What do corporate partnerships have in common with Steven Bradbury, the Olympic speed skater? When he won a gold medal after his opponents crashed on the last lap, everyone assumed he was just lucky. But they missed the years of hard work, training, previous successes and planning that put him in the Olympic final- and the strategy that kept him out of the final pile up.
A little bit of luck is the icing on the cake, but for corporate partnerships, the smarter you work, the luckier you get. Successful and transformational corporate partnerships are built on smart thinking, not ‘accidental brilliance’ as our fellow Xfactor Collective specialist Teisha Archer describes it.
There are a number of ways in which you can work smarter in corporate partnerships.
- Augment your board/organisation connections
If you’re a small organisation you may have a board that doesn’t have an extensive rolodex of corporate connections. Or perhaps your board and leadership are skilled subject matter experts in your sector but lack the connections to new corporate partners. Even the most experienced of boards can use extra help. febfast had a small team and no obvious board connections to corporate partners. They chose to set up a business advisory committee with a range of corporate leaders across sectors to provide support, advice and introductions to new corporate partner prospects. Not only were they able to access new connections, but the team benefited from the insights and expertise of the advisory committee members.
2. Conduct thoughtful research on your audiences
You’re pitching to a corporate partner prospect and hoping they’ll be inspired by your stories, video and list of partner benefits. Will you be lucky enough to get the ‘yes’? You’ll be a lot luckier if you think smarter about your proposition and support it with targeted research. One international charity commissioned external research on their supporter database which enabled them to tell future partners about the demographics, ages, habits, behaviours and purchasing decisions of their audience. It meant that corporate partners could see instantly the value of partnering with their organisation and the charity could make more strategic choices about the corporate partners that would be the right fit. No relying on a lucky day, more smart thinking that made it easy for the corporate partner to say yes. The research helped them win their first ever corporate partner.
A children’s charity went one better and commissioned market research into its target retail corporates so that it could understand in depth the corporates’ audience and consumer profile to find the right alignment. It further refined its pitching by tapping into its network of connections inside the target organisations to get valuable insights into what was important for the corporate: making the final pitch a slam dunk.
3. Have a systematic approach
We know that corporate partnerships need to be tailored to a target’s needs and priorities, but too often we see partnerships managers reinventing the wheel for every new prospect. A systematic process for developing corporate partners, supported by adaptable templates and tools will not only save you time and money, but will create consistency across your team. At Save the Children UK, they had refined their system so well that they created a ‘new business handbook’ given to all new corporate partnerships staff, with templates for everything from emails, pitches, presentations and information. No wonder that they grew their partnerships from £1mln to over £26mln in five years.
4. Support and nurture your corporate partnership managers
We recently worked with an organisation that had churned through 3 partnership managers in 18 months. Not only did it cost them to recruit constantly, but the impact on relationships with corporate partners was disastrous. Rather than hiring new staff and throwing them at cold prospects, it’s much smarter to train, nurture and support corporate partnership managers. Then you won’t be relying on a lucky cold call that catches the right corporate partner on a good day, you’ll be developing partnerships that are built on a solid relationship of mutual trust and value.
The next decade will be all about working smarter, not harder. If you create the corporate partnership systems that support working smarter, you’ll find yourself being luckier by the week. Then you can rightfully celebrate success and know you deserved it. If you’d like to know more about a systematic approach to corporate partnership and want to accelerate your success, please contact us at email@example.com for more information or subscribe to our newsletter.