From small businesses, one of the most frequent questions I get asked about is how to partner with larger businesses and brands.
So, to de-mystify this process, we have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to share their best tips for effectively partnering with larger businesses and brands.
A dozen of their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Make it Short and Sweet!
I've found that when most people try to land brand partnerships, they send long, drawn-out emails and media kits. These don't work very well. What does work? A one page summary of why you want to work with them and proof that you can send them business. If you have any information that can prove to them you can send traffic that converts, make sure they see it.
When considering any partnership, the question that should be front and foremost is who is this partnership valuable to & what problem does it solve?
If it only benefits you & only solves your problem, it will never happen.
Partnerships are built on mutual gain. It is about the sum being more valuable than the parts & understanding what you can do to help a larger brand more effectively communicate their value than they could without you.
Now that you have figured that out, communicate!
3. The Financial ROI Pitch
Learn the financial metrics about the large business in terms of how they generate revenue and what percent of revenues they spend on sales, marketing, R&D, Customer Support, etc. For companies that are public, you can learn a lot from their investor presentations that they provide on their investor relations page. Then, financially demonstrate how the cost of your product will increase revenue or decrease expenses to create a financial ROI. This shows the company you know their business.
4. SBA Mentor-Protégé Program
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an overlooked asset to entrepreneurs. The Mentor-Protégé program is a business development arrangement whereby a large company acts as a coach and provides the protégé with various types of business assistance. In many cases, the mentors and protégés form a joint venture relationship to pursue one or more Government contracts.
5. Become the Media Others Need
When I managed social media for Fairtrade America, we produced Twitter parties called #FairtradeChat. While many brands struggled for engagement, our numbers were growing due largely to the popularity of this chat. We were able to leverage this tool to partner with larger, socially-aware organizations like Unicef. Because we offered these groups a chance to easily share their message (in this case, ending trafficking), we became the media outlet. In turn, our following and engagement grew.
6. What They Want and More
When pitching to partner with large businesses or brands, go the extra mile and give them what they want and more (as long as you can provide it and it's not a burden to you). They will be delighted to work with you, as you will have demonstrated the good will to give them something extra up front. As I was partnering once with a prominent New York organization, I decided to create a New York local team so that we could ensure everyone was familiar with NY. It worked and I won a 3-year contract!
7. In the Know Before You Go
Before partnering with a big brand, it is imperative to be prepared. KNOW what you want out of the partnership (other than the big bucks!) and what your expertise is in. When you can approach a big brand with a specific request in mind that matches your expertise, you are uniquely positioned to assure it aligns with their goals. Then, the conversation and relationship can begin with clarity. Continue working on the relationship with persistence and clarity, showing how you provide a solution.
8. Get On (& Stay On) Their Radar
Be the one that comes to mind when larger orgs have a need you can fill. Let folks know you're looking to network (including staff). Recently, our accountant told us about a grant available to small businesses that hire a number of local workers. We applied & won. The mayor heard and visited our facility. This lead to press that we shared socially, which lead to people learning our blankets are US-made. By getting on the city's radar & being easy to work with, we formed a beneficial partnership.
9. Corporations are People Too
Business relationships matter, even when you’re trying to break into a larger company. To stand out, be creative in your approach. One friend of mine finally got a lunch appointment with a busy executive after shipping him a box of peanut butter, jelly and bread. She then landed a multi-year contract.
10. Climb Aboard But Avoid Sinking
It's been said if your partner is not working as hard as you are, you don't have a partnership--you have a sinking ship. Before you climb on board, make your proposal to a potential partner alluring (for example, cite how many followers/existing customers you already have, cite awards you've received, present links to favorable press or quote a major industry figure who endorses you). If they extend a partnership, be certain to specify in writing the obligations each of you will fulfill.
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D..
11. Learn to Play Golf
Decide on which company you would like to associate with. Then, find out which golf course the Directors play golf at and go and play golf there, making sure that you meet and start chatting with the Directors. Friendship is the answer to getting your small business noticed.
12. What Can You Do to Help Them
If you are a little fish and you want to partner with a big fish, you must be very strategic. You need to fill some white space that you can help them! It’s a “what can you do for them, not what they can do for you”. How can you help them accomplish what they don't already do? If you help them in the short term, they will help you in the long term.
Christopher Carter of Approyo
is a national media personality, "recovering" investment banker, dealmaker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation.