Phase Two is not even possible, if you ignored Phase One. The next steps in building your fishing career are really an extension of what you learned, planned, and decided by hearing everything I said in Phase One. And this is where the “fun factor” comes back into it.
Most of you will want some extended advise on building and earning sponsorships, so here it goes. When you’ve decided which companies you would like to represent, you need to find out everything about them. Who owns this Company X and what other companies do they own? What does Company X sell, whom does Company X intend to sell their product to, and which stores carry the Company X products? Who runs Company X, and who makes all of the marketing decisions? Who else does Company X sponsor? The Internet will become one of your greatest fishing tools. You will find the information you gather is very important for a number of reasons.
First, knowing everything about Company X will help you formulate the business model for what “Brand You” can bring to this company. How can you help Company X promote their products or services? For instance, knowing that the Company X products are stocked on the shelves of Bass Pro Shops might lead one to assume that “Brand You” could bring value to Company X by forming a relationship for this company with the Department Manager at the nearest store. You could then offer any service needed by this Department Manger to help advance the Company X products. Maybe if you decided to come into the store one Saturday of every month to help customers with the purchase of your new sponsors products, then maybe the store manager might offer a prime display spot for the Company X products. Or maybe you could go into these stores and teach the sales people everything they need to know about the products in order to help customers purchase them. Pro Team deals for boat companies are generated through boat dealerships, with the primary intent of you being able to help the dealership sell the Company X boats. Keep in mind that helping to sell boats is not the only value you could bring. Maybe you could go in every other Sunday and help the dealership wash the boats so the boats look lore appealing for the customers. I think you catch my drift. No pun intended.
Second, knowing who the decision makers are at Company X will help you find the right person to contact about any opportunities for becoming a member of the Company X Pro Staff. When you design your brilliant marketing plan, with whom will you meet to make your business presentation? It’s good advice to tell you to always try very hard to make your presentation in person. If you sent your business plan by mail, the proper person may not receive it, and if they did, they might not understand just how much time and energy you are willing to put into being a member of the Pro Staff. Knowing who the other members of the Company X Pro Staff are will enlighten you to whom you are competing against for the available spots. It will do you well to remember that bass fishing competition begins in the boardroom, not on the water. If you’re going after a Berkley Pro Staff deal, it’s best to understand how you stack up against Byron Velvick, or you could just watch reruns of the Bachelor.
Now, what do you send to Company X to present “Brand You?” Making a phone call out of the blue is normally my first form of contact. You have designed a plan that will make “Brand You” extremely beneficial to Company X, so don’t be afraid to call the head of marketing to determine what the next step should be. The phone call might go something like this: “Hello, George. My name is Nathan Noble. I am in the beginning stages of my Professional Bass Fishing Career. This year I will be competing on the Bassmaster Open Tournament Trail. I love your products, and I use them all of the time. I’d like to discuss the opportunity of becoming a member of your Pro Staff, and have put together a short presentation that describes what I believe I can do to help promote your products at some retail outlets, and on the tournament trail. What can I do, or who should I contact about the possibilities of becoming a Company X Pro Staff Member?”
It’s a very raw example of the conversation, but I think it gives you a good idea of how to begin. Make sure you have your business plan and presentation complete before you make the phone call, because if they ask you for more detail you will want to be able to answer any questions, and if they ask you to send it, do it promptly, while the conversation is still fresh in the mind. By the word promptly, I mean over night express. It costs some money, but it will be worth it in the long run. Most of the people who receive your presentation the next day will remember the conversation they had with you the day before.
Your presentation should be as eye catching as you can possibly make it. And while we’re on the subject, don’t call it a sponsorship presentation. I like to call it a marketing partnership presentation. Don’t send a hand written letter, or even a typed letter. Have pictures of you on a boat, or in your tournament shirt, and full detail of your business plan and recommended marketing strategies lined out in a Power Point Presentation, or something like it. Get help if you don’t know how to use a computer. If you don’t have a computer, go to the library and use theirs. Or you call me. I will help you for a very nominal fee, which is another business I have started to support my Professional Bass Fishing habit. This presentation needs to be hard hitting, better than they have seen from any other bass angler, which is normally not very hard. No offense guys and gals. If they ask you to send it by email, do it, and overnight a paper copy as well.
And then follow up. I recommend giving your contact one day with the possession of your presentation before you call only to make sure they have received it. Don’t make the follow-up call expecting answers, and don’t ask a whole bunch of questions to sound like you are desperate. Say, “I just called to make sure you received my marketing partnership package.” You might add something like, “If there is any further information you need from me, please do not hesitate to give me a call.” Tell them you will give them some time to look over your marketing partnership presentation and call them back in a week or so. I have found that if the contact person has reviewed your presentation, they will normally strike up a conversation, but don’t expect it. Most of these people are very busy, and it might take a couple weeks, and a few more conversations to seal the deal.
Be prepared to here the word “no” quite a bit. Also be prepared to contact another person that you will have to sell your plan to all over again. It would be a good idea to sit down with pen and paper before you start sending out your presentation and make a list of what you would consider the top twenty companies you would like to represent as a professional angler. After you make the list, rank them by how important they are for you to be able to represent. And then start with your fifth company on the list and work your way up. By the time you reach your most important company, you will have learned a great deal about the process, gained some confidence in your presentation, and will be a lot more successful in hooking the “Big Fish.”
After you get a couple marketing partnerships under your belt, it’s time to go to work. Which brings us to the end of Phase Two. How long Phase Two lasts is up to you. I decided to concentrate on this phase of my career for two, to three years. I found out very fast, that it’s not very hard to become the best Pro Staff Member Company X has in that amount of time. Do everything in your power to work for your marketing partners. Don’t only attend the tackle shows, and boat shows, and tournament events, show up to work for Company X and sell their product or service. Become a friend to the Company X customers, by teaching them how to use the product, and getting them excited about using the product. As a rule, I never make up fishing stories. If I fished yesterday, and I didn’t catch a fish, when I come to a tackle show today and a customer asks me how I did, I tell them I didn’t catch any fish. But I’ll also discuss with them what I did wrong, what I could have done different, and what I would they should do if they go fish the same lake tomorrow. If you are selling a plastic worm, and someone asks you how to fish a Carolina Rig with it, take them to the terminal tackle section of the store, get the right hook for them, pick out the proper swivel, weight, and leader material for them, and the physically show them how to rig it. It seems like a lot of work to sell a $3.00 package of worms, but you will be a friend to that customer in the end, the customer will continue to buy the Company X products. Company X will be thankful, and the customer will never forget you. You just better hope they catch fish on your Carolina Rig.