Build Your Network of Partners
When starting a company, you have to dig into the industry. When I started Happy Family, there was a lot to learn about organic baby food: optimal nutrition for infants, best manufacturing practices to insure that said nutrition was kept in check after processing, how to get the finished product on retail shelves, etc. This industry knowledge was the core of the business: what company viability and ultimately success depended on.
But believe it or not, industry knowledge isn't everything. Despite the vital importance of the high quality product we were bringing to market, making the best organic foods for growing families was not the only thing on my mind. In fact, it is still only a piece of the Happy Family puzzle--a large piece, but just one of the many pieces that fits together to create the Happy Family brand.
Creating your brand promise requires that you think globally about your business. What do you want the world to think when they see your brand? For Happy Family, our brand = the best organic food for growing families + enlightened nutrition + socially responsible + giving back + sustainability + healthy lifestyle + green living + educating new parents. That is a lot of messaging, especially for a company whose ultimate success depends on the industry piece. How was I going to tell all of these stories while focusing my efforts on the survival of the company? After all, if there's no company, there's no brand story to tell.
While crafting your brand promise is an exercise in thinking big, executing that brand promise requires thinking more locally: finding organizations that align with your beliefs that can help you to convey your brand story and creating a partnership with those organizations. In the case of "giving back," for example, Happy Family formed a partnership with Project Peanut Butter to help feed starving children in Africa. To address "healthy living," we partnered with MyGym, which creates age- and developmentally-appropriate fitness programs for babies and children ages six weeks to 13 years. These individual organizations, along with all of our partnerships, have been excellent partners to us by helping us to communicate all aspects of our brand to the world.
Partnerships are especially valuable in helping you to tell your brand story without having to do all of the heavy lifting yourself. But that's not all they're good for. Check out these three other perks of building a network of partnerships to support your business:
1. Partnerships help with your core-business research.
Partner with complimentary companies/people in the field, and they can help you optimally formulate your idea (and in our case, our recipes). At Happy Family, we partner with a registered dietician, pediatricians, and certified nutritionist to help us educate our consumer and come up with the healthiest, most innovative recipes.
2. Partnerships allow you to meet people with more experience in similar industries.
You can (and should) draw from that experience (both the good and the bad). Strive to accomplish what the other organizations did well and learning to avoid any mistakes that were made.
3. Partnerships allow you to have access to your partner's network, often a network which you wouldn't otherwise have access to.
Your partners are often talking to the same consumer as you are, but they are not competitive in the space. Therefore the consumer gets a more holistic view of our brand.
Partner is an interesting word--it connotes a give-and-take relationship, like any friendship, family bond, or romance. In business, a partnership is also give-and-take: you get help when you need it, and you give it when you are needed. Your brand message can be helpful to other companies' messages, as well. Don't forget that it's a two-way street! Relationships--both between people and companies--are so important. You never know what opportunities can be born out of a healthy partnership.
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