I was contacted recently by an underwriting salesperson with a question about renewing one of his account's annual underwriting agreement. He told me that the year-long agreement was ending in a month and he hadn’t talked to the underwriter since the agreement was signed the previous year.
I told him he was about ten months late in starting the renewal process.
The way I see it, the renewal process for underwriting should begin when you first sign up a new underwriter.
I don’t mean that you should have a renewal agreement ready to give to your first-time underwriter. However, when a businessperson signs their first underwriting agreement, that’s when it’s time to ramp up your relationship with the account and start to plan for the future. Instead of thinking of the process as a renewal, look at it as a continuation of your business relationship.
There’s a lot you can do to make your new sponsor “part of the family.” While that likely started with your first meeting, here are a few additional suggestions.
Take time to care about them when their underwriting schedule begins.
Send them an mp3 of their spot.
Provide them with a list of the days and times their spots will run in the first week.
Several weeks after the schedule starts, check in with your underwriter. If everything is okay and proceeding smoothly with their schedule, ask for a testimonial - just three or four sentences - as to why they decided to become an underwriter and how they feel about the process and their experience working with you. Since this follow-up is relatively soon after their start, it will reinforce in their own mind that they made the right decision to become an underwriter. As a thank-you, take them a fruit basket or something they can share with their employees.
Check in with them monthly in person, by phone, or email. Is the schedule working to their satisfaction? If not, discuss changing where their spots run. Show them you want to do what you can to help them.
Keep them updated with other sponsorship suggestions. Is your station having an event or an initiative that can be sponsored? Take your sales sheet for the event or initiative, delete the investment amount so it’s just an information page. Ask your underwriter if she knows anyone who may be interested in a sponsorship. She may give you some suggestions or she may be interested in a sponsorship for her business.
Halfway into their long-term schedule send a thank-you letter. American Express does this to their card holders. All you need are two or three sentences showing your appreciation for their business and support.
All of these ideas and efforts will help strengthen your business relationship and friendship. It will go a long way toward keeping them as an underwriter. It’ll make it easier when you go for the ask because it’s not just a renewal but the continuation of a great and mutually-beneficial business relationship.