Five ways B2B brands can use strategic partnerships to get ahead

The benefits of forming strategic partnerships can be lucrative if chosen and executed properly. Fashion and Beauty Monitor’s Sarah Penny sets out five key steps to forming and maintaining successful long-term partnerships.

Whether consolidating positive brand imagery, leveraging the business into new markets, offering competitor advantage, or simply extending reputation, the benefits to be gained from strategic partnerships can prove lucrative if chosen and executed correctly.

As a leading fashion PR and marketing tool, Fashion and Beauty Monitor took on two new challenges in 2014: launching a standalone beauty product in the UK and introducing both products to the US market. While already engaging in partnerships with key industry organisations such as the British Fashion Council, CEW (UK) and Graduate Fashion Week, the expansion really drove questioning into how to utilise strategic partnerships to push the business forward.

In B2B, forming strategic alliances with industry partners allows brands to consolidate their strengths – and the results can be powerful for all the parties involved – but how do you get planning, execution and maintenance of these partnerships absolutely right?

Build your partnership strategy before engaging

Set out desired objectives before embarking on any partnerships. A strategy that lacks a clear plan can result in partnerships that fall foul of your brand’s ideology. What are your objectives? How do you deliver expertise to your clientele? And how can partnerships get you there?

As a B2B PR and marketing tool, Fashion and Beauty Monitor has a remit of ideologies that surround the brand. Our position between brands and media serves as an interface between these two components and so our partnerships reflect this together with strong emphasis across education and technology.

Our existing partnerships all satisfy at least one of these ideologies and often fall into all three, ensuring a consistency and clear messaging throughout.

Ensure partnership activity is visible through all brand channels

Partnerships act as a third-party stamp of approval for your brand and therefore a valuable marketing asset that should be optimised through all channels both online and offline.

Take our bi-annual Beauty Lounge hosted over London Fashion Week. Used by both media and brands, we are in prime position to invite high profile UK and international beauty press to interact with partnered luxury beauty brands for the event. This partnership activity consolidates our reputation, market position and creates a valuable offline networking opportunity.

However, as an online product engaging in offline marketing activity, we need to create a channel of communication to ensure that our offline activation reaches and resonates with our online audience. Utilising the event to generate content for social media, the website and for the London Fashion Week Daily newspaper creates this conversation channel between offline and online ensuring maximum visibility. As a result, the Beauty Lounge generated 450 mentions and 1.3 million in social reach over a handful of days.

Partnering with the right brand can result in positive brand imagery and enhanced value for all involved

Quality should take priority over quantity

Both parties need to benefit from a partnership mutually so do not be afraid to turn down opportunities if the brand fit isn’t right. Fashion and Beauty Monitor is often approached by fantastic organisations for partnerships but they aren’t always an appropriate fit. The key to creating a successful long-running partnership is remembering that it’s not just what a company can offer your brand that is important, but what can be fulfilled in return to ensure both parties are satisfied and engaged.

Our launch in the US market meant selecting the right partners, especially as it is critical to brand positioning. The desired audience that you are aligning with may have little or no familiarity with your brand and a partnership can provide first exposure. If it turns out to be the wrong choice, it is difficult to recover when there is no brand heritage to fall back on.

Strategy needs should be adaptable to support brand growth

Build a transferable strategy that is scalable to new markets and can consolidate your message as the brand grows. Launching into the US market meant that Fashion and Beauty Monitor had to start afresh with partnerships in this territory.

Before embarking on any partnerships the strategy was revisited and compared to the US market. Knowing that the core ideologies for the brand were transferable, the next step was examining opportunities for existing partnership extension. Fashion GPS and Decoded Fashion were already operating within the US, so extending these existing partnerships to promote each other’s brands in both the UK and US markets simultaneously was the natural next step.

Additionally, the calibre of UK-centric industry partners that we work with are globally identifiable and so contextualised our position in the UK and US markets. Within six months of launching in the US, we have secured partnerships with The New York Times International Luxury Conference, Clio Image Awards and Fashion Forward – enabling direct interaction with our core B2B audience in New York, Miami and Austin.

Keep the dialogue going and take your partners along your journey

Finally, while ensuring that any partnership agreement includes all objectives at the time of engagement, both parties need to work together continuously as new opportunities are likely to emerge. It’s important to have regular discussions with partners to explore company developments and evolving strategies so that both parties can really question how they can extend working together.

Our partnership with Fashion GPS was originally a marketing initiative that has organically evolved to encompass technology. As a workflow tool, Fashion and Beauty Monitor operates to make PR and marketing professionals’ day-to-day tasks quicker and easier to execute. Integrating our content into Fashion GPS’ format delivered efficiency to clients – they were able to directly export contacts into Fashion GPS format. By linking up the two brands we have mutually consolidated positive brand imagery and enhanced value of both brands.