How to Court Your Business Partner

Living the bachelor lifestyle may seem appealing to some brands: having the freedom to home in on their own goals, drive their own site traffic, and measure their own ROI with no strings attached. But forming a strategic partnership can benefit brands in terms of sharing resources and helping each other achieve corporate objectives.

“To think for a minute these days, in such a connected world, that a company can pursue achieving their business goals on their own is probably the biggest guarantee of them failing,” says Roman Tsunder, founder of PTTOW!, a member network and summit that aims to present inspiring projects and help form brand partnerships.

But, finding a perfect match isn’t easy.

“It’s like dating,” says Nate Morley, VP of global marketing and creative for Skullcandy, a headphones, ear buds, and headset company that partnered with digital music service Spotify last year. “You want to find the right partner, [but] you may have to try out a few before you find the right one.”

While there are plenty of fish in the sea, here are three tips to help marketers reel in the perfect catch.

Know what you want out of the relationship

When initiating a new partnership, Skullcandy’s Morley says each brand should clearly communicate its objectives and what it hopes to get out of the relationship.

“If you’re ambiguous going into the conversation, it’s less likely to be effective for either party,” Morley says. “Have a clear understanding of what it is you’re trying to accomplish.”

Spotify, whose global presence appealed to Skullcandy, allows the headset manufacturer to target specific audiences, ranging from sports fans to fashion enthusiasts, and achieve its goal of driving site traffic and site “stickiness.” On the flip side, Skullcandy’s access to celebrities and athletes benefits Spotify.

“If [Spotify] were to go out and contract with Kate Upton or Kevin Durant, it would be a huge process and cost a ton of money,” Morley says. “For them, they get access to all the athletes and ambassadors that we have, plus the authenticity of our brand…”

Be committed

However, PTTOW!’s Tsunder warns that partnerships are anything but a one-night-stand, especially for large corporations and well-known brands.

“A one-off, just takes too much time, money, [and] resources,” Tsunder says.

To ensure that both brands are in it for the long-haul, Tsunder recommends creating a “road map” to help brands establish their mid to long-term strategies.

For example, given that Skullcandy and Spotify’s relationship is just under a year old, Morley says the two brands are currently in “phase one” of their relationship and intend to expand the partnership, including moving the Spotify playlists onto Skullcandy’s social channels.

Don’t go after the shy ones

Even when stars might seem to align, it’s difficult to figure out which employee within the potential partner is the decision-maker who will understand the possibilities of the partnership, Morley says.

Instead of going through several rounds of brand representative speed dating, Morley recommends working with a like-minded executive who will be able to move the needle. For example, after meeting Spotify’s CMO Jeff Levick at PTTOW!, Morley says the two executives sat down, communicated a bit via phone and email, and “literally within 20 minutes had a deal with Spotify to integrate their player onto our website.”

“[PTTOW’s] biggest job is not to find anybody in the organization, it’s to find the right person in the organization,” Tsunder adds.

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