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Increasing visibility for your startup requires growth tactics and typically, a significant amount of time. While new companies are always looking for ways to grow quickly, in reality, it can take a significant amount of time before you see the fruits of your labor. But a quick way to grow your customer base is to tap into the reach that larger companies already have.
Other companies in your industry don’t always have to be seen as solely your competition, they can also be allies in growing your business if you have a similar target market. I spoke with numerous entrepreneurs who have had success building their startup through partnerships with larger businesses and they shared the strategies that worked for them.
Network, network, network – both online and offline.
Preparation is key to maximizing the results you can get from networking. “Research brands and people before attending conferences and events, and put them into a Twitter list so you can follow their tweets,” says Kelly Ann Collins, Founder & CEO, of Vult Lab, a social media agency. She recommends engaging with them on the social platform by liking, commenting, and sharing their posts, prior to the event to help make a connection.
Collins has previously partnered with Wix in Tel Aviv, a web development platform with 110 million users, using this exact strategy. She advises that not only are Twitter lists a great way to keep tabs on the people you want to collaborate with, but also a great way to learn more about their likes and dislikes, making your in-person meeting more advantageous. “A pre-event tweet to someone is a great way to break the ice in real life,” says Collins.
Highlight the benefits you bring to the table.
“Use your networks and target people or businesses with shared goals and demographics,” says Jarra Campbell, Founder and Creative Director of The Bondi Alchemist, a sustainable and ethical swimwear company. Campbell, who used to work on corporate partnerships for Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), says it’s important to make sure your collaboration idea is a win-win for all parties involved.
“Look for possible challenges the other company may have and propose a solution. Highlight the benefits for everyone involved and keep it simple by making sure it will bring them money, not more work,” she adds.
Reach out to brands who have a similar message.
A partnership between Reebok and findSisterhood, an anonymous social network for women, came about because of a mutual goal. Reebok launched their #BeMoreHuman campaign weeks before findSisterhood launched their new app, making it the perfect time for a collaboration between the two companies since both brands focus on empowering women and showcasing their strengths. Reebok’s campaign slogan says “we’re celebrating women who are transforming themselves and the world around them”, which aligns perfectly with findSisterhood’s company mission.
CEO and Founder of findSisterhood, Ana Pompa Alarcon Rawls, received a warm introduction to Reebok’s team which led to the partnership. “I’d recommend asking your friends, investors, or mentors if they know someone they can introduce you to, and check LinkedIn to see if you have any connections to the company you’re seeking a partnership with,” says Rawls.
Research pitch competitions or incubators.
“It can take a long time to get visibility with large companies, so look and see if the company has any pitch competitions, incubators, or investment opportunities for startups,” advises Allison Monaghan McGuire, Founder & CEO of Walc, a walking navigation app based on visual cues such as landmarks or popular destinations, rather than the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west.
The company won McDonald’s Innovation in Transportation Competition at SXSW 2015 and BMW’s Future of Mobility Challenge, opening the door to collaborating with these larger businesses. McGuire shares that these wins immediately put the company on the corporations’ map and then she looked for an internal advocate to further build the relationship. “Single out one person who is most excited about the partnership and let them lead internally. Give them everything they need to look good to their team and boss,” shares McGuire. “Then, wait. Wait a long, long time. Possibly six to ten months. In the startup world, this is an eternity – for some, a lifetime. But for corporations, this is standard. Once you’ve partnered, though, you have the benefit of having a big name behind you, which lends credibility.”
No matter how you make the connection with a larger business, it’s important to clearly outline the benefits you bring to the table as a startup. “Ensure values align. Research the other company’s products and their competitors, then offer value and know exactly what the value or offer is for them,” says Campbell.
Key factors that can give startups some negotiating power are the fact that small and newer businesses tend to be more nimble and most innovative ideas come from startups rather than from large corporations. Also, smaller companies can be much more in tune with the needs of their target consumer and quick to act on those needs.
December 29, 2018 at 05:17AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs