Behind some of the greatest success stories of our time, you'll find one common denominator - strategic partnerships. When thinking about the beginning of my own entrepreneurial journey, I'm always reminded of the amazing relationships I was able to form and how they've helped shape my business over the years.
I wanted to learn about the types of partnerships that are important to today's entrepreneurs and had the chance to talk about this topic with leading business executives and strategists from a number of industries. We discussed the most important elements of an effective partnership and the things today's entrepreneurs need to keep in mind as they plan for the success of their own brands.
So which partnerships are most important? Here are three that that should make success a reality for any entrepreneur:
Find The Right Manufacturing Partner
If you're in the business of producing a physical product, one of your most critical partnerships is with your manufacturer. Manufacturing can easily be one of the most expensive facets of a business, but working with the lowest costing bidder can be a mistake that can cost your company even more in the long run. Seek out manufacturing partners who have track records for consistency and reliability and be weary of entertaining the notion of sacrificing quality or cutting corners when it comes to the final product.
According to Jeffrey Cheng of INVENTERY, manufacturing mistakes can easily bury a brand before they have a chance to truly take off. "Unlike the iterative and changing nature of many web or software startups, manufacturing is not lean or nimble. Upon final production, changes are no longer easily made and trivial mistakes or cultural misunderstandings can lead to the production of hundreds or thousands of flawed products." This, he mentions, can "mark the end of an entire business venture when faced with limited resources."
Moreover, never lose sight of deadlines as manufacturing can get even more costly if you fail to plan for time. Always account for time needed for things like assembly, shipping, as well as receiving. Also, if you can find one, seek out a manufacturing partner who can be flexible with your manufacturing needs and can scale with you as demand fluctuates with key selling peak seasons throughout the year.
Foster The Right Product Distribution Partnerships
Product distribution partners, such as retailers, are a crucial conduit to consumers, so securing placement on their shelves is a win for any brand. Not only will retail distribution drastically increase the geographical reach of your brand, it will also bring with it an added level of trust. Through intense training of their sales associates and reinforcement of their own brand values, retailers have worked diligently to secure the trust of their shoppers and emerge as the place where they come to spend their hard-earned money. Knowing they can turn to experts in store with any questions and that they have the support of the retailer with any unforeseen issues, brings peace of mind to today's shopper. This is why developing and fostering relationships with the right retailer and the appropriate buyer is key.
When discussing retail partnerships with Popchips' CMO Marc Sequin, I learned just how important they are to the brand's distribution strategy. "As a fun and innovative brand, we rely most heavily on our retail partners. Grocery purveyors hold the key to consumer trial and in many cases, are shoppers' trusted food advisors. If our brand doesn't pop in-store, snacktivists everywhere would be stuck eating the same old greasy deep fried snacks that their grandparents snacked on," said Sequin.
Retail partnerships are also quite competitive as many brands are vying for the attention of what could be one buyer and minimal shelf space. With that in mind, nurture the relationships you have with merchants and earn their trust. Demonstrate your commitment to driving consumers to the stores in order to purchase the product and ensure prompt and accurate delivery to stores as promised.
Focus on Brand Partnerships that are Customer-Centric
As Tim Rosa, the CMO of Fitbit told me, it's important to always look at potential partnerships from the customer's perspective. Finding a brand partner that also shares your same values and whose goals and objectives are aligned with yours is equally important.
"At its core, Fitbit is all about helping customers achieve their health and fitness goals, so when it comes to our approach to partnerships, we always evaluate them from the lens of 'customers first'," said Rosa. "We know everyone's health and fitness journey is different, so when we are looking for brands to partner with, we focus on like-minded ones that will make fitness fun and meaningful."
Try thinking outside the box too - doing so could present some opportunities you may not have thought of before. That's exactly what Coldwell Banker Real Estate's CMO, Sean Blankenship, has done as he looks to establish the brand as a leader in the home technology space. They're doing so by seeking out strategic partnerships with the key players in smart home technology and working with them to expose consumers to the breadth of technologies that are on the market today.
"People often ask, 'why is a real estate company partnering with tech brands and attending tech conferences?' We've found through our research that home buyers and sellers are increasingly interested in smart home technology and Coldwell Banker agents are well positioned to be the conduit between the tech industry and consumers. Coldwell Banker is committed to its partnerships as a way to ensure growth as the nature of our business evolves and as consumer expectations shift," said Blankenship.
If you want to learn more, check out Dotcom's resources page for more research, tip sheets, and case studies that can help you grow your own brand.