Despite the tumult of the pandemic, this past year forced many businesses to reflect on what they need to do in order to put a strategic operational plan in place to ensure their business can not just survive but thrive. Perhaps in no way more importantly than for businesses seeking partnership opportunities. As we move into what is looking to be a transformative and transitional year for small businesses and entrepreneurs, the time may be ripe for addressing your own strategy and how partnerships can bolster both your business and your team.
Whatever it is your business is in need of, there’s likely a company with whom you can partner for mutual benefit. If you take time to plot out some of the more pressing needs within your business, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and outreach to solidify the most meaningful partnerships. Think about both the short and long term, as well as the varying needs of both your team and external stakeholders – odds are there’s a common thread in some of the gaps which can be filled by striking a relationship with the right organization.
Once you’ve identified your gaps, you can begin your outreach. Below is some great advice we gleaned from a panel interview with experienced partnership leaders last year. (See the full conversation here, and learn more about the legal side from this presentation.)
Do thorough research to get to know the landscape.
- Learn what corporations are sponsoring similar companies to your own. They’ll often have room to support the same industry a few companies over.
- Use LinkedIn to find the right stakeholders and determine your best direct connection for outreach.
Prepare for an initial meeting.
- Come prepared with knowledge of their brand, both internal and external – understand their values and culture, and get to know how they’re viewed by the public – make sure you’re properly aligned with their work or if you can provide them better alignment with their community or the work you are doing.
- Provide potential partners solutions that play to their brand. You may only have one opportunity to be in front of that audience – don’t waste time with opportunities that have little value to them.
- If possible, have at least two of your team members attend the meeting. This allows for both talking and listening, and the ability to respond more robustly to follow up questions.
- Know in advance your desired goals of the meeting, and establish what next steps should be taken for optimal collaboration.
Understand the difference in speed for execution.
- Some enterprise companies need a month or more to consider, process and finalize partnerships. Be sure you begin your outreach with that in mind.
- Communicate your own timeline, and ask what is possible to execute at different intervals or milestones.
Set yourself up for success.
- Know the value you provide to your partners, and lean into it, whether that be brand amplification through signage and social media or thought leadership highlights through blog posts or speaking engagements.
- Ensure there is buy-in from both organizations. Set up a time for both teams to come together to review and feel confident in the terms of the partnership.
- Agree on a consumer facing message. This is of great importance for both entities, and can often lead to more engagement opportunities.
- Over deliver on your terms, especially if you are a small business working with an enterprise group. Remember, their practices often move more slowly, so offering interesting new ideas or processes may help guarantee a renewal of partnership.
- Be flexible. Situations change and the world throws unexpected curve balls (hello, COVID!) so be ready to bob and weave with the times. Partnerships can be an incredible source of support through the unknown. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and present new options for collaboration.
At the end of the day, you know your value and what your company can bring to the table. Don’t shy away from positioning yourself as a must-have asset to another company. Incredible things can happen when we work together for innovation and community betterment – go get ‘em!