The smartest way to grow your business in 2021

partnerships, trust contract, client relationships
Businessman handshake close up. Man handshake fro business deal. Handshake. Business manager handshake client. Businessman and client handshake. Partnership handshake. Business deal.

I’ve known this for over a decade and now one of the world’s biggest analyst firms is backing me up: partnership marketing is not just the fastest, lowest-cost way to grow a business, they are becoming an integral part of any serious business’ DNA and future-proofing.

Partnerships flourished amid the shrinking advertising budgets of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deloitte’s recent 2021 Marketing Trends report. Some were prompted by necessity – think Uber teaming up with Pet Barn to deliver pet food to vulnerable owners and others – because customer behaviour changed so fast (in Australia, fast fashion business The Iconic and streaming platform Binge collaborated on ‘inactive wear’ for customers to watch TV in. Talk about catching a moment in time!)

According to the Deloitte report, 80 per cent of its C-suite survey respondents who introduced new partnerships in 2020 see them as critical to their post-pandemic plans.

As brands step up to the plate in creative ways in our recovering and brave new world, partnerships should be top of the list for any business owner.

Forrester Consulting believes they are critical to growth, reporting in late 2020 businesses with established partnerships grow their revenue significantly faster and larger than those without.

So why aren’t more businesses using marketing partnerships? As a Marketing and Partnership Strategist who has worked extensively with entrepreneurs and small-business owners to help them identify and negotiate their own partnerships, I’ve found three things that hold people back.

1. They don’t know where to start

Many business owners understand marketing partnerships are a smart way to grow their business but are stumped when it comes to their first move. Who should they approach? What should they ask for? How should they reach out? Overwhelmed, they continue to invest in other marketing activities. I love working with these people. By taking them through my partnership framework, they gain confidence in exactly how to identify, approach and negotiate with a potential marketing partner. Once they have this skill, they see their business in a whole new light. Opportunities abound.

2. They undervalue their worth

One of the biggest issues I see is small-business owners failing to understand how valuable they are. Because something comes easily to them, they discount its value to others. When this happens, marketing partnerships become grossly unbalanced. The business owner gives away huge amounts of value and gets very little in return when they could have received so much more. I encourage small-business owners to get clear about their value before making any approaches to a potential partner. Investing the time to unpack all your skills and expertise and understanding what’s important to a potential partner will go a long way in negotiating an equal exchange of value in partnership agreements.

3. They play small

One of the misnomers about negotiating marketing partnerships is you should approach a business of similar size. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I launched my second business, I approached a big brand to collaborate with me. I didn’t know anybody at the company but I had done my research and knew what would be attractive to them. Without ever meeting them in person, we negotiated a deal that paid for more than half of my expenses related to producing and printing my first book. In post-pandemic times, big brands are looking for innovative, low-cost ways to grow their brands. Your business has never looked so good to a big brand. Be bold and aim high.

With 2021 halfway done, I challenge you to consider marketing partnerships to accelerate your business growth.