Dealing with Unhappy Cause Marketing Partners

Having the occasional unhappy sponsor at the end of a cause marketing program is part of the learning curve and can happen to the very best.

Here are a few tips on what to do when sponsors lose their happy face:

  • Don’t take it personally. If you’ve been a good, dedicated partner, you should feel good that you gave it your best. Your commitment will shine through to everyone involved. You just came up short in delivering the goods. It’s about what was agreed upon and what was delivered. It’s not a reflection on whether you’re a good or bad person. Lighten up.

  • Let them vent. This is always a tough one because you will want to argue your case. But you have to bite your tongue. Deep down, you may want to show the sponsor that you’re right, and they’re wrong. But don't try that. It doesn’t make the situation any better.

    What will make it better is letting the sponsor vent. And just don’t tune them out. Remember, they’re sowing the seeds for what can become a productive conversation.

  • Acknowledge. Explain. Repeat. The next step after venting is acknowledging their disappointment: "I'm sorry you were disappointed with the pinup design." Then, very briefly, explain yourself: "We discussed that this was the best design we could do on such short notice." If it wasn’t discussed, then say you should have communicated it better and you will next time. Focus on how you will make things better next time.

  • Focus on the positive. All your programs should have lots of value for partners, which mean even in a sea of negativity, you’ll have a few positive beacons to point to. Be sure to remind sponsors of their windfall so that you can frame their complaints. Don’t dismiss their concerns, but you do want to put in to perspective what was delivered and achieved.

  • Focus on the fix and the future. When partners complain about an issue you should always talk about how you plan to do things differently with them the next time. You can get them psychologically focused on doing the program again, but better.

  • Take the fight to them. When talking about next year, you should always take time to discuss what the sponsor needs to do to improve the program. The “fix” is always a joint effort.

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