Tinder for business?

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There’s more to choosing partners than swiping left and right. Poor choices in business relationships can break more than your heart.

There are all sorts of reasons why we may need our business to partner with other brands. In terms of delivering a service, it will more often than not be to work with another supplier or company who has complementary skills, or greater capacity.

The focus of discussion around future economic success for the Waikato region has long been around the importance of collaboration.

For those of us who are freelancers or consultants with particular specialisms, trusted relationships are everything. Formuch of what we do, we’re a single cog in a bigger engine, reliant on others or having others rely on us to deliver the desired outcomes for our clients.

We don’t (I hope!) all put our trust in a partnership based on a little bit of metaphorical flirtatious chat. But just as with a partner, we all want to make sure we choose wisely. Get to know them – find common ground. In terms of your business brand, what does that really mean?

Just as in every business decision, understanding what your brand is all about is essential to making the right connections. Having a clear view on personality and culture, as well as what you want for the future, will help you find complementary brands that have the right fit with your business.

A few months back, I was looking for someone to help me with part of a project where my skills are a bit light. Asking around, two people I trust warned me about one of my options. It was someone I’d met previously and admired their work, so I was surprised they were so anti. Their concerns were nothing to do with capability or capacity, but more about behaviour and transparency. My mentors understood what was most important to my brand and, needless to say, there was no second date.

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to be seduced by apparent shared interests and similar experiences. But don’t rush to superficial conclusions without clearly understanding the potential impact on your brand of a bad decision. Do they share the same ideals, embrace the same philosophies? If the fundamentals of your two brands don’t align, stay in the friend zone.

I don’t want to sound superficial here but first impressions count. And don’t go fooling yourself by saying that, if only for an instant, you don’t have that split second of initial judgement. If first impressions meant nothing, there wouldn’t be a whole online industry predicated on the idea, let alone a load of ghastly TV reality and game shows.

It’s corny, I know, but if the way you present your brand doesn’t reflect its true personality, you’re as bad as the person with a fake dating profile. And I’m not just talking about a photo that’s a decade out of date, but the way you talk about your brand’s characteristics too. Authenticity builds stronger and longer lasting relationships from day one.

I’ve talked about sponsorship and promotional tie-ins once before, and the same comparisons are true in terms of choosing brands to align with for marketing impact. It is often referred to as co-marketing.

We can look to leverage other brands in order to reach more people, to reach a different group of people or to raise awareness of an issue or support a cause. You might look for partnerships that will help regenerate your brand, signal a shift in focus or, what the heck, just to have a bit of fun.

Often these co-marketing activities are, logically, focused on the most appropriate audience groups – think of fishing shows aligning with building and trades brands, and farm supplies companies building relationships around rugby. 

The most successful partnerships are those which also make sense to us in terms of brand, such as reflecting a shared sense of fun or irreverence, a common history or national pride. For example, I’m sure Whittakers didn’t just put L&P flavour and popping candy into a chocolate bar because it tasted good. The two brands share a special place in customers’ hearts in terms of Kiwiana, along with a complementary tone and approach to telling their stories that made for both logical and emotional connections.

At the centre of all this relationship building is knowing who the relationship is really with. The more clearly your brand is defined, the easier it is for you to make the right decisions.

There’s nothing worse than a broken heart. But in business, a damaged brand is not far behind.

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz