For a small company, it can be an overwhelming experience to approach big businesses for potential partnerships. Finding the right person with influence over key decision making is difficult enough without knowing that the largest companies will rarely respond, never mind agree to a meeting. Don’t let this put you off. As a small innovative business, you have so much to offer, so it’s well worth chasing down the big names.
Two years ago, thanks to our shared vision of keeping young kids safe online, we became strategic partners with the NSPCC. We have been able to help the charity in its mission to protect children online by launching our safe, fun and creative app for primary school-aged children. In return, the NSPCC has provided us with strategic introductions, guidance and marketing. In June this year we also signed a major deal with O2 in which a two-year subscription to the Azoomee app is included as part of their family-oriented tablet package.
So, the key question is: how do you secure these major deals? Here are a few pointers from our experience with Azoomee:
1. Know what you want
Knowing what you want from a partner, before you start knocking on the doors of big businesses, will stand you in very good stead. What is it exactly that you want? Are you looking for a partner to help you revenue together, a pure sponsor, or do you want to enter into a barter relationship with them?
Before you start your campaign process it is essential that you understand what it is you expect from the partnership in terms of output. If you can clearly explain what you’re looking for, and in particular what value you will add to their business, then they will be much more likely to sign a deal with you.
2. Know what they want
Research is key. Make sure that any company you approach has the same values and goals as you do. If your goals are not aligned you risk wasting a lot of busy people’s time, especially your own.
Marketing and CSR budgets are a great place to start to see if a business’s goals correspond with your own. If there is a fit they will definitely spend more time considering your approach.
3. Understand your pitch and how to pitch it
The largest businesses receive hundreds of partnership requests every week, which means that a standard email definitely won’t make it to the top of the pile. Find the right person with real decision-making influence, streamline your pitch, and ensure that you show how you can add value to their company right at the beginning of your proposal.
Most importantly, remember that as a small business you are an innovator – this actually puts you in a very strong position so you shouldn’t be intimidated. To make sure that your pitch stays on track, prepare a short presentation that highlights the company’s key milestones as well as any press coverage that has been generated.
4. Don’t be afraid to crowdfund
We recently ran a campaign on Crowdcube and had a really positive response, raising 25 per cent of our target in less than three days and ultimately raising 177 per cent of our goal.
Crowdfunding is a great way for small companies to grow their business faster. A successful crowdfunding campaign not only provides you with money, it also creates a base of customers who are heavily invested in the business and its values from the get-go.
Having more funding and a solid supportive customer base will also help you when approaching large businesses for partnerships. It proves that not only do you believe you are a company worth investing in, but so do many others.
5. Keep the network going
The first major partnership is always the hardest to secure, but once you’ve got that first one under your belt it can open many doors. Keep in mind that your partners might also introduce you to businesses you may not have realised they could.
What’s also important is to maintain a close relationship with your partners after the deal is done. Signing the contract is just the start, since day one we have kept in daily contact with O2. From sales performance, marketing collateral, store displays and in store training, nothing is ignored, which means everyone in the partnership is always on the same page. Remaining an engaged partner throughout the relationship is essential to showing that you’re 100 per cent committed. And you never know, it might lead you to other opportunities.
Always remember that you only need one ‘yes’. At Azoomee we’ve had our fair share of rejections, but each ‘no’ has been an opportunity to improve our pitch, re-evaluate what we offer as a company and then start again and find a new potential partner.