14+ Tips on successful Partnerships Checklist for Startups

These are some of my tips around forming successful partnerships, whether it be with other startups or larger corporates.
by Dan Siepen
Hope you enjoy these tips below. 🙂

Right Companies/Targets to Work With

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1. Write list of the ideal companies to partner with + communicate with the rest of your team

First impressions matter. Before you do outreach to any prospects or target companies, what do you know about them? Why would they be interested in your offering? Do they work with competitors? What sort of content do they engage with? Write a big list of questions + criteria to decide + prioritise who to target.

I suggest creating a spreadsheet of your targets in a column with then job titles, emails, URL's of social channels (+ other data points), with then formulating + answering 5-10 questions about the company + them.

2. Have any of your target companies successfully done partnerships before?

I think this is important as it prepares you to know how they may potentially engage with you. If they've never really done partnerships before, then maybe they're not a priority compared to those who have evidently done partnerships before.

I know from experience with the above, those who've never done them before usually are a longer cycle compared to those who understand the process. I would include this as a question as part of the criteria of targeting companies/partnerships.

3. Have you done enough research into how much of your target audience they could help you tap into?

Another question to ask yourself is how much would they actually help you in regards to your target audience. What is the total market size they have which consists of the traits of your target customer? Again, consider this as part of your criteria.

4. Have you done enough research on the key decision makers who will decide whether or not they will even have a conversation?

If you're like me, you're pretty over the cold emails and cold LinkedIn messages that lack context or any sort of personalisation. The fact so many do this still astounds me. Like... why? (lol)

With your target decision makers, there's a good chance they've received many cold emails/messages plenty of times before. So, how do you stand out? What research have you done?

Outreach for Partnerships "Getting those meetings"

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5. Target key decision makers via Cold LinkedIn or Cold Email Outreach

There's plenty of tools on the market that helps with Cold Email outreach + you can use LinkedIn Sales navigator for LinkedIn outreach.

Just go onto product hunt and type in "find emails" to see a plethora of options to scrape/find target prospect emails. Of course, each of these platforms have their pro's and con's when it comes to finding emails. There's plenty of resources that talk about the process of these tools.

They key item to keep in mind is WHO you're targeting + who are the actual decision makers. The article above in point 4 by Hubspot is good to understand who the "gatekeepers", "influencers" and "decision-makers" are.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is also wonderful to find + reach out to target prospects. The article below shares some tactics.

6. Check similar connections on LinkedIn and try and see if someone can help refer you

LinkedIn is perfect when it comes to being referred to prospects you are targeting through your own connections. I think this feature of LinkedIn is under-utilised by a lot of people. If you're prospects are a "2nd degree" contact, there's a good chance you know the person who's connected to them, since they're a "1st degree" contact of yours.

7. Send a gift to a physical/office address with then a special link to a video or targeted landing page

This is a clever strategy I've heard that a few service-based businesses have done when wanting to work with an ideal client of theirs.

Pick a nice gift, send to the target contact, include a nice note/card with then a personal URL. Of course, you can track this URL via a tool such as Bitly and have a personalised landing page + video for that person. I can assure you they will be impressed and increases the chances of landing that meeting.

Lots of effort yes, but very effective strategy from what I've heard.

Factors of a successful partnership

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8. Do they possess the right values and opinions on how to go after their ideal clients?

I mean, what's the point working with or aligning with a company that doesn't fit your values? No company is perfect of course, but know your boundaries/limits. I know from personal experience with partnerships that this matters. It is common sense, but no matter the opportunity from a commercial point of view, don't lose sight of your true mission and values.

9. Do they have shared goals for growth? Will they go out of their way to make a partnership in the short term?

A partnership can't be truly 50/50 in terms of value exchange. Especially if you're a startup wanting to work for a corporate. That's completely fine and understandable, but that also doesn't mean you are allowed to get bullied around or agree to terms which don't provide much value.

When working out the goals + metrics of the potential partnership, assess how much effort into the initiatives required they will to help towards the goal of the partnership. How hungry are they wanting to make the partnership work? Case by case basis and does come down sometimes to the individuals involved. Important to sense this otherwise you may be wasting your time and resources.

10. What can you learn about strategies that have worked or not worked in regards to partnerships or marketing in relation to your propsect company target (s)?

Has your target companies successfully done partnerships before? If so, what were the rough results? How much value did they gain + the party they partnered with? This is super important to understand + shows great attention to detail that the prospect company will appreciate. I'm not saying you know these answers before you meet them, but you should definitely ask these questions when you meet with them. Learn from the mistakes made + positive results, and do an even better job!

11. Are they a company that sticks to their word?

Similar to what I've said a couple of times above, regardless of the commercial opportunity at stake, don't give into a deal or agreement that sees you doing the heavy-lifting. I've been caught in this position before and it's not a great feeling. Especially on top of all the other stresses that comes with running a company. If you sense the company/individuals involved don't stick to their word, most likely not owrth pursuing.

Formalities

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12. Do you have a written partnership agreement in place? Does this also include breakdown of key aliged milestones/goals?

Now it's time to get the show on the road. The potential partnership is looking solid and the meetings have been great with plenty of energy + enthusiasm... and now it's time to get it into a formal agreement.

Any solid partnership agreement has a good breakdown of shared aligned milestones and goals + other factors.

13. Are the commercials fair?

Again I have stated similar points above... don't give into commercials which don't make sense for your businesses. Whilst in the short term it may help with perception or other factors to get more customers, from my personal experience, they cause more headaches in the long run. Just don't under value yourself is all I'm saying :)

14. Is there an exit strategy in place?

I think all partnership agreements should have this in place, alongside the milestones/goals. It's important that everyones comes to the table to ensure the partnership works out in regards to the objective (s).

Whilst not all milestones/goals are achieved, clear reasons as to why is important to have to ensure the partnership survives.

If for whatever reason something doesn't work out, having an exit strategy based on these circumstances and both parties agreeing of how things should phase out/end, is important to ensure no party gets "burnt". If something doesn't work out, it doesn't mean you can't try again. Always leave things on a positive note.

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