How to Get More Out of Your Business Partnerships


When women in Paris met at salons for discussion in the 18th century, they had almost no power and most often little control over money or business. So much has changed since then, with recent voting day marking a new turning point in political representation. Still, at Serendipity 2018, a conference for Bay Area business women modeled on salon discussions, I looked around the room aware that these were people who needed to fight tooth and claw for their success, because they were handed nothing.

About halfway through an inspiring talk called “Build Something – Go To Market,” which touched on best practices like knowing your market and how having a product that is done is better than one that is perfect, a panelist stressed that partnership marketing is the most valuable marketing strategy you can use. It got me thinking about how partnerships actually have value far beyond marketing. It’s true that partnerships open a company up to a whole new audience: exposure can be good for all parties involved. However, I noticed a theme to the comments coming from around the room. Partners not only get your product out to more people—they make your company better by creating pathways for discovery, growth, and sharing knowledge.

  1. Critique: Once you’ve connected – at a conference, through networking, through cold emails, however it happened – you and your partner use and test each other’s products or services. Successful teams, like Uber and Spotify’s “Soundtrack your Ride” partnership, are made better by each company giving feedback on how they would improve the other’s product. For example, how might Spotify’s user experience be more powerful for someone who is looking for the right soundtrack to jam to in their Uber at the end of a long day? When Future State worked with Workplace by Facebook on United Way’s adoption of the platform, we took feedback on messaging based on what worked for Workplace in the past and built it into the communication maps we build for our internal communications clients.
  2. Share industry knowledge: Whether you sell in the same industry or not, sharing knowledge helps you reach more customers. In the salon, Grace Kraaijvanger, founder of The Hivery, talked about the value of collaborating on projects and sharing information so everyone is more successful. There are different best practices for selling in different markets, from what demographics you need to hit to what lingo to use. Playing with how these best practices can be applied in different industries is the type of innovation that boosts a business from good to extraordinary. Working with Workplace by Facebook, we bridged the gap between SaaS technology and services. With years of experience introducing new tools and processes to companies, Future State is able to take the reins and drive adoption, with help from Workplace on use cases for their product.
  3. Reinforce your brand: At Serendipity, we talked about how you need to be constantly refining your product and your brand—and more exposure means more feedback means more opportunity to refine. Your brand will be impacted by any partnership you enter into, so make sure it’s a good one. Take stock. What is your brand missing? What are you known for? Ask questions. What do your customers say about you? What do people you want to be your customers know about you? Can you make a partnership with a company that sells to those people?
  4. Reinforce your values: This is especially dear to our hearts as a B Corp and a women-run business. At Future State, we look for partnerships with companies that share our core value of being human-centered, look for tools that help people work together and connect as people and seek out companies that put an emphasis on giving back to their communities. I also attended a salon on social responsibility in business. We talked about picking something you care about to devote a portion of your business development time to. At Future State, it’s always a good day when we volunteer together on something that makes our community better, like keeping our Lake Merritt clean, which we are lucky to have in the view out our window.

Beyond branding, the best partnerships keep your passions at the center of your work and can lead to exciting collaborations, like helping a non-profit become more productive by allowing its employees to share ideas with each other even across the globe.

We’re passionate about change. Change brings new ideas and opportunities, no matter what form it comes in. We saw this at United Way, where people from opposite sides of the globe joined the same Workplace groups and grew their awareness of the progress being made across their organization. We see this with all of our clients when we get buy-in on tools or processes that were foreign at the start of an adoption project. One thing we have seen more examples of with each client and partner we work with, is that change cannot be prescriptive—it needs to be dependent on and adapted to the people it affects. Working together, we make great things happen when we embrace change.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our ability to create change.