Cultivating authentic partnerships

Business Lady Mean Muggin

When my co-founder and I started My Money My Future, we knew we needed to gain the trust of our customers quickly … but trust takes time and relationships. That’s when we decided that a key part of our go-to-market strategy would be forming strong partnerships with organizations and groups that already had a relationship with our prospective customers. Call it trust by proxy—authentic collaborations can be a powerful tool for new companies and those with a limited marketing budget.

First, a little background

My company, My Money My Future, was born out of a desire to empower people who have been underserved by traditional financial institutions by helping them to make smarter financial decisions and build wealth. Unlike many companies that that start with a product and find a market, we started with a very specific market and built a product to fit their needs.

One of the things we knew, based on our experience and research, is that trust is key when it comes to financial services. Our target market didn’t trust financial institutions, but did trust their peers and communities. We asked our early users where they got their financial advice, and over half said they got it from their peers. They tended to be part of one or several social media groups, and more often than not, were also involved in an off-line organization or meet-up group. This early insight caused us to decide that partnerships with trusted organizations would be a key priority.

Finding the right partners

When we started looking for partners, my co-founder and I had the advantage of having worked across different sectors, in different communities. We already had large networks of organizations and people that could be good strategic partners.

Our criteria for picking partners was straightforward. We looked for organizations or groups had a significant, loyal following and a mission that was was aligned with ours and related to economic empowerment and women.

Once we identified a list of potential partners, we decided that one aspect of our partnership strategy was to collaborate with these partners on events and content that would introduce our company and product to their community.

We were very intentional about ensuring the relationship could be valuable to both organizations and our shared community. We studied their audiences and their objectives in order to make an authentic case for for why the two organizations should collaborate, and we committed to making these partnerships as valuable to our partners as to My Money My Future.

Approaching potential partners

Once you’ve found organizations you’d like to partner with, it’s time to approach them and start a conversation about working together.

Highly curated social groups are protective of their niche. They want to make sure they are protecting the integrity of their brand, so personal introductions are always the best way to start the relationship. If we were interested in working with a person or group, we’d do everything possible to meet them in person (perhaps at an event) or participate in their online community.

We paid close attention to which groups or companies our fans followed and recorded notes on these groups in a community partnership database. Initially, this type of research and outreach can be time consuming—but as entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham writes, it’s okay to do things that don’t scale.

Identifying the right types of collaborations

Partnerships come in all kinds of forms. There are sponsorships, collaborative events, cross-promotional content agreements, and strategic partnerships.

When you’re planning your partnership strategy, consider all the options before prioritizing the partnerships that will offer the most value to your brand and your community.

Next, document your strategic plan and track your progress. This will make it easier to stay on top of your plan and measure your ROI (“return on investment”) for these partnerships.

Building fans rather than buying customers

Product-market fit is the most important element for scalable growth, but getting there can be a challenge, even if you have a carefully defined target market and you’ve already done extensive research. Finding your tribe and evangelists early on can help you get to product-market fit more quickly.

Why are early customers and fans so essential to finding product-market fit? As an early-stage company, one of the most important things you can do is to engage in direct and constant conversations with your customers and your target market. Early, loyal customers will help your business by giving you feedback, sharing your brand with their friends and community, and supporting you through the inevitable growing pains.

Many customers don’t want to be sold a product—they want to back a brand they love and trust. Working with partners that can help you build this type of relationship with your customers more quickly, making your business stronger, more successful, and more impactful.

Ramona Ortega
Ramona Ortega is the Entrepreneur in Residence at Azlo, and the founder of My Money My Future.

Hi there! This post exists to offer you (hopefully) useful information but it cannot take the place of personalized professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert if you have questions about your business. Also, Azlo doesn’t endorse any third-party sites that are linked here.

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