Partnering with a huge company can bring visibility and growth to your start-up. Here are five tips to help it go smoothly.
For a start-up, a name-brand client can be a game-changer. Big brands can mean big opportunities, but it’s important to enter any partnership with clear goals and an understanding of potential pitfalls.
In CrowdTwist’s earlier stages, we were able to grow through partnerships with organizations such as Pepsi, Sony, The Miami Dolphins and Nestle. Here are a few things worth keeping in mind if you find yourself with an opportunity to work with a big brand:
Sell to the stakeholders
Any large organization hosts multiple influential decision-makers, each with different priorities. The folks on the marketing team are going to want to see how your product or service will help them better understand, reach, and activate the public. Someone from technology will want to know what’s needed to integrate and support your system.
When you’re selling to a larger company, it’s critical to understand the different motivations of the various people involved. Take the time to listen and appreciate each group’s problems and then explain how your product can help. A one-size fits all approach is rarely effective in a complex sale.
Understand the implications of “big” versus “small”
Large companies have both advantages and disadvantages. The big ones have the capital and exposure to move the market, but size means bulk, and bulk means that things move slowly. As a small company, you don’t have as many resources, but you can adapt and move easily. Your flexibility is your best asset.
As our team grows, we recognize that fast decision-making and immediate action are invaluable assets. If a client makes a request that can move the needle substantially and makes sense for our business, we want to be able to execute quickly. Eliminating the need for extensive documentation and long approval processes allows us to be responsive and to stay innovative.
Ask for commitments
A big partnership can bring you major attention - if you ask for it and if the other party agrees to provide support. From sales references to press and marketing efforts, it is easier and more effective to define and outline those aspects of your professional relationship before a contract is signed and work begins. No matter what, large companies are powerful from a validation standpoint and can help your company grow substantially. That’s so much more powerful when they’re willing to speak publicly.
Big companies typically have a complicated bureaucracy and formal approval process for even relatively minor decisions. Something that is of the utmost importance to you may be just one of many mundane tasks for the person on the other side of the table. Your client contact has to navigate a complicated web of legal, business and creative obligations, all of which takes time. Be aware of your place in the grand scheme of things and act accordingly.
Stay true to your own brand and business practices
Don’t compromise your business goals in order to satisfy one client, no matter how big. One major partnership will not automatically make your business successful, and sacrificing your core beliefs, or devoting too much effort and time to one company, can hurt your ability to move forward with other clients and prospects.
We were once trying to work with a company that had a clear idea of how they wanted our platform to function, but their desires weren’t aligned with our roadmap and beliefs. While the client was large and the business alluring, we took the longer-term view and declined the work, based on what we felt was best both for our business as well as the success of our partnership. This meant we couldn’t expand the contract as much as we’d hoped to, but it allowed our team to remain focused on our core platform and mission. Ultimately, that led to greater success with more customers.
It is okay to turn business away or push back. Ultimately your responsibility is to make sure you’re running a business that’s delivering results you can stand behind.
IRVING FAIN is the CEO and co-founder of CrowdTwist, the provider of omni-channel loyalty and analytics solutions for brands such as Pepsi, Nestle, Vizio, the Miami Dolphins, Sony Music, and Zumiez. Fain previously served as director, digital marketing and content at Clear Channel, and before that was an investment banker specializing in raising capital for early stage companies. He holds a B.A. from Brown University. @ifain