January 26, 2017
After working with well over 100 corporations developing deals with founders, it’s hard not to learn the importance engaging and leveraging big brands to help propel your business. I recently hosted a panel where leaders from Amazon, Ford, and Motorola along with founders from LISNR and HERO offered great recommendations on how to get your deal moving and, more important closed. They reiterate the importance of making sure you are successful in the engagement. Here’s what they said:
Find a Champion and Make a Friend
Rodney Williams, cofounder, and CEO of LISNR emphasized that you will need multiple contacts at each big brand you want to work with and build relationships with those champions who are willing to make the extra effort. Then, find a way to keep those relationships active, even as that champion moves throughout the corporation or into other organizations.
“We follow our champions as they move to other companies and then leverage that relationship to extend our network with someone we already trust,” said Williams.
Figure Out Where You Fit and Make Your Role Obvious
Every time you get traction with a big brand, know they are engaging with you for a purpose. It may be aligned with a new PR initiative, a new client, an internal initiative or even government regulation.
“The brands are the connective tissue,” said Alex Crosby, CEO and cofounder of HERO.
The HERO app offers a reward to users who find a ride home after a few drinks as well as designated drivers who can get their friends home safe. Since brands want to demonstrate that they are helping reduce drinking related issues, they are very interested in working with authorities. HERO facilitates these connections and has a clear and measurable plan for the brands to work with local officials and leaders. By having a value that brands want, the conversation will shift to focusing on planning and execution, and working with you.
Be Ready But Don’t Move Too Early
Everybody wants to launch their latest product on Amazon. But, Jenny Hagemann, business development manager at Amazon, and the individual at Amazon who is responsible for helping startups get launched on their site, says it’s best to test elsewhere before launching on Amazon.
Amazon has tools on LaunchPad, such as pages to help tell your product story, and contribute to get that first pool of reviews. But, once you go live, and people start consuming the product, then the reviews start coming in. It is very hard to recover from poor reviews, and they recommend to pilot on Indiegogo or Kickstarter and be prepared for that big launch.
Plan and Execute With Your Big Brand Partner
Before pursuing and engaging with a big brand partner, make sure you understand opportunities by working together. Engaging a big brand is different than just finding a customer and filling the pipeline. Many have clearly defined startup programs and these programs describe their process.
Motorola recently launched the Motorola Moto Mods, a platform for startups to build hardware add-ons to their phones. Stephen McDonnell, the director of the program, said they have developed a program in partnership with Indiegogo to give founders an easy platform to work with and a way for users to test the solution. Stephen emphasized how important it is to have a plan when engaging a big brand and to know what you want.
Jessica Robinson from Ford stressed being open and honest with the corporate brand and be willing to work together to create a plan that starts slow and scales as your company grows. More than ever, big brands are willing and ready to work with startups. However, to be successful, you need a plan that makes sense for all parties and you need to develop strong and trusted relationships with multiple champions at your target corporation before you can be successful.
Watch the full recording of the panel here.
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