As a small company, it’s important to gain a competitive edge that can catapult you to the next level. You’re not just fighting for market share; you’re fighting for relevance.

That’s why most small businesses benefit from securing a partnership with a large, well-established brand. Not only will these partnerships make it easier for your company or product to become a household name through exposure to new channels, but they will also help nurture current relationships. When you publicly connect with a large brand, your company’s perceived value increases, which leads to countless new opportunities.

Securing a big-brand partnership isn’t easy, but the potential rewards are more than worth the effort. Here are four tips for securing that partnership you’ve had your eye on:

  1. Entice Partners With a Unique Value Proposition

Big brands are successful because they do specific things better than others. But achieving (and maintaining) prosperity doesn’t always allow time for innovation. This is where your company can shine.

If you have a product or service that’s potentially scalable for use within larger companies, demonstrate its value during a contract bid. Uniqueness alone won’t win you a partnership, but highlighting how your company can help a brand appeal to its different audiences and markets will go a long way when securing a partnership.

Keep in mind that adapting and scaling doesn’t mean straying from your company’s primary focus. If you find yourself trying to win a contract bid by mimicking your larger, more powerful competitors, you’re setting yourself up for a failed partnership.

A strong example of this comes from the rapidly growing fitness movement CrossFit, which recently partnered with Reebok. CrossFit used Reebok’s wide reach to increase visibility, profitability, and credibility within the industry, all without veering from its core offering.

Instead of modifying its approach, CrossFit became ingrained within Reebok’s messaging and brand strategy — regularly providing input on product development and opening a CrossFit gym at Reebok’s corporate headquarters.

  1. Allow the Partnership to Develop Organically

While it’s important to firmly establish your company’s value, partnering with a big brand can be a lengthy process. When first developing a relationship with a company, it’s important to stay true to your own brand but allow the creative process to breathe.

Take your time, and don’t be so quick to say no. Taking things off the table while establishing a partnership sets a negative tone and may put a damper on the relationship. A lot can change throughout the process, and if you allow ideas to flow freely, then you’ll ultimately be able to dictate the partnership terms.

It’s also important to allow conversations to occur without too much sales talk. You shouldn’t “always be closing.” Big companies like to own ideas. They hate to be sold. If they arrive at your idea on their own, you’re much more likely to create a beneficial partnership.

  1. Make Your Company Indispensable

Big brands like maintaining control, so let them. Then, structure your deals to make them dependent on what your company offers. Always work to create value on all sides of the transaction, and know what’s most important to the brand.

For example, my company recently entered into a partnership with Allstate. As the talks progressed, Allstate began to open up about some of the challenges it faced with its lead acquisition strategy. These insights allowed us to adapt our offering to Allstate’s evolving needs, which cemented our importance in Allstate’s long-term lead generation and nurturing plans.

Having an innovative product is great, but it’s important to know how your company fits into a partner’s long-term vision. If you understand what’s important to them, then your pitch will resonate, and you’ll have a better chance of securing a long-term partnership.

  1. Know When It Isn’t Working

In business, you need to know when to let something go. If a partnership is being delayed by brainstorming and endless changes, it might not be a good fit.

You should always have a contingency plan and be prepared to shift your attention to another big fish. Ask yourself who else could use your product, and consider making a deal with the brand’s competitors. With a strategic exit plan, you can apply pressure on a nonresponsive partner by simply walking away.

In the end, securing a big-brand partnership is a lengthy, unstructured process, filled with many variables and lots of back-and-forth discussion. However, if your company’s offering meshes with the brand’s long-term plans, a mutually beneficial partnership can pay significant dividends and help your company become a household name.

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