There’s a saying that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Now this saying may be slightly dated and you can substitute other established and proven companies in place of IBM but you can’t substitute a start-up’s name in place of IBM. So how do you give your company more credibility in the early stages or as you enter a new market?
We’ve explored some ideas over the last few posts, from being a thought leader to getting endorsements from your customers, but one other way to build credibility for your company is to associate yourself with the trusted brands of established companies through a strategic partnership or joint marketing initiatives. This could even be taken to a new level where one company invests R&D dollars or resells your product which can definitely give you scale in the early days along with more credibility.
This can be a win-win many times as the larger companies may not be able to react as quickly to a customer request to add a specific capability that solves a new problem. Or their may be a gap in their product portfolio that they need to fill to go after certain customers. Larger, more established companies may look to start-ups to try new things and take risks that they may not be able to take. Not to mention the fact that many acquisitions begin with a strategic partnership between start-up and acquirer.
Now striking and building these relationships is not easy but the pay-off can be huge and the obstacles these partnerships help to overcome may be insurmountable otherwise. The key though is that you need to invest resources into developing the partnerships as this is a clear example of getting out what you put into it. Many partnerships start off with a bang only to fizzle after a few weeks. You need to continue to build momentum with the partner.
In many cases, the partnership starts with some agreement full of promises and then a news release that announces it to the world. But it’s important to continue to do more things with the partner on an ongoing basis. If we are talking about a sales relationship, it’s absolutely critical to train each other’s sales team and matching up the account execs. It’s also crucial to work on joint customer wins and then announcing them so everyone can see that the partnership is delivering results both internally and externally.
And while I’ve focused mainly on partnering with other companies as the trusted brands, you could associate your company with third-party organizations that can also bring credibility to you and other benefits. There are many industry organizations that have a specific charter that may be important to you and your audience. For example, standards groups working on a specific technology or like companies coming together to solve a common issue around security. Working with these groups to further the objective will help to build more credibility and also associate you with like-minded companies. This may even be easier to achieve in the short-term.
In the end though, it’s just as important whom you associate with from a credibility standpoint, as it is that you associate yourself with them in the first place. That’s why the term “trusted brands” was in the title of this post. You can’t just pick anyone to partner with or any organization to join. They need to bring credibility for this to benefit you.
There is a certain truth in the saying that you will be judged by the company that you keep. There will be a certain perception in the market based on the companies you work. That’s why partners can be crucial to your success, but at the same time you need to be careful whom you select as a partner and ensure that it fits with their soon-to-be trusted brand.