Start with why

The key to launching successful partnerships is to be clear from the outset what your goals and objectives are.

Is it to build your customer base, to raise awareness of your brand in new markets, enhance your offering or leverage your brand to create new revenue streams perhaps?

Only when you know where you’re heading, can you truly decide on the right partners to join you for the journey.

Choose partners wisely

It’s all too easy to be swayed by that hip new brand with its market-cornering widget and award-winning ad campaign. However, if their values misaligned with yours, a partnership is likely to feel inauthentic and lack any real bite.

You can usually feel when brand partners chime well together – however it’s prudent to spend some time immersing yourself in a prospective partner’s brand story, prior to investing too much in the partnership.

How do they speak to their customers across social media and review portals? What do their mission statement and guiding principles say about their brand purpose? How do they bring their brand to life across their sales and marketing channels?

Similarly, ensure that any partner understands the intricacies of your own brand and how you seek to make a difference in the world.

Cultural synergy between brand partners tends to translate into commercial success as partnerships evolve.

That said, it’s worth taking the blinkers off when shortlisting potential brands. Some of the most successful partnerships are between brands few would have anticipated a collaboration from. As can be seen in our recent series, showcasing our favourite partnerships from around the globe.

Pull in the same direction

It’s crucial that each partner’s success contributes to the success of the other.

One partner might be looking to expand into new markets, whilst the other might be looking for innovative new ways to set themselves apart from the competition. A partnership centred around the former providing exclusive discounts and benefits for the latter’s customers will ensure both brands benefit.

Likewise, one partner might be looking to connect with another’s huge audience and be prepared to pay handsomely for the platform. Thinking creatively about how best to activate the partnership will maximise exposure for the former and revenue for the latter.

Once the underlying trajectory of the partnership has been agreed and each partner understands what’s in it for the people sitting ‘across the table’, it becomes a lot easier to develop a balanced plan of activity that builds towards a common goal, keeping all parties motivated and committed to the greater good.

Be clear on metrics

Partners need to be able to clearly articulate how they’ll be measuring success – providing clear, measurable targets for each to work towards.

If you’re looking to grow sales, what specific figure would equate to the partnership being considered a success? How quickly do you want to achieve this?

Are you looking to boost retention or shift perceptions of your brand? Great, how is that going to be quantified?

Without a clear idea of what you’re hoping to get out of the partnership (and what you can provide your partner with), you’ll have no way to determine whether it was a success, nor how to improve upon it in the future.

Ensure the mechanisms are in place to measure any activity and plan for regular reviews with your partner to ensure you’re on course.

Think with customers in mind

It’s all well and good conjuring up grand plans to drive more sales, enter new markets or shift perceptions of your brand – however unless the partnership truly benefits the end customer, it’s unlikely to achieve any real cut through.

If the collective focus is on better meeting the needs of actual customers, then the subsequent pieces of the puzzle are more likely to fall into place.

What do your customers want that your business can’t deliver? What might another brand be able to bring to the table to solve that great big problem your customers are facing?

Focusing on your audience and tending to customers’ needs makes it much easier to select the right brand partners so everyone benefits.

At Kin we refer to this as a win, win, win.

Create a road map

With a common goal in mind, the focus then shifts to developing a strategy to activate the partnership.

Which audiences are being communicated with?

What touchpoints are available to promote the partnership? Email, direct mail, website, retail POS, packaging, social media or live events perhaps?

What reach is available through each channel?

How frequently is the message going to be communicated?

Is there a central creative strategy that underpins the partnership?

What are audiences being offered – does the hook involve discounts, benefits, competition prizes, exclusive content & experiences, or innovative new products & services?

How is this being created and delivered?

Is money changing hands between partners? If so, what are the terms?

Or does the framework operate on a contra basis?

What is each partner committing to provide and what the key timings for each leg of activity?

What budgets are being committed and how is this divided between partners?

Who are the key contacts and what’s the sign off process for any activity?

How is progress going to be assessed against agreed KPIs?

Once a plan has been agreed, it’s important to commit it to paper in a partnership marketing agreement that all parties can refer to as a central point of truth.

Ensure buy in throughout the company

Partnerships require investment, time and resource – it’s important that there’s a champion of the partnership at board or strategic level, to ensure sufficient bandwidth is made available to properly do the job.

However, buy-in at the operational level is also required – from those who can fully commit to and action the partnership on a day to day basis.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Often the best route to long term success with a partner is to start small and build from there. Agree on a simple list of activities to introduce partners to customers, see some benefits and get accustomed with the other’s working practices.

As confidence grows and momentum builds, more ambitious projects can be planned as partners come up with creative new ways to activate the partnership.