By Mylena Vazquez
Now more than ever, consumers are showing a strong interest in supporting their local economy by shopping small and buying local. In a recent study, a whopping 75 percent of respondents stated their intention to buy from local businesses. But what is their motivation? For at least 38 percent of consumers, it is that shopping from small businesses helps them feel connected to their community. But as we know, not all companies are the same, and not all consumer needs can be fulfilled only by small or local businesses.
That’s where strategic partnerships come into play. The concept of strategic partnerships is nothing new. In fact, it is a practice almost as old as time. There is an old adage that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Strategic partnerships, in the modern sense, are alliances formed between businesses or organizations that are beneficial to both parties. But with changing consumer preferences and practices, many of these strategic partnerships have expanded to include the community as a symbolic third party.
Consumers are expressing, through both words and actions, that community impact is a key factor that drives their purchase decisions. How can companies, big and small, respond to these new consumer demands? I see no more fitting way to address this than to partner with five experts to get their unique insights on the topic.
Chief Marketing Officer
Goodwill Industries of South Florida
Strategic community partnerships have always been important, but now more than ever. While big established brands provide customers with familiarity, quality they can trust, consistency of products and services, and local jobs on a larger scale, small local companies also offer other benefits that larger organizations cannot. They are able to establish closer relationships with their customers, offer unique localized products and services, and adapt to the local trends on a much faster timeline. As consumer preferences change, narrowing the gap between big and national and small and local could prove to benefit not only the companies involved, but the local community as well. Key factors of this strategy are leveraging the assets and benefits of each and negotiating terms where both parties can benefit. The idea is to provide convenience, ensure efficiency, and highlight the benefits of the partnership, all while creating maximum impact for the local community as a result of the partnership.
For example, Goodwill is among the top five nationally recognized organizations. The perception is that we are a large organization, but the truth is that our business model is set up to provide localized services through assigned territories. While we enjoy the benefit of a broad national reach to form national partnerships and engage in advocacy, we are very much a localized organization that focuses on local impact. Our employees and those we serve are a reflection of our diverse community—that matters, as the services we provide are tailored to our specific community. Goodwill also establishes partnerships with other local nonprofits whose area of expertise is very different from ours. We position ourselves as a “continuum of care,” where the person receives services for the stage in which they find themselves on their road to recovery. If, for example, a person is suffering from substance abuse or homelessness, our service of providing them employment is premature. At this stage, we would instead refer them to one of our partners, Camillus House, so that they can begin their journey to recovery. Once that person has successfully moved beyond that stage, Goodwill steps back in to help them on their way, helping them acquire job skills and in the process of securing a job. As you can see, this partnership with Camillus House is critical to the success of that individual. Strategic partnerships and finding the benefits of the partnership where both parties benefit is the key.
However, the local impact of strategic community partnerships is not limited to just relationships between nonprofits. A great example of this is when a national restaurant chain partners with a local nonprofit and donates a percentage of their sales to the food bank. Even between two for-profit companies, strategic partnerships can have a positive local impact. You often see large companies, like Publix, selling locally made products. This gives customers the opportunity to support small local businesses while also providing the sense of safety that comes from being able to shop at a place they know and trust. Though strategic community partnerships may come in many different forms, they can ultimately all serve the community in a meaningful way.
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
When it comes to strategic partnerships, it’s important to think about the national and local effects your brand has within your markets. The more affiliation you have with local consumers within the market your product is in, the stronger the brand awareness you’ll have to reach more audiences, build interest, and generate revenue. As consumerism continues to shift, brand advocates continue to remain loyal based on overall marketing mix affiliation. It’s not just enough for brands to think about building their own channels now, consumers want to see their overall presence and who they affiliate with!
This includes their social responsibility plans, brands they partner with that share the same values and messages, and what influencers they choose to represent them.
A combination of these factors can dramatically boost brand identity and awareness, expanding consumer interactions and closing the sales funnel.
Social Media Manager
The Walt Disney Company
As competition for the attention of our target audience increases, it’s vital that brands leverage strategic partnerships to help increase and maintain brand loyalty and affinity. By taking advantage of strategic partnerships, brands can access new market segments and expand reach into new audiences, allowing for extended company growth. In addition, by leveraging strategic partnerships, companies can strengthen their brand’s reputation in the minds of their current customers from the added value that their selected partner provides.
Owner and Founder
The Win Woman
One way to differentiate yourself and stand out in the digital marketing space is by humanizing your brand. Smart consumers are curious and expect consistency and reliability from a brand, and they want to know:
Where are materials being sourced from?
How diverse is the brand?
Do they have a corporate social responsibility statement?
Going behind the scenes and storytelling the answers to the questions above will provide the real type of connection you are looking to establish with your clients. Likewise, partnerships with nonprofits will help you build rapport in the community and elevate your impact.
Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer
PHAOX is a startup dedicated to changing the paradigm for office-based video endoscopy. Existing endoscopy machines for in-office use run upwards of $30,000 and use antiquated technology; all budget alternatives are inadequate in some form or another. What this means for physicians is that the equipment they need to treat patients is often inaccessible. Whichever company cracks the code to create a full-feature, fully-functional system for office-based endoscopy that is more affordable than the current market leader could potentially dominate the market for decades to come. PHAOX is on this path, but we need a strategic partner to help develop our prototype into a marketable product. A strategic partnership would lend not just credibility and weight to our startup but also provide resources necessary to continue developing what is an essential tool for the specialty. It would also allow for this tool to become widely available to all physicians by effectively eliminating financial barriers to access. With the support of a strategic partner, every practitioner could have a PHAOX system in their office—something which ultimately benefits all kinds of patients in the community.
Strategic partnerships are not formed in a silo. These decisions are made not only with the best interests of the two organizations involved in mind, but also with the interests of the consumer and community in mind as well. Not all partnerships look the same; they depend largely on the organizations involved, the ultimate goals of the partnership, the respective industries, the community, and so much more. But at their core, these partnerships involve aligning your company with other companies that share similar values and objectives.
As Alexis said, consumers want to know with whom companies are associating. Consumers will naturally be more inclined to purchase from a business which has been vouched for by another company which that consumer recognizes and loves. Alternatively, consumers will likely be turned off from an organization that is partnered with a company that has a less-than-favorable reputation. As Don Quixote said to Sancho Panza, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”
But there are, in fact, specific ways to build credibility through strategic partnerships. Yanyn points to establishing relationships with local nonprofits to give your company a more human face—and to actually make a difference in that community. Alejandro points to a different kind of credibility, whereby nascent companies can leverage partnerships with larger companies to bring to fruition products that will ultimately benefit the community. In each of these circumstances, strategic partnerships play a vastly different but equally important role in bolstering the reputations of these companies.
As Lourdes rightly points out, strategic partnerships help bridge the gaps between different organizations. They allow companies to co-brand, co-market, and co-create by leveraging the strong suits, audiences, and resources of each. As Megan indicates, competition only increases with each passing day, and companies are constantly fighting to keep up with consumer demands to do more and be better. So what is more innovative and powerful than for companies to forge strategic partnerships and work together to succeed while serving? Not much, partner.