally they will be hosting an open house. Follow their informative blog.