4 tips for the best brand partnerships

Invoicing, Purchase Orders and Credit Card Payments interior design

Brand partnerships can be a great way to reach new customers, build your reputation, offer additional value to your customers and some can even save or make you money.

You may be thinking I just run a small interior design business, I’m not a brand. But you’d be wrong (sorry to break it you). Your company’s name, logo, slogan, location, prices, reputation, etc. are all a part of your brand.

What are some examples of these partnerships in real life in our industry? Glad you asked! There are many different types of partnerships but here are a few you may already be familiar with:

Example 1: A home stager partners with a real estate agent to give each other referrals.

Example 2: A designer who partners with or becomes an affiliate of their favourite vendors to use their products and in exchange receives discounts or some sort of other compensation.

Example 3: A decorator partners with a local retailer to run a giveaway of one of their products. The decorator receives a gift card or a free product to giveaway to their followers and the retailer gets exposure to these followers.
So you’re thinking of working with a partner and wondering if it’s a good idea? My quick answer: absolutely! Now here are some tips to help you choose the right partner(s) for your business and make the whole process as smooth as possible.

1. The partnership should be mutually beneficial
All participants in the arrangement must benefit and those benefits should be of similar value. If your business is benefiting substantially more, your partner will likely not put much effort into making the partnership work. They may also grow to resent you which can lead to distrust. Roles reversed, if your business is benefiting less than your partner, you are being taken advantage of and it may be time to renegotiate terms.

Some partnerships may require only a very passive involvement which means the payoff for both parties for the effort can be great, but the next serious thing to consider then is to…

2. Choose a partner that aligns with your brand
When your clients see the partnerships you have in place, it should make sense to them. If you’re helping to promote your partner using your own assets and the fit doesn’t make sense you come off as phony.
Nobody thinks twice when your dentist gives you free toothbrushes and sample sized toothpaste but if instead your dentist gave out coupons for candy at the end of your cleaning, you’d feel like they weren’t looking out for your best interest. Colgate makes sense as a partner for your dentist, Cadbury doesn’t.

Keep this is mind and choose partners whose product/services could genuinely provide benefits to your followers, customers, clients etc.

3. Your partner should be trustworthy
Reputation can take years to build up but can be torn down in mere seconds. If you can’t trust your brand partner, how can you expect your clients to. Do some research into your potential brand partner and speak to other partners of them if you can.

A trustworthy partner could be a great asset. If you endorse a product that dramatically improves your clients’ lives they will look to you as a person who gives solid advice and makes their life better. They will trust you. They won’t care about you benefiting from endorsing the product as long as the product is actually great and your recommendation is coming from a genuine place.

No matter who you partner with there’s always going to be at least a small risk, because you can’t control the actions of others. In addition to the points above, a contingency plan is necessary, which brings me to my final note.

4. Protect yourself with an agreement
It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you should definitely have an agreement in place for any partners you work with. I would be wary of anyone who refuses to have some sort of formal agreement in place, especially if money is going to be changing hands.
Full disclosure, I am not a lawyer or legal professional of any kind. I’ve only taken one post-secondary business law class. However, I have worked with these types of agreements in the past and some things that tend to be included in these agreements are:

  • dates that the agreement will be effective for
  • clauses that allow either party to terminate the agreement in special cases
  • when and how any funds will be paid out if applicable
  • how and where your assets (e.g. logo, brand name) can and can’t be used

Make sure you have all the information you need in writing before working with a partner, it will help to protect both of you and help to manage expectations.

​*One more thing, you should definitely disclose if you are going to be receiving compensation in exchange for your endorsement it makes you look bad if you don’t and they find out later and depending on where you live it is likely a legal requirement.

Sound off in the comments: are any of you currently working with brand partners, participate in affiliate programs, etc? What do you look for in a partner?