The ever-evolving landscape of small business has wrought yet another change: companies working together, rather than competing against one another, for their mutual benefit. The collaboration is called co-branding, and, according to industry experts, if handled properly, it can yield fantastic results.
According to Joel Kessel, president and founder of Kessel Communications, a strategic communications agency in Columbus, co-branding is defined as “two or more companies working together on a unified marketing, communications or public relations goal.”
Kessel says there are definite matters for an entrepreneur to ponder when considering whether to co-brand with another entity. They include:
Goals and objectives
He says it’s extremely important to determine the goals you hope to accomplish by co-branding with another company. Without those objectives in mind, there will be no way to determine if your campaign is successful.
Budgets are of paramount concern, too. All involved parties should be transparent about how much they are willing to dedicate to the co-branding effort, including staff, time and money.
When it comes to reputation, Kessel says one entity may be looking to improve its reputation by aligning itself with another business. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason to consider co-branding, he says. Of course, if improving a company reputation is a goal of co-branding, be certain to align your business with an entity with a spotless reputation.
Rating your co-branding efforts Certainly if a company is going to invest time, money and people to a co-branding effort, it should also be certain to establish clear objectives for the campaign before it begins. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no way to know how successful the co-branding effort has been. “It’s important to decide how you will gauge the success of the co-branding. If you don’t establish that ahead of time, it’s likely the project will fail,” says Kessel.
The way to gauge if the campaign is successful is to study whether “key performance measures are being met,” he says.
Aisling Babbitt, director of marketing for Dublin, Ohio-based Updox, a physician connectivity platform, says the time to embark on a study of the success of a co-branding effort is soon after the initial launch. That’s key, she says, “to be sure you’re both on the same wavelength. It’s very important to keep the lines of communication open so adjustments and tweaks” can be made as needed along the way, she says.
While establishing goals for a co-branding effort are imperative, it’s equally as important to be flexible about where the campaign might go. “The goals should be kept at the forefront but they can and should evolve as the venture progresses,” she says.
Important matters to consider Both Kessel and Babbitt agree that entrepreneurs must weigh the investments needed for a fruitful co-branding effort. Babbitt also advises business owners to do their best to map out their plan of action in advance, in case the joint venture proves successful. She says it is imperative to have the staff, machinery, workspace and reserve capital in place so if the co-branding effort takes off, the next steps can be taken without interruption.
In other words, plan ahead.
According to Kessel, another good strategy is to be transparent about how the two (or more) entities will work together. “Hammer out those details in advance to make your life easier,” he suggests.
Kessel says another element of any venture, whether it’s co-branding, establishing a start-up or anything else, is a tried-and-true belief that doesn’t fail: trusting your gut. “We fail to take that into consideration and our head gets in the way. There’s a reason that expression exists,” he says.
Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer. She tweets as @girlwithapen.