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A leg up: Three tips for marketers looking to build relationships with startups

Date posted: 13 May 2015   |   Posted in: Blog

With brands and agencies increasingly working with startups, Karmarama’s managing partner for innovation Lawrence Weber offers his thoughts on making these relationships deeper and more fruitful.

Startups are everywhere in the marketing world. Big brands are formalising ways of working with them; agencies are meeting, advising and even incubating them; our trade bodies are embracing them and with the news that Unilever Foundry and Cannes have joined forces to bring 50 of them to La Croisette this summer, it seems our most celebrated industry gathering has too.

What’s interesting about this new(ish) relationship though, is that it’s often started from a point of assumed weakness. Brands hope startups will help them speed up their own search for innovation, agencies hope they will help with the never ending search for the next big thing.

The win for startups is often articulated as access to budgets, audiences and influence, all of which can help a startup scale and keep early backers happy into the next round of funding.

Although there is nothing wrong with these benefits – and the awareness that startups are the more fragile partners is a good thing – I think we’re selling ourselves short. We should be proud of the transformative power of creativity, our ability as an industry to position and articulate new products and our ability to get things done.

So if you are thinking of working with startups, or already do, there are three things you could do to make that relationship deeper and more fruitful:

1. Treat them like a production partner, not a rival
Agencies sometimes feel that startups are a threat. They’re 100 per cent not. Even those offering a packaged marketing mechanic or a way to reach or gather a new audience need a strategy and creative idea to make their solution work. Often they can’t or don’t want to manage a direct client relationship. The only threat they pose is if another agency finds a way to work with them before you do.

2. Explain how the creative process works
The biggest frustration for startups is the speed of client and agency decision making. They often don’t understand that they might be a key part of just one of three creative routes or media partnerships on the table. Or that creatives and clients change their mind based on gut feel rather than science. That’s the nature of our business. So lets help startups understand that. The biggest frustration for startups is the speed of client and agency decision making. They often don’t understand that they might be a key part of just one of three creative routes or media partnerships on the table. Or that creatives and clients change their mind based on gut feel rather than science. That’s the nature of our business. So lets help startups understand that.

3. Help them be better brands
Here’s where we can be altruistic. Once a month take a few hours of out of your working day and meet a startup. Listen to them describe their business and the challenges they have articulating it to clients and consumers. Help them articulate it better and maybe introduce them to some people that can help them too.

By being confident about what we can offer, beyond budgets and PR, we can make the marketing community’s contribution to startups a long lasting one.


Source: Drum

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