1. Be Bold
Get on the phone. Use social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to contact everyone that you vaguely know to get you in touch with the right person. Once in contact, get a face-to-face meeting booked in. You can laugh off all the stalking and haranguing afterwards but it’s so vital to get in front of them and have that meeting, otherwise the partnership will never happen.
2. What is in it for them?
You can have the best idea in the world, but you have to be able to immediately put your finger on why this is useful or profitable to them or you will not get anywhere.
3. Make sure their brand is a good fit for yours and vice versa
Big brands get every shyster in the world pitching them a chain of themed bars in Hartlepool, energy drinks, novelty iPhone jewellery and so on. Ensure that both brands fit together without cheapening either. Sonic Editions (http://soniceditions.com) specialise in limited edition, rare, photographic prints of musical icons throughout the past fifty years. NME and Rough Trade are some of the most respected and established brands in music and a perfect mutual fit.
4. Be realistic
You are probably not going to make them £5,000,000 in year one, so do not promise it. Yes you have to look interesting but grossly exaggerating just to get them salivating will lead to instant disappointment when the promised returns don’t arrive. It doom’s the partnership form the start.
5. Offer something that they cannot easily do
The benefit of being small is that you can do things that bigger business cannot. We have smaller overheads, are much more flexible and you can carve out a niche that would be difficult for big businesses to do quickly. You might feel like that canary down the mineshaft, but if you get it right than you will stand to benefit in the long term.
6. Make their lives easier
I have worked in big companies and the thing that I liked about our smaller partners was that they are easy to deal with. Smaller businesses are like birds that sit on a Rhino. Do not piss off your meal ticket.
7. Know when to say No
We might be the smaller guys in these partnerships but don’t lose sight of the aim to make money and establish a viable business. I have heard countless horror stories of small companies who have established a partnership with a retail behemoth that have promised to establish them nationally in one shot. Unfortunately they mistook publicity for profit and struck up a deal so bad that they were losing money and had tied up gigantic amounts of capital, which for most start-ups is a precious resource.
We have turned down partnerships with massive companies that seemed too good to be true, but once we had taken the stars from our eyes we realised that they were deals that were going to kill us.
8. Partnerships begat partnerships The great virtuous circle of successful partnerships is that by establishing them, you make it easier to establish more.We now have a working model with successful publications – NME and Uncut – that we can take to numerous other publications. You can become a multiple niche operator.
9. Go West
Partnerships have helped us to expand internationally far far quicker than we would have been able to otherwise. We work with flash sale websites like West Wing in Germany and Gilt in the US to help establish the brand in international markets.
One partnership that I would advise against is with your High Street Bank. Unless you are Sir Phillip Green they are not going to lend you money without demanding the deeds to your house and charge interest that will make Wonga.com blush. Plus there is only so many times that you can slowly explain your business plan to an idiot school-leaver with biro all over his fingers.
About the Author
Russell Blackmore founded Sonic Editions in 2010 with the aim of simplifying the process of buying limited edition art with a consistent and transparent size and price structure. Each print is a top quality Lambda print on Fuji Crystal Archive Paper, hand framed and individually numbered. The photographer’s name and the story behind the image are also inscribed on the back of each print, to allow owners to understand the story behind the photo.