How do you find your partnerships and where do they come from? In summary:
- Referring partners: Talk to people you know about their contacts. You'd be surprised at how many connections one or two people can make.
- Be open to interacting with all your peers—even the ones you do not think you will be able to do business with.
Follow these simple principles to find your optimal strategic partner.
1. Set goals and determine your needs.
To find the right event partner, it is best to start with your needs and goals rather than with a solution. It is tempting to jump straight into exploring options, but if you do not have a clear picture of what your team is trying to accomplish, it's difficult to assess whether any given solution is going to work for you.
For example, if your upcoming event is meant to increase brand awareness, that's where you need to start. At the event, you want attendees to notice your company by having an engaging experience that will make them talk about your products or services to their network. This gets us closer to an actual solution, like partnering with an experiential event design agency. However, before approaching them about working with you, you should first identify what their characteristics are: Have they previously worked with companies within your business sector? What is their creative process like? How do their capabilities complement yours?
2. Partner with companies that share your values and complement your abilities.
The best partnerships are the ones in which all parties share objectives and have a cohesive voice. This ensures you’re driving growth for both organizations. To find the perfect partner, ask detailed questions that will give you a good sense of why they want to team up with you, what their main goals are, and how they expect to contribute to the event.
To achieve this, you need to identify partners that complement your capabilities and add value to the overall goal. Any business collaboration needs to be a win-win situation, of course, but beyond that, you should want a partner who shares your vision and has an established reputation in the industry. If your principles do not align, this alliance will be tough to manage, have communication issues, and potentially ruin the whole project.
So, how do you find the right partner for you? This can be achieved through three simple steps:
- Identify your strengths, weakness, and needs.
- Understand your potential partner’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Be sure your values align with theirs.
3. Conduct a personality check.
When having a conversation with a prospective partner to see if they are the right fit, think about the kind of person you want to work with. Are they open? Do they like sharing ideas and discussing options? Are they open-minded or do they think their way is the only way?
One of the most important parts of being in any business is character compatibility because you need to enjoy working together and have fun, no matter what happens throughout your business journey! Remember that if these people aren't a good match for your personality, it's best not to work with them because it will make things more stressful and essentially very inefficient.
Keep in mind to always be yourself—that also means being honest about what you can and can't do. Don’t try to act like someone else just because that might be something your counterpart is looking for, as that may backfire in the future.
4. Establish clear KPIs and expectations.
Now that you've teamed up with a partner, it's time to set objectives for both teams. Clear expectations will help everyone hit their goals. This is particularly relevant when it comes to revenue sharing—what are each of your revenue and cost KPIs? You also need to make certain that there are clear expectations when it comes to the delivery of agreed-upon items and deadlines. If one partner plays a bigger role than another, ensure that is clearly defined in your agreement. This brings us to the next point: Everything in the contract should be in writing to guarantee that both parties are aware of the terms.
5. A relationship doesn’t guarantee a partner with the right skills
Partnerships can lead to relationships, but relationships alone do not constitute partnerships! There is a lot of confusion when it comes to these two terms, because in order for there to be a successful partnership, you need to have a personal connection with either the individual or the team you are working with. It might be that you already have an established relationship with your old partners, but their ability to offer the service you need might not be their strongest suit.
If you have already worked with them before, you may be tempted to entrust them with the project, but sometimes you need to take a step back and reevaluate the situation. Perhaps now is the time to bring in a new partner with the right set of capabilities to ensure the project is executed successfully.
6. A large budget does not always mean there is value.
Event partnerships today are a strategic balance between budget, value, and risk. Working with a strategic partner/collaborator to systematically determine where your efforts and money will be spent can help define spending early on. The budget plays a critical role in determining the direction of your event, so you want to work with someone that is looking to enhance your experience from a holistic standpoint.
Yes, money is important, but understanding the value of what you are getting for a larger budget is even more critical. Work with an organization that values your company and organization and the overall event goals to maximize your event spend. Budgeting is just one piece of the partnership puzzle that you need to consider when deciding who and what to partner with at your events.
7. Your partner may have survived the pandemic, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are the same as before.
Despite making it through the pandemic, your longtime partner may not have the same capabilities as it had before. They may not have the same staff or the same type of quality control that was there prior to the pandemic. Has the team changed since COVID? Does your partner have the right technology to support your partnership? If you are looking for digital partnerships, do they have a technical sponsor who can help deliver value for both of you online? If not, does that worry you?
Asking the right questions allows you to evaluate where your partner stands in terms of human resources and the ability to support your endeavors before you commit to a new project or event.
8. Put your money where your mouth is: Be honest, transparent, and committed.
Put your money where your mouth is and be honest about your capabilities. Don't over-promise and then under-deliver. When working together, it is crucial that both parties are excellent at what they do, but also that their tasks are carried out efficiently and effectively to avoid wasting time and money on mistakes made by either side.
9. Know when to walk away.
When workloads become too large and different perspectives are not allowed, the exact moment to break off a partnership can be difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes you must rely on your gut. So if the collaboration or communication doesn't feel right, then it's time to reassess. Follow your intuition. This is something we were designed to do. And it comes with all our relationships. Some might argue that pushing a boulder up a hill with a friend is easier than doing so alone, but if the partnership doesn't feel like it's progressing, and there's no apparent end in sight, then it's best to walk away from it. Letting one of your partners drag their feet will only serve to make them look unprofessional and, unfortunately, harm your reputation, as well.
10. Post-event engagement is critical to partnerships.
The most effective event planners craft follow-up strategies that will help them maintain or even improve their relationships with their partners post-show. One way to keep up the momentum is by providing prompt feedback on how you felt about the business experience. Let them know if anything went wrong so they can reevaluate their processes and improve their services. Keep in mind, though, that sharing your excitement about a successful outcome is equally important!
Partnerships are what make this industry tick and stay alive. Make sure to turn your partnerships into relationships and work with people you like. Shared values and a key understanding of your team’s overall perspective internally and externally will help the communication pathways. Feel confident with the people that you do business with every day.
For more insights on how to create successful and memorable experiences, visit VDA’s website here.