Tiffany Delmore is the co-founder and CMO of SchoolSafe, a company helping to develop safer educational environments.
5 min. read
Updated March 8, 2023
When you want to scale your business, you have a few choices. You could toss more money into marketing. Possibly bump up your product or service lineup. You could even encourage your current customer base to give you more of their discretionary dollars.
And you know what? Any of those tactics could work to expand your brand’s reach. Nevertheless, you should consider another proven amplification approach for your brand: forming strategic partnerships.
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Before you envision the fuss and expense of joining forces legally with another entity, take a step back. You don’t have to exchange “I do” vows with another corporation to collaborate. In fact, partnering with other organizations doesn’t always require extensive contractual arrangements at all. Often, you can form temporary (even micro-term) relationships that will provide benefits for everyone involved.
What are some of the key upshots to expanding into the partnering zone? First, you’ll introduce your brand to a different audience segment automatically. Secondly, you can save money on advertising by sharing online and offline marketing costs for tandem projects. Oh, and you can never underestimate the value of tapping into the insights of a high-performing company’s thought leaders.
Of course, being open to partnering is one thing. Figuring out how to partner in a way that makes sense for your team’s short-term and long-view goals is another. Check out some of the conventional and innovative partnership options that have worked for other businesses.
Want to send a powerful message that you’re confident in what you offer the public? Partner with the competition. This decision shows your clout, especially if you work in a field where this type of relationship is rare. Case in point: The Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine wanted to get involved in mass torts, but they weren’t sure the best way to get in front of potential clients from their Florida location. The answer? Form strategic partnerships with other legal firms around the nation.
The move was hardly conventional, as founding partner Marc Anidjar points out. He admits, “I always viewed other attorneys as my adversaries.” Yet his team made the move to selectively work with lawyers they felt they could trust. Now, he describes working with co-counsels in this capacity as a win-win-win for all stakeholders. However, he cautions that to make this type of arrangement work, you need common goals, accountability, and backup planning. That way, you can pivot if necessary without losing ground.
In 2018, Kohl’s found itself declining in popularity among younger professional shoppers. To rev up the retailer’s Millennial street cred, Kohl’s formed a partnership with Popsugar, a popular tech company, and publisher. The relationship lasted for two years, during which time Kohl’s updated its image as fresh and modern. At the same time, Popsugar got more exposure and was able to create unique content for its sites.
If you’re having trouble breaking into a particular market, find out which entities that audience already trusts. Want to reach pet parents to encourage them to buy your AI-enhanced vacuum? Link up with a known commodity in the pet parenting space. Having trouble getting a toehold with Gen Z? Talk to a business that’s made inroads. Just make sure you’re giving something in return so your partnership’s not one-sided.
A formal or informal business relationship doesn’t have to be lasting to… well… last. Occasionally, you can get a brand lift and tons of mentions with short-term, humor-based partnerships.
Take the lighthearted Arby’s-Warby Parker April Fool’s prank from a few years ago. The companies marketed ridiculously silly products—onion ring monocles?—in an effort to show a lighter side. While the tongue-in-cheek advertising might have seemed goofy, it paid off. Warby Parker sold out of its exclusive “Nice to Meat You” merchandise and Arby’s got a substantial public nod.
To be sure, partnering is a serious business that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nevertheless, don’t automatically think that tickling people’s funny bones can’t pay off. When done in good taste, partnering with humor or in a gentle, lighthearted way can work wonders. It can also show the world you’re not all work and no play, which consumers frequently appreciate.
Are you in the business of selling merchandise rather than a service? Is your logo or brand image well-known, but you’re not sure how to branch out because you’re a service provider? Brainstorm ways to partner with another company to generate exclusive, limited edition items. These mini-relationships will help you tap into customers who love to be first-in-line buyers. And both your and your partner’s brand will garner more attention in the process.
This isn’t a new convention, and it’s often done in the apparel space. Not long ago, the beer brand Heineken got into the partnering act by working with clothing designer BAPE. Their relationship produced a small collection of specially branded items available in small quantities at specific locations. By leveraging excitement around the scarcity of the products, the businesses were able to make a fast profit push.
IKEA. LEGO. Both brands are undeniably uber-successful in their respective marketplaces. Though neither one necessarily needed the other to prompt additional proceeds, they formed common ground. How? Their joint BYGGLEK storage solution collection combines the creativity of LEGO with the streamlined practicality of IKEA.
What’s the bottom line value proposition takeaway from IKEA and LEGO? Marrying dissimilar brands with similar clout fuels up marketing ability and reach. Think about where your company sits in your field. Is your brand a well-known leader? Or is it in the mid-pack range? Are you an up-and-comer that’s just starting to rise?
Be honest. No standing is a “bad” standing. Once you know where your organization falls, open your eyes to businesses like yours in non-competing industries. By working collaboratively, you could end up moving both your companies up a few notches.
Strategically partnering with another business has terrific upsides, no questions asked. Take the time upfront to properly manage expectations and objectives. That way, you can earn your way into untapped audiences—and profits.