Startups, Wanna Work With Brands? 5 Insights You Need To Know

Businessman Brainstorming About Branding Strategy. Photo Credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock

Businessman Brainstorming About Branding Strategy. Photo Credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock


After helping dozens of startups connect to brands, I’ve gathered some insights that could help you create breakthrough partnerships


There is no doubt that landing investors and venture capital funds are important milestones in every startup’s journey, but getting partnerships with big brands is an even more important milestone. Unlike investors, who demand percentages of your profit, the brand can deliver real pay for real work. Their connections with consumers, data and information can help you better understand your target audience and most importantly, provide great exposure. Also, mentioning an international brand as a design partner, for example, always helps in recruiting the next investor.

Oftentimes, however, it’s not a simple task to reach these marketing managers or innovation managers. Even if you are able to get a meeting, it is difficult to create a fertile ground for collaboration and a real opportunity.

In the past year, I have been in contact with hundreds of startups. After helping connect dozens of them to brands, I’ve gathered some insights that could help you create some breakthrough partnerships.

1. Consumer insight is first and foremost

When you want to connect with brands, technology is important but not always enough. You should really get to know the audience to whom you’re targeting the solution. Don’t skimp on consumer research, meetings with “real people” and collecting information from the Web. If you want to create the next thing in wearables for teenagers, you will need to interview teenagers, talk to them, and derive conclusions from them. From the information you compile, try to articulate a clear consumer insight that comes from your target audience and how your solution addresses this insight in a perfect way.

After you think that you’ve refined that insight enough, check again with your target audience if that insight is actually relevant. A helpful tip: Record the responses of your target audience and how they respond to your solution. It always helps in presentations.

2. Solution in one sentence

In most meetings I’ve had with startups, the answer to the question “So what are you doing?” is a rousing speech of at least 10 minutes, which, of course, includes the words “a unique solution, innovative, hasn’t been seen yet. We have no doubt it’s the next Facebook/Google/Whatsapp,” etc. Even on startup websites, you can find at least two whole paragraphs that are just trying to explain what the solution is.

I have no doubt that the solution you’re presenting is completely unique, and you only want to brag and talk about it for hours. Obviously, yours is the most talented baby in the neighborhood, but all of us know that less is more.

Write your solution on the board and try to remove complicated words. Create one clear sentence that explains your solution. And if you are numbers people and less words, try to explain to your only friend that doesn’t have Facebook what exactly you’re doing. If he understands, you’re on the right path.

3. Create a story that’s bigger and memorable

If you have an insight and a solution that answers your insight in one sentence, the gist of the presentation is behind you. Now you need to be remembered.

Try to create a story for the presentation that includes both your insight and your solution, preferably something personal that drove you to create that solution. People relate much more to stories than bullet points, and open up more when the presenter describes something personal (try it at home).

For example, say your product provides a solution for baby food. Talk about your child or children you know, back it up with data, and then present your solution and how it fits.

Another option that always works well is using the “meet” technique. Create a character in the presentation that includes the characteristics of your target audience, and describe the character and how the solution fits your character’s life. Furthermore, before the meeting with the brand’s representatives, try to learn a bit more about the people you’re meeting with and combine a detail you’ve learned about them in the presentation (a soccer team they like, mentioning their children, etc.).

Another tip for memorability in your presentation is to combine some funny element, a strong picture, and a celebrity in the right context. It is much easier to remember you as the company that put Rihanna in the presentation than the team that is using an advanced Bluetooth technology.

4. Skip complicated technological words

Marketing people don’t speak “technologese.” On the contrary, it usually just confuses them. Therefore, take out technological slides from the presentation and try to avoid using complicated technological words, even though they demonstrate how smart your solution is.

In the first meeting, you don’t have to dive into the depths of the bit and bytes. When you move forward to the meeting with the IT guy, then you should bring your big guns and dive into the solution.

5. The pilot is in the small details

To try to pin down a pilot in the first meeting, you should commit. If you can, create a demo with the brand that you’re meeting with. If a demo is too complicated, try to develop a simulation that illustrates as much as possible how the solution you’re presenting can fit in the marketing process and daily lives of the consumers. Notice that you’re including the brand’s name in the right places (the minimum is in the presentation’s grid) and you’re not accidentally presenting a solution with the competitor’s brand. Once you’re committing and helping the other side imagine how the solution could appear, you will get points for investing the time to make the presentation personalized.

After you process your insights and add them into the presentation, try to present it to other people that aren’t necessarily part of your company. If they are attentive, laugh and ask questions in the right places, then you have a good presentation in your hands to show potential brands.

And don’t give up: Even if you haven’t been successful in creating a pilot with the first brands that you’ve met, try to meet more. Keep in touch with the marketing managers and think about other out of the box brands.


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