Brand partnerships can be a great growth strategy for businesses as small as the health club on the corner or as large as Coca-Cola. But as with dating apps, you need to be extremely careful who you hook up with.
One of the most important elements to consider is size. But don’t merely look at the overall size of your prospective partner company, take the time to get a more granular view and align your partnerships with your strategic goals.
One of the best examples of a brand partnership is between Pottery Barn and Sherwin-Williams. I love this partnership because it’s between two huge national brands but can also be viewed as between a home furnishings store and a paint store, which makes it applicable to local small business owners.
The two companies coordinated paint colors with furniture selections. People buying furniture are often considering new room colors while people preparing to paint their interiors are often looking for new furnishings.
Both of these companies have a nation-wide reach and both have a good online presence, so they enter the partnership on fairly equal footing. When you begin to consider a partnership, you want to avoid companies that don’t have a reach that is at least equal to yours.
However, there’s an important wrinkle to this in today’s market: the online audience. You need to find a formula to balance brick-and-mortar reach and online reach. It might benefit you to partner with a company that doesn’t have much of a reach in its physical locations, but makes up for it with its online audience. This is especially true if one of your strategic goals is to boost your online sales or number of prospects.
This puts the focus on why you need to take a more granular view of the customer base of your prospective partner. In the previous example, we considered a business that might be looking to boost its online presence. The same principle applies to other market segments.
For example, if your business is lagging in its ability to appeal to Millennials, partnering with a company with a strong Millennial following could be a very smart decision. Perhaps you want to build your appeal to Spanish-speaking consumers. That would open up other partnership opportunities.
In each case, size matters: The size of the overall audience commanded by your potential partner, as well as the size of the audience associated with any specific demographic you wish to reach.
It takes a lot of effort to establish and maintain a successful partnership. Make sure the numbers promise to make it worthwhile.