Originally posted on the Wall Street Journal, Wayne Sutton: Keep Startup Partnerships Mutually Beneficial
The right partnerships for startups can lead to user growth, brand awareness or can be a key way to learn more about potential customers. Partnerships often take place in various ways such as an event partnership, product integration or product placement. For startups looking to partner with a potential company, I would consider analyzing the partnership in three ways: mutual benefits for firms, company values/mission and customer experience.
Mutual benefits are usually why partnerships are formed. The “What’s in it for me?” has to be addressed. Each company participating in the partnership should evaluate the other company’s values to see they align from a marketing or customer perspective. If your customers don’t see the value or understand why your brand would partner with another brand then you should not consider the partnership.
For early-stage startups, event partnerships can be a simple way to get started working with other companies that align. Twillo and Sendgrid partnered on events such as hackathons because they are targeting a similar user base, early stage companies and developers. They have since collaborated on a messaging platformfrom the success of partnering on events.Here are three examples of partnerships that started as mutually beneficial. Some flourish while others parish along the way:
When you look at brand placement partnerships, who can forget the most tweeted selfie of all time? During the 2014 Oscars, Samsung and Ellen DeGeneres took the opportunity of a high-visibility event with celebrities to use the selfie for product placement of their Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It didn’t seem to matter to Samsung that people noticed Ellen still using her iPhone for tweets behind stage. The televised event hosted by Ellen brought Samsung the attention it desired to launch its brand and new product. Samsung in turn donated $3 million to the charities of Ellen’s choice.
Other partnerships can be complex such as Apple’s iPhone with Google maps. From a beneficial standpoint it allowed both companies to provide value to their users and understand location behavior. Then in 2012, Apple decided to launch its own navigation app ending the partnership. But after consumer complaints about the new app, Apple apologized and encouraged consumers to continue using Google maps through their web browsers and shortly returned the Google maps app. This can be a lesson on how not to end a partnership without thinking about your customer’s behavior first.
If you are looking to establish a partnership with your startup, you can start from a simple email, coffee meeting or conversation at a conference. Planning and communication with staff and marketing departments should be strategic along the entire process. Remember