Strategic partnerships can be a game changer for your small business

Google, Facebook, Pfizer, Sony — it can be difficult to compete with the giants in almost any business. They have immediate brand recognition, apparently bottomless resources, and a wide breadth of experience and expertise. But while most startups see their larger counterparts as competition, smart entrepreneurs take a look at the Goliaths to identify opportunities to work together.

As a small business, one thing you can do in order to quickly grow your brand is to find strategic partnerships with like-minded bigger businesses — particularly the ones that discuss commonalities and target markets, but which aren’t direct competitors.

Forming partnerships allows a smaller firm to benefit from an existing customer base, in addition to valuable resources and marketing channels that have already been set up. For the larger business, it can place them as an early adopter, provide value-added for their clients and even end up being a testing ground for a possible acquisition down the road. Whether you wish to boost sales, increase brand awareness or go after a new market, here are a couple of ways that innovative partnerships can give you the edge you need over other competing small businesses.

Find larger brands that share a target market and give a win-win deal: Successful partnerships are all about identifying which companies are also targeting your ideal customer and finding a way to offer value back to the spouse.

I previously conducted business development and partnerships at Canadian startup , which rents out designer dresses to girls attending special events. While I knew we had to reach a large audience so as to hit our objectives, we had to aim the right type of people — women needing a gorgeous designer gown who had been interested in cheap ethical consumption.

I recognized charity galas as the ideal partner, and approached each charity gala and non-profit base in the nation and suggested a mutually beneficial partnership: when they agreed to promote our brand and services to their attendees, we would contribute an agreed-upon proportion of any direct earnings back in their fundraising initiative. It was a win-win scenario and, with time, these partnerships accounted for lots of our revenue.

We also formed a partnership with Delta Hotels to target visitors heading out for the day — in exchange for promoting the apparel rentals on all their in-room TVs, in addition to through their lodging, we provided a customized door-to-door dress-rental service for each their guests, which was a enormous value-add on either side.

Look to other startup companies for partnerships, not only Fortune 500 brands: Successful strategic partnerships do not always need to be between a small company and a significant brand — plenty of startups team up with each other for good gain.

A good example is the partnership between . The music-sharing service and ride-hailing company teamed up to give combined . Uber clients can listen to their own playlists during their journey or choose what they want to listen to from Spotify’s streaming catalog.

On Spotify’s part, the partnership clearly set them apart from other major audio-sharing industry giants, such as Apple Music, while also incentivizing existing customers to update their Spotify accounts. For Uber, the manoeuvre gave the technology firm meaningful leverage over their opponents as the bargain was exclusive to Uber vehicles.

Use partnerships to market services, not only products: This may also work for service companies. In my present role leading business development in a marketing agency, I have formed partnerships with other companies offering complementary services. This works because it gives us additional capabilities for our customers, while also providing a source of referrals from partners.

One very successful venture was with a native Facebook advertising agency. Our clients are often searching for Facebook advertisements to match our PR campaigns, so the partnership enables us to send businesses to specialists that we know will deliver results and be great to work with. On their end, they do not offer PR or design solutions, so they frequently pull us in to help augment their current ad campaigns. We have formed about a dozen ventures of the sort, and they are still among the most consistent sources of prospects for the business.

Build the foundation for a long-term venture: It is tough to return to a time when there was not a Starbucks on every street corner, but the firm was not necessarily the household name it is today. Among the ways that the coffee business became an industry giant was leveraging successful strategic partnerships.

1 example is their partnership with the bookstore chain , which found Starbucks open places inside Barnes amp; Noble places, giving readers and shoppers a reason to hang out in the shop — giving Starbucks an avenue in an established merchant. Subsequently, Starbucks struck a deal with Chapters in Canada in 1995. Starbucks can nevertheless be found at Chapters places across Canada, and it has proved successful for both brands — when you locate a partnership that works, aim to construct a long-term venture deal.

As you build the venture roster for your company, attempt to find solutions that benefit both parties. Remember: your long-term success is determined by finding win-win solutions.

Finding the proper partners and reaching the ideal agreement may take some time and iteration, but it is well worth it and might be the edge that lets you grow. Provided that you are upfront about any constraints when striking a deal, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeking out and securing strategic partnerships for your small company.

Fatima Zaidi is vice-president of business development at , a creative communications agency located in Toronto. She was named among Marketing Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in 2016, and she writes for publications such as BetaKit and the Huffington Post.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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