Leveraging Strategic Partnerships

These days, it’s hard to find a company that isn’t dialed in on their company’s marketing budget, quarterly spend, and ROI. Every brand wants to differentiate themselves and take it to the next level, but not everyone has a huge budget to produce with—even the ones who know that using events to reach your target audience is the wave of the future.

Everyone from Starbucks to Refinery29 are leveraging corporate partners and sponsorships to create innovative products, events and campaigns. So how do you leverage partnerships for your event without stretching your budget, and where do you, as the event planner or marketer, begin?

Be honest: Obviously, the first order of business is to make sure you choose your strategic partners wisely, both in consideration of your target audience and theirs. A partnership is synonymous with cooperation, collaboration, and relationship building—and you wouldn’t want to enter into a relationship with someone who had deceived you. When approaching partners, be honest about your target audience and intended reach, so that all parties involved are comfortable entering into the agreement. Don’t mislead a potential partner just so you can complete your sponsorship needs, without truly thinking about what’s in it for them.

Look beyond the obvious: Sure, if you run a yoga studio, it may be tempting to simply look at local juice cafes or other wellness partners, but who can you work with that may have the same audience as you, and can add something unexpected to the campaign or event? A great example of this is the studios that started to offer dog, cat, and even goat yoga—and sold out all over the place. This past weekend, I attended an event with local cruelty-free skincare brand Franklin and Whitman, who partnered with influencer @balancewithb, HipCityVeg and the SPCA for a morning of yoga, plant-based diet discussions, lunch and adoptable dogs. The swag bags were given by partners as well, and the brand donated $3000 to the PSPCA.

Play up your strengths: I always admire brands who don’t try to be ‘everything to everyone,’ rather they know what they’re good at and follow through with it 100%. Similarly, I admire brands who start out providing an extensive menu for their restaurant guests or the full wardrobe for all genders, and then modify based on their strengths and what their customers come to them for. If you’re a stellar cover band, do you need to start producing original music to gain new customers or should you refine your art and add a couple of new songs to your set list? Find what makes you (or your brand) unique, play to that and call in complementary partners when it makes sense. Like the partnership with Franklin and Whitman, Hungry Harvest, and West Elm Philly for the GOOD Fest, which is the title photo for this post.

Don’t be afraid of competition: Party Partners of Philadelphia came about because my counterparts and I sought to bring more local business to each of our locations. What began as 6 restaurants sharing leads and meeting once a month, evolved into a group with over 30 members who collaborate on events, create content on social media and our own website, and raise money for nonprofits—most notably the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society—every year. Collaborating offered us the opportunity to produce marketing events for organizations such as Forbes Under 30 Summit, the Residences at the Ritz and Center City Proprietors Association, and bring leads to our individual restaurants totaling thousands of dollars in revenue. We would never have been able to do this without acting as partners and embracing our threats as strengths.

Whether you have an event to plan and you need to leverage a lower budget, you want to create a ‘wow’ factor while playing only to your strengths, or you want to appeal to a complementary audience, strategic partners are the wave of the future. For more examples of how to leverage strategic partners, check out my portfolio.

What are some of your favorite brand partnerships?