It’s no secret that for a start-up getting the first couple of sales is absolutely critical. It validates the business model, proves the product, gives you experience that can be leveraged to capture the next set of customers and makes you a credible player in your chosen market.
However, think of the risk that your early customers are taking by buying your product. They don’t know if the technology is real, if the product works as advertised, or if you’ll be around to support the product or expand their deployment in the future. Your champions are putting their jobs on the line when they go for your start-up’s solution over more proven ones.
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. You need to remember this saying when your customer puts their business on the line for you.
This blog post, in the series about how to make your marketing more credible, will look at one way to solve this issue. You can give your marketing and company credibility by associating yourself with the trusted brands of established companies through a strategic partnership or joint marketing and sales relationship.
It's rare that a start-up can make it alone so leveraging a larger company can help in many aspects of the business including sales, bringing it credibility on the marketing front, R&D dollars, and the list goes on. Not to mention the fact that many acquisitions begin with a strategic partnership between start-up and acquirer.
At the same time, larger companies may not be able to react as quickly to a customer request to add a specific capability that solves a new problem. Larger, more established companies may look to start-ups to try new things and take risks that they may not be able to take. So this relationship can definitely be a win-win situation.
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. Developing strong partnerships with trusted brands will not only increase your credibility but will also lead to sales opportunities with customers that may not have considered your offerings before.
And while I’ve focused mainly on partnering with other companies as the trusted brands you should associate your start-up with, there are other third-party organizations that can also bring credibility to you and other benefits but not to the same extent. For example, there are many industry organizations that will help the start-up build similar credibility and may 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 your start-up 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. For a start-up, the companies you work with will be absolutely crucial to your success but at the same time, start-ups need to be careful whom they select as a partner and ensure that it fits with their soon-to-be trusted brand.