Find brand partnerships

1. Establish your goals, such as increased awareness, lead generation, or growing your brand's reputation in the industry.

Your goal for potential partnerships will influence the type of brand partners you search for as well as the format of any co-created marketing or product partnerships.  For example: Build leads for your sales team. Increase your brand’s trust and reputation in your space by being associated with a bigger player or bigger brand in your field. Increase your company’s efficiencies by sharing the marketing workload. For example, your brand partner might generate new content for you, thus reducing your team’s content creation load.

2. Brainstorm a wish list of top companies in your space or industry-adjacent brands that you admire.

Create a master list of brands that are: Prominent in your industry: If you’re a travel blog, you might list other major travel blogs that you admire.  Adjacent to your industry: For example, a dog toy company partnering with a dog food company. Complementary to your industry: For example, a hotel brand partnering with an airline company. Now is not the time to evaluate these potential brands. Simply brainstorm options that you will vet later: Think of any brands you admire. Search the web for top companies in [your industry]. Browse sites like LinkedIn or Crunchbase to see what companies are listed in specific fields. Crowdsource ideas from your staff or other industry leaders. Keep tabs on your industry by monitoring podcasts, start-up news alerts, industry blogs, or industry publications.

3. Vet your wish list by assessing whether brands serve an audience that would be interested in your brand.

Refer to your buyer persona and your target audience. Then review and assess each brand to see if they’re speaking to or targeting an audience that’s similar to your company’s target audience: Check the about page on their websites. Scroll through their social media. Scan of their online marketing. Subscribe to their email list. Eliminate any brands or companies from your list that don’t share your company’s target audience.

4. Check the brand's reputation, quality, and overall engagement to evaluate drawbacks.

Look up the company’s online reviews on Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Reviews. Search for [company name] news and scanning the headlines to see if anything controversial, scandalous, or negative appeared recently. Scan their social media posts to see if their audience is leaving angry or upset comments. Review their blog, email, website, and other content channels to check for content and messaging that meets your standards of quality.

5. Source contacts at the company by talking to your personal network, searching the company's employees on LinkedIn, or noting contact details for marketing people on the company's About page.

6. Reach out to the contact and indicate your interest in partnering.

Increase your odds of hearing back from what is essentially an online cold call: Address the contact by their first name versus using a generic salutation like to whom it may concern. Show you’ve done your research by making a brief mention of a recent campaign, email, or content piece that they did. Pitch the idea of a partnership. This could include co-hosting an event or webinar, publishing co-branded content, highlighting each other on social media, or putting together collaborative product lines. For example, Starbucks recently partnered with Spotify to promote Spotify’s playlists in Starbucks coffee shops. BuzzFeed did a co-branded content campaign with the Best Friends Animal Society, where the content company did celebrity interviews featuring celebrities playing with adoptable animals. Your goal isn’t to establish all of the details in your partnership pitch, but to open conversation between your marketing teams.