8# How to form meaningful partnerships with like-minded brands 🤝🏾
📔 LESSON OF THE WEEK
How to form partnerships with like-minded brands 🤝🏾
Of all the things I’ve done while building Mane Hook-Up, forming partnerships with other businesses has been the most exciting and enjoyable. There’s something about being around people who are on a similar mission, are equally driven and also want to transform the industry that you work in. It’s just magic ✨
Admittedly, partnerships weren’t at the forefront of my mind when I launched my business. But now, with 16+ black-owned businesses to work with, I’d never turn back.
Before I got to the fun part - i.e bringing some incredible ideas to life with other brands - I had plenty of leg work to do:
Finding the right brands to work with 🕵🏾: which mainly requires the time and drive to do the research.
Plucking up the courage to reach out to Founders 😅: because, how else will you convince them to say yes?
Fundamentally, it all starts with understanding what your business needs and finding other brands that complement your offering. That way, everyone wins. So here are some tips for the Founders who are thinking about forging partnerships…
LESSON 1️⃣: Think about the role partnerships play in your business: Before you jump headfirst into conversations with any other brand, you need to know how partnerships truly serve your business. Building these relationships takes time and energy and as a new Founder, you need to channel your energy into projects that will yield results (sooner rather than later). In my experience, partnerships often fall into one of these two categories. Both are really beneficial, but the route you choose is just dependent on what your business needs right now:
Partnerships that increase reach & brand reputation 📣: You see this kind of partnership all the time. Think of any brand that works with influential people in their industry or even charities that partner with celebrities who donate to their cause. These partnerships allow you to reach a new audience and improve your credibility (by association with the people that you partner with). By piggy-backing on their reputation, you have a chance to draw more of the right people to your business.
Pros: Partnerships like this can be short-term (for strategic campaigns) or long-term (with brand ambassadors), and can elevate your brand.
Cons: The benefits are very one-sided unless you have an established business that can also boost the visibility of people that you’re working with. At the start-up stage, you’d have to work a bit harder to find people who are naturally invested in the problem that your business is solving, otherwise, these partnerships can be costly.
Partnerships that drive customer acquisition & revenue 💰: This is the kind of collaboration that all Founders dream of. Think of the partnership between Headspace and Spotify. Both brands have an overlapping audience who love music, rest and relaxation, which make them a perfect fit. Each app typically costs £9.99 a month so if you want to meditate 🧘🏾♀️ and get lost in a great beat 🎧 you take a £20 hit every month (which doesn’t sound like much, but in a world where subscriptions are everywhere, it all adds up!). So, when these two tech giants teamed up to offer Spotify + Headspace as a 2 in 1 subscription, they chose to only charge customers £14.99 for access to both. The 25% saving was an incentive for a) those who already had subscriptions to both apps and b) those who were interested in using both but didn’t want to overspend. The point is, these partnerships are hugely beneficial to both the customers and brands involved as you’re able to dip into a new customer base and offer your current customers something they find truly beneficial.
Pros: With the right brand, this is a win/win situation.
Cons: You have to do the customer research to really understand if another brands customer base wants your product. If you’re going out of the way to create subscription packages in combination with another brand, you want to know that it will be taken up.
In short, you really need to take the time to understand how partnerships will help you to achieve strategic business objectives and how much you really have to offer. In my experience, the more a partnership is mutually beneficial, the more it will stand the test of time and the better the relationship will be in the long run.
LESSON 2️⃣: Do your research + look for brands that are a good fit: Now you know what kind of partnership you’re looking for, you need to look for the right brands to join forces with. Asking the right questions now will save you a lot of time later — so here are the top five questions that I try to answer before reaching out to potential partners:
Are our missions and visions aligned? 🕵🏾 — Find out if they are trying to solve a problem for the same community that you’re targeting and whether their product has a positive impact on the customers they’re serving.
Have they had any bad press? 📰 — Remember that partnerships also bind you to a brand by association. If you’re trying to support underserved communities, you definitely shouldn’t be working with brands that have a history of exploiting them. This sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people form partnerships without thinking about the long-term implications.
Do they have access to a customer base I need to reach? 🙋🏾♀️ — Ultimately, partnerships should provide you with an opportunity to meet more of the right people. So, you need to be certain that any potetial partner has customers who are looking for a product like yours.
Do they have a product or service that’s easy to integrate within my own? 📦 — As well as finding the right people, a potential partner should have a product or service that naturally fits as an offering for your customers. For example, I’ve partnered with black-owned hair brands and they offer my customers 10-20% discounts on their products. As my customers are in the midst of booking a hair appointment, chances are they’ll also need products. Making the offer a good fit on both sides.
Does my company have something beneficial to offer them as well? 🎁 — Ideally, you want to partner with brands that you can give back to. An imbalanced partnership (where you gain more than you give) will make it difficult for you to negotiate their terms or equal footing with the direction that the partnership goes in.
Doing this thinking before reaching out helps you to narrow down the list of brands to reach out to and puts you in a really good place for the next step…
LESSON 3️⃣: Strike up a conversation with the founders: You know what your business needs, what you can bring to the table and who would make a great partner. Now it’s time to start reaching out to them 📧. Here are a few things to remember:
Email is not the only way to get in touch 📸 — believe it or not, I reached out to all of my partners via Instagram DM first. Founders of smaller businesses tend to still be connected to their business social accounts, and I found that they would respond to DMs faster than email. It was a great way to start the conversation before going onto phone calls or other more formal comms. The lesson is, choose a medium that gets the result you’re looking for (and that’s not always the one people typically use).
Create a message that can be used as a template (but always customise before you send) 🖊️ — when you’re reaching out to people for the first time, your message should be short, sweet and have a clear CTA. My view is, the first message doesn’t need huge amounts of detail - it needs to capture their attention and initiate a conversation. Here’s an example of a message I sent via Instagram:
I hope you’re doing well. I'm [NAME], Founder of [YOUR BRAND], great to meet you!
Just getting in touch as [YOUR BRAND] is organising a collaboration project with a few brands and I would love [PARTNER NAME] to be a part of. It would be great to arrange a call to run this past someone on your team and see if this is something you would be interested in. Let me know if that's possible -- really looking forward to hearing from you.
This template helped me to get a call with about 60-70% of the brands that I reached out to. And, after following up with phone calls I ended up with 16 brand partnerships that helped me to launch a members discount club. It all starts with one message.
Be prepared to answer the tough questions 🤔 — If you end up having a conversation with another founder or senior business leader, they will have questions about the logistics of the partnership that you’re proposing. Don’t walk into the lion’s den unprepared 🦁. Take the time to consider what questions could be major blockers, and make your case as appealing as possible. That doesn’t mean stretching the truth! You don’t want to over promise and under deliver so be very clear about what you have the capacity to commit to.
LESSON 4️⃣: Maintain the relationship in the long term: This is often an afterthought for busy Founders, but it’s actually the most important part of your partnership. Managing the ongoing relationship requires regular contact (without overflooding their inbox) and having more opportunities to work together in the pipeline. A monthly update is probably more than enough, but you can also look for ways to support each other subtly by sharing important updates when you can.
To sum it up…
Partnerships can be such a creative and exciting part of growing your business, but it’s all about doing it right. Take the time to do your research and really think about who you’re getting involved with first. When you find the right businesses to partner with, everything else will just fall into place.
Feel free to drop me a line by replying to this email if you have any questions or want to pick my brain about Founder/start-up life.
Until next time ✌🏾
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Building a team that delivers
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