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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Tips for Partnering with Larger Brands and Companies

Written By: Carol Roth | Comments Off on Tips for Partnering with Larger Brands and Companies

From small businesses, one of the most frequent questions I get asked about is how to partner with larger businesses and brands. So, to de-mystify this process, we have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to share their best tips for effectively partnering with larger businesses and brands. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. Make it Short and Sweet!

I've found that when most people try to land brand partnerships, they send long, drawn-out emails and media kits. These don't work very well. What does work? A one page summary of why you want to work with them and proof that you can send them business. If you have any information that can prove to them you can send traffic that converts, make sure they see it.
Thanks to: Karen Wilson of Personal Finance Genius.

2. Value to Whom?

When considering any partnership, the question that should be front and foremost is who is this partnership valuable to & what problem does it solve?

If it only benefits you & only solves your problem, it will never happen.

Partnerships are built on mutual gain. It is about the sum being more valuable than the parts & understanding what you can do to help a larger brand more effectively communicate their value than they could without you.

Now that you have figured that out, communicate!
Thanks to: Ben Baker of Your Brand Marketing.

3. The Financial ROI Pitch

Learn the financial metrics about the large business in terms of how they generate revenue and what percent of revenues they spend on sales, marketing, R&D, Customer Support, etc. For companies that are public, you can learn a lot from their investor presentations that they provide on their investor relations page. Then, financially demonstrate how the cost of your product will increase revenue or decrease expenses to create a financial ROI. This shows the company you know their business.
Thanks to: John Bodrozic of HomeZada.

4. SBA Mentor-Protégé Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an overlooked asset to entrepreneurs. The Mentor-Protégé program is a business development arrangement whereby a large company acts as a coach and provides the protégé with various types of business assistance. In many cases, the mentors and protégés form a joint venture relationship to pursue one or more Government contracts.
Thanks to: Bob Shirilla of Promotional Products - Backpacks.

5. Become the Media Others Need

When I managed social media for Fairtrade America, we produced Twitter parties called #FairtradeChat. While many brands struggled for engagement, our numbers were growing due largely to the popularity of this chat. We were able to leverage this tool to partner with larger, socially-aware organizations like Unicef. Because we offered these groups a chance to easily share their message (in this case, ending trafficking), we became the media outlet. In turn, our following and engagement grew.
Thanks to: Jason Myers of The Content Factory.

6. What They Want and More

When pitching to partner with large businesses or brands, go the extra mile and give them what they want and more (as long as you can provide it and it's not a burden to you). They will be delighted to work with you, as you will have demonstrated the good will to give them something extra up front. As I was partnering once with a prominent New York organization, I decided to create a New York local team so that we could ensure everyone was familiar with NY. It worked and I won a 3-year contract!
Thanks to: Helena Escalante of EntreGurus.

7. In the Know Before You Go

Before partnering with a big brand, it is imperative to be prepared. KNOW what you want out of the partnership (other than the big bucks!) and what your expertise is in. When you can approach a big brand with a specific request in mind that matches your expertise, you are uniquely positioned to assure it aligns with their goals. Then, the conversation and relationship can begin with clarity. Continue working on the relationship with persistence and clarity, showing how you provide a solution.
Thanks to: Royce Gomez of RoyceTalks.

8. Get On (& Stay On) Their Radar

Be the one that comes to mind when larger orgs have a need you can fill. Let folks know you're looking to network (including staff). Recently, our accountant told us about a grant available to small businesses that hire a number of local workers. We applied & won. The mayor heard and visited our facility. This lead to press that we shared socially, which lead to people learning our blankets are US-made. By getting on the city's radar & being easy to work with, we formed a beneficial partnership.
Thanks to: Donna Chambers of SensaCalm.

9. Corporations are People Too

Business relationships matter, even when you’re trying to break into a larger company. To stand out, be creative in your approach. One friend of mine finally got a lunch appointment with a busy executive after shipping him a box of peanut butter, jelly and bread. She then landed a multi-year contract.
Thanks to: Jamie Broderick of JamieBroderick.com.

10. Climb Aboard But Avoid Sinking

It's been said if your partner is not working as hard as you are, you don't have a partnership--you have a sinking ship. Before you climb on board, make your proposal to a potential partner alluring (for example, cite how many followers/existing customers you already have, cite awards you've received, present links to favorable press or quote a major industry figure who endorses you). If they extend a partnership, be certain to specify in writing the obligations each of you will fulfill.
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D..

11. Learn to Play Golf

Decide on which company you would like to associate with. Then, find out which golf course the Directors play golf at and go and play golf there, making sure that you meet and start chatting with the Directors. Friendship is the answer to getting your small business noticed.
Thanks to: Jacob Singer of www.jacobashersinger.com.

12. What Can You Do to Help Them

If you are a little fish and you want to partner with a big fish, you must be very strategic. You need to fill some white space that you can help them! It’s a “what can you do for them, not what they can do for you”. How can you help them accomplish what they don't already do? If you help them in the short term, they will help you in the long term.
Thanks to: Christopher Carter of Approyo.

13. Be Creative in Your Pitch

The big brands have seen all the popular ideas. Unless you're a massive brand yourself, your reach isn't what separates you from the pack. To land effective partnerships with larger brands, you need to come up with creative strategies they've never heard of before in the hopes it sparks their interest. Brainstorm ideas with other businesses in your niche and see if you can come up with combination deals where the brand can get much greater reach working through one point of contact (you!).
Thanks to: Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks.

14. Always Give More Than You Take

In order to land major partnerships, you must demonstrate that you can help the other person. You do this by helping them in the beginning, before you ask for anything. You can do this by performing a simple task for them, giving them something valuable or solving some problem in their lives. This will get you on their radar. From there, it's all about over-delivering.
Thanks to: James Pollard of The Advisor Coach.

15. Meetings: Life's Poker Matches

We built a partnership with our local Whole Foods as their first mental health partner in Austin, TX. We met with them & it was just like a poker match. I had to assess my "opponents", I had to understand their value system, their needs, & so on. In our case, the decision maker turned out to be a bright doctor who was focused uniquely on finding substance & didn't care for the marketing fodder. So, I augmented my initial "pitch" to appeal to the doctor's personality & we got the contract!
Thanks to: William Schroeder, LPC, NCC of Just Mind.

16. Take the Plunge First

If you're trying to work with a company that's significantly larger than you, send them some business first. Selling your no-name-to-them business is far easier when you can include a section that reads something like, "You've probably noticed the high-converting traffic we've sent over the past two weeks." Solicitation emails promise the moon, so working from a position of performed-action to start makes you immediately relevant, regardless of the stage of your company's development.
Thanks to: Michael Catania of PromotionCode.

17. Identify Something They Missed

Small companies have well-known advantages, such as creativity, passion and fresh ideas. Large companies have well-known weaknesses such as bureaucracy, and old systems and technology that needs updating.

If you can find something that you can offer to improve their business, that's an easy intro. It's even worth making a deal to work cheaply or for free if you're convinced that it'll lead to trust and ongoing contracts.

Think: What's the one thing that is broken or could be improved?
Thanks to: Jason Lavis of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd.

18. Know Who You're Pitching to!

Understanding company dynamics is a big part of landing any partnership, and bigger businesses and brands are no exception. In fact, larger companies, especially those with brand-specific focuses, often have large budgets spread across multiple teams, who often work in isolation of each other. Knowing who you're reaching out to and what their team specifically does and can control is a huge help. There's no point in pitching an idea to someone who isn't in the position to accept.
Thanks to: Casey Zuckerman of Fit Small Business.

19. David & Goliath - Art of Niche

My business partnership advice is:
“Be unique and know your niche and do not be afraid to send out a sparkler email to a contact at the larger one you want to partner with that gives a teaser about how your small enterprise can help their bigger one.”

I have partnered with organizations bigger than me a few times and found that by framing your capabilities in light of how they can help the larger firm be nimble and flexible (or appear to be) is a sure way to connect and help each other.
Thanks to: Lisa Vento Nielsen of The Time Between Is, INC.

20. What's In It 4 Your Partner?

Ask yourself how the partnership will benefit *them* and phrase your query to focus on those aspects. I wrote a letter for an unknown self-published author in her 80s offering three ways she could help a famous director who was doing a movie about an experience she'd lived through. They actually reshot a scene based on her advice. As a profitability consultant for green/social entrepreneurship businesses--and author of Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, I do this frequently for my clients.
Thanks to: Shel Horowitz of Going Beyond Sustainability.

21. Start Small, Build It Up

As the founder of Pro Business Plans, I’ve formed dozens of strategic partnerships with big brands. Based on my experience, if one of your people doesn’t know someone, it’s best to find a way to get acquainted and build the relationship over time. People run big brands, they’re afraid of losing their jobs over you, so you build trust over time that other big brands have in their name.
Thanks to: Chase Hughes of Pro Business Plans.

22. Focus on What's Needed

We saw a need to connect businesses for collaboration & best practice sharing to support local economic development. We then built a partnership with our public access TV station, Montgomery Community Media, & created “Small Business Network”. It’s now one of our County’s most respected business gatherings. Our success has attracted sponsors like M&T Bank & a recent program afforded me the chance to interview Sodexo, Freddie Mac, & McCormick & Company supplier diversity leaders.
Thanks to: Kelly Leonard of Taylor-Leonard Corporation (T-LC).

23. Outreach, Outreach, Outreach

The one tip that seems super obvious, but almost NO ONE does, is to personally reach out to people. This doesn't mean finding their contact info and faking some praise about a blog they wrote. I mean genuinely just reaching out to influencers over email, twitter, or linkedin and saying "You came highly recommended as a follow on twitter, just wanted to say hi". A simple message like this goes a long way to convincing people, brands, and companies that you aren't some spammy company.
Thanks to: Kyle Menchaca of Kyle Menchaca SEO.

24. Trust to Partnerships

The one key attribute to success is to build trust within the organization that you want to partner. Say yes to any small project opportunities to build your relationships and that can lead to 30 years of success as is the case for our small construction management company that has been fully embedded in local educational institutions and municipalities in San Diego. Organizations that trust you will continue to expand their offerings.
Thanks to: Sara Suter of Consolidated Building Systems, Inc.

25. Do Your Legwork!

Running giveaways with larger brands can be very successful because it allows your brand to leverage their audience. The tough part is getting those brands to be interested in participating in a giveaway with you (the smaller brand). What I've found to be successful is to offer to put forth all the legwork on the giveaway. This can include handling all of the necessary photography, graphic design, and even shipping out the giveaway products to the winners (if doing physical products).
Thanks to: Devin Stagg of Pupford.

26. Emphasize the Personal Touch

Try to engage with executives on a personal level. Through my experience at several trade shows, I've had a few commissions from larger businesses and they've all come from striking up a conversation with an executive or higher-up. The appeal of doing business with a smaller company is the personal touch, so engage them about what your personal touch entails and be enthusiastic about your business.
Thanks to: Paul Dunn of The Leaky Crucible.

27. Solve A Problem, Add Value!

My one best tip for landing effective partnerships with bigger businesses and brands is bring added value. Be different. Ask for the referral.

My specialty is revenue recovery for government agencies, IT and Telecom companies. I recovered $7.5 Million dollars in a year for a government agency. For example, I was just referred to work with Elias L. Rodriguez President/CEO of Loui Consulting Group to add value to his team by recovering unused money for the federal government.
Thanks to: Dee Bowden of BCS Solutions.

28. Be Selective

Before I embark on a new partnership, I thoroughly research the company to determine if there's good cohesion. I review the target company’s website, published material, social media, reviews, & former employee experiences. After vetting the company, I do similar research on the decision-maker. Once I’ve established that the company has the potential to be a good match, I begin my courtship. This ensures that new business relationships are not only fruitful, but more importantly, enjoyable.
Thanks to: Michael Mandis of Alliance Mortgage Funding, Inc.

29. It's Not Always About You

Focus on the company that you are reaching out to. Often times, people get so caught up with what they can do to work with larger brands or how they can sell themselves better. They forget it can be as simple as listening to what the brand needs.

Anytime we reach out to brands we want to work with, our goal is to set up a call with them to find out what their goals are. Once I know what their pain points are, I can then tailor my pitch to best fit their needs.
Thanks to: Jacob Fu of Local Adventurer.

30. A Unique Partnership Hack

Find out which other brands cater to the same audience that you do and then reach out to them to offer a discount to their customers.

Example: While working on an auto care company's SEO, we reached out to car leasing companies and car insurance companies and offered them a discount.

This meant they mentioned our URL and other details on their site, which resulted in SEO benefits, along with referral traffic and sales.
Thanks to: Syed Irfan Ajmal of Ridester.

31. Treat'em Like Family

I treat my partners like family and make myself a useful part of their team. My approach to everything is how may I be of service? I make sure I'm easy to work with. I solve my own customer problems. I build cohesive relationships by celebrating common wins. I create loyalty and I buy lunch, as it's one of the best ways for all of us to connect. The objective of bigger businesses and brands is to spread their message, maintain their credibility and make customers happy. I make my partners look good!
Thanks to: Katie DeCicco of CelebrationSaunas.com, Inc.

As always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!

Also, if you would like to become a part of the CarolRoth.com contributor network and find out about opportunities to contribute to future articles, sign up here: http://www.carolroth.com/carolroth-com-blog-contributor-sign-up/

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth