What You NEED to Know About Partnerships
Want to set up a promising strategic alliance with a fellow business, brand, or influencer? Let's explore some considerations for why partnerships can work, the reasons they sometimes don't, and the secrets to mutual partner success. You're gonna wanna take notes...
OK, so you've got your "thing" and you've managed to come across one or a few different entities outside of your own biz that you can see yourself partnering with in some capacity. Partnerships with social media influencers, brands, or non-profit organizations can have a HUGE impact on your credibility, reach, and potential to attract new clients. But, it's important to remember that partnerships should be entered into with caution and some basic considerations.
First, for the purpose of this article, when we refer to partnerships let's assume we are talking about instances of cross-promotion, like co-hosting/sponsoring a special event or gathering (this can be a pop-up shop or even a social media giveaway contest), endorsements, influencer marketing, and the like. The aforementioned list isn't an exhaustive compilation of partnership opportunities, but just a few examples of the most common ones that a majority of businesses engaging in.
NOW, here are some areas to consider:
Is the product, service, or personality COMPLIMENTARY to YOUR product, service, or personality? Does it make sense to partner or align yourself with this other entity? Will your target audience go, "Oh wow, this is a great coupling," or will it alienate your current and potential clientele? Let's pretend that you are a custom tile manufacturer. It wouldn't make sense to have you partner with a laundromat or a gardening service. You'd want to have a home improvement specialist do your Instagram takeover or give testimonials about your product instead. This may seem remedial and obvious, but you'd be surprised at the types of partnerships that even large companies embark upon, all with the best of intentions.
Is your potential ally or partner providing or marketing a COMPETING product or service? Is there a potential for you to LOSE your customers when they decide to spend their dollars with someone you introduced them to? You have to think about your bottom line here. Say you have a coffee company. You wouldn't want to partner with another coffee, tea, or beverage company because those dollars that were once yours have the potential to go into the pockets of your direct competition. You'd want to partner with a handmade ceramic mug company, a company that makes nut-based creamers, or even a non-profit that advocates for fair-trade items (that is, if you are fair-trade certified or use that standard as a company policy. The items mentioned intuitively go together and can be used side-by-side. The funds that your current clients allocate for your product don't necessarily run the risk of getting funneled to a competing product when you make the right choice in strategic partnerships. This is ALWAYS a consideration to contemplate when exploring potential collabs.
Does your potential ally or partner share the same vision and mission as you? These days consumers are more focused on the moral, ethical, and even political stances of who they choose to patronize. If you are a small business, why not partner with another small business? If your brand has a particularly strong mission to give back to the community or support community-based programs, think about how your potential partner shares in that vision and what they have done independently to build that value. Emphasizing those shared corporate social responsibility initiatives and considerations can reinforce your public credibility and endear your business to the public even more. If your partner never was in favor of equal pay for equal work, bringing cruelty-free products to market, or implementing sustainable business practices and doesn't have the track record to show it, this can reflect negatively on your business that indeed does uphold those ethical standards.
What will your call to action be for the customers that your partner may expose you to and will that partner reinforce that? Just getting seen on some else's social channel or in an email blast to their subscribers isn't enough. To really capture that audience, you need to direct them to complete an action to make you more visible to them to connect in the future. Making sure that you and your partner are clear on exactly why the partnership is beneficial and valuable to both parties is just as, if not more, important than some of the areas we've covered. It may take a few tries, so just know that every partnership opportunity may not be in your best interest. You are allowed to be deliberate and picky.
To form a solid partnership, BE REAL with who you and your business are. Having positive working relationships with fellow businesses related to your industry is non-negotiable.
These relationships are where referrals from a partnership can spring from, as well as potential future partner endeavors. This can be a cross-branded item with an influencer (think Puma's FENTYxPuma with Rhianna or Anastasia's beauty-influencer "Amrezy" branded make-up palette) or even a partner, past or present, sharing an event or new product you are promoting. If you aren't clear, honest, and concise about what your business represents or stands for, this can set both partners up for failure, scandal, or loss of market share. If you partner with a non-profit but are found to be funneling profits off somewhere illegal (in an extreme case) or highlighting female-led businesses but not paying your workers equally, it's a total set up for some pretty brutal backlash.
So, those are some basics tips! What has worked for you in the past? Have you had some trial and error in partnerships firsthand? Share with us and all our co-hustlers out there. Lift each other up with your own experiences.
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