How to get the most out of a corporate partnership

Corporate partnerships are a common way for organizations to market themselves. It’s so common that many organizations simply agree to established sponsorship packages that include a standard set of benefits. However, jumping into a relationship without exploring the mission and values of a partner is limiting.

“There’s opportunity to do much more with a corporate partnership than feature a logo on event signage,” says Kelly Manderfield, chief marketing officer at Cleveland Metroparks. “Better value can be created when organizations invest time and effort to learn more about each other. That is the foundation of a much more productive and complementary relationship.”

Smart Business spoke with Manderfield about building better corporate partnerships.

Where does the process of building better corporate partnerships start?

From the outset, organizations should know what it is they are trying to achieve — what are the fundamental goals of a sponsorship campaign? With those in mind, the next step is to identify organizations that have a complementary mission and values.

Talk with potential sponsorship partners to learn more about their organization. This will help to identify where the synergy between the two organizations exists and what common goals might be shared.

Consider building long-term relationships — those that will last a year or multiple years. Deeper relationships can be developed that lead to better representation for the brand and stronger results.

Who should be involved in corporate partnership conversations?

It’s important to have key decision makers at the table when initiating a sponsorship relationship to define what the partnership will encompass. Goals for the partnership should be set that are clear and ensure that all stakeholders are moving in the same direction.

The activation team can bring the partnership to life as well as keep everyone informed on the progress.

What is activation?

Once the partnership is secured, activation begins. Activation means being an active participant. For example, rather than passively turning over a logo and walking away, the partner should explore its own outlets and channels to find ways to help build awareness and participation in the program. Corporate partners have a built-in audience — customers, vendors, employees and advisers — that they can get more involved in the program to add value.

How can organizations determine whether or not a corporate partnership is productive?

Goals must be established during the upfront planning process and are usually focused on categories such as driving awareness and favorability, generating customer leads and affinity, or recruiting and rewarding employees.

Agreed upon goals and evaluation metrics could be shared weekly or quarterly, or they could be event-based. It’s helpful to discuss and establish ongoing communication routines.

What can organizations do if they’re not seeing the results they want?

Regular updates on the progress of sponsorship goals gives the opportunity to course correct. Organizations could determine that they should be doing more, or that they should shift focus from one area to another. That can only be done if there’s transparency and communication about the progress on the sponsorship goals.

Sometimes achieving goals means being creative and flexible. If an opportunity arises to get a greater benefit from the partnership, take it, even if it means diverting from the original plan.

How can organizations get the most out of corporate partnerships?

Organizations should work together to customize their sponsorships. Rather than accept a pre-made, generic sponsorship package, consider building a unique partnership.

That means starting from scratch and creating a program based on the synergies of the partners, which is why it’s important to work with organizations that have similar values and goals.

Insights Corporate Partnerships is brought to you by Cleveland Metroparks