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Unprepared Ep 60 - Scaling Brands Through Partnerships with Conner Sherline

Timestamps

  • [00:00] - Sponsor: Rewind
  • [00:40] - Intro
  • [01:20] - What are partnerships?
  • [02:48] - Agency perspective on partnerships
  • [04:05] - How to start a partnership?
  • [05:20] - What's holding brands back?
  • [06:55] - How co-op commerce make things easier?
  • [08:19] - How brands connect with each other
  • [10:05] - Working with a brand outside co-op commerce
  • [10:29] - Where to find Conner

Resources

Key Points

  • Brands are looking for new meaningful ways to drive acquisition and partnerships is one way to do that. 
  • Brands that fall into a non-scalable bucket are also starting to look into partnerships for more cost-effective growth. 
  • There are different types of partnerships. There are heavyweight partnerships or co-branded. It's a full collaboration and one example of this is product collaboration.
  • Lightweight partnerships on the other hand can be sharing data, collective ways to go after customers, email swaps and such. 
  • Customers of agencies rarely bring up partnerships and it's not a streamlined solution.
  • There are so many layers of forging a partnership so people stay away from it and keep buying Facebook ads.
  • Think about your customers first when you want to forge a partnership with another brand.
  • This helps figure out a partner brand that has a complementary product or something that's non-competitive with your brand with really similar customers. 
  • Co-op commerce brings brand together in their platform to help them look for other brands they can work with, who they don't want to work with, and the category of their brands. 
  • Eventually, they are planning to own the end to end the partnership process, provide tools to do lightweight and heavyweight partnerships, and other new tools. 

Transcript

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Chase Clymer  

Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Unprepared. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. Today, welcome into the show, Connor from co-op commerce. How are you doing today?

Conner Sherline  

Doing great. To sunny day here in Mill Valley, enjoying the nice weather.

Chase Clymer  

Iit is the complete opposite in that in my hellscape that is frozen Columbus, Ohio. That's my fault for living in the Midwest. 

So today we're gonna talk about scaling brands through partnerships. Connor's got a lot of insights there from his work with co-op commerce. 

But before we get into what they do there, let's just talk about some of the avenues and adventures brands are going on these days with partnerships and why it is an avenue I should be thinking about from a founder perspective, especially with the rise of costs through Facebook and all that stuff. So without further ado, I'll hand it over to you.

Conner Sherline  

Yeah, totally. So as everyone that works in this industry knows, costs are through the roof on Facebook and Instagram, and all brands are looking for new meaningful ways to drive acquisition. And partnerships have always been something that brands do. And there's always a huge degree of different types of partnerships. 

There's really heavyweight partnerships, like, where you are doing a full-on collaboration, like a product collaboration, something that's really involved a product drop that's together, like the co-branded type of thing. 

And then there are more lightweight types of partnerships like sharing data or figuring out a way to collectively go after a customer or doing email swaps and things of that sort. 

And I would say all of those things are starting to become something that founders and folks that fall into the not scalable bucket are starting to do more of just because they're looking for that growth from a more cost-efficient perspective as I would say. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, from our end on the agency end of things, this is something that I see is very rare for our clients to bring up to us that they're actually going after these sort of partnerships, and thinking outside the box. 'Cause you know, it's a little outside of the box and there isn't a streamlined solution and it doesn't have the sexiness, I guess as Facebook and Instagram ads.

Conner Sherline  

(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, I think that's true. I think there are also so many layers to it. Like, if you think about how do you forge a partnership. First stop, who? How do you predict whether or not this partner is going to be a good partner for you? How do you know if it's gonna if the juice is gonna be worth the squeeze? What do you do? Where do you do it? How do you do it? What's the payout mechanism look like? Is there a payout...what are the legal terms? 

There's so much that goes into it that sometimes people are like, "Ah, you haven't done it before?" You're like, "Okay, I'm gonna stay away from this. You know, I'll just keep buying Facebook ads, it's easier for me to just sit at my computer and program stuff." (Laughs)

Chase Clymer  

Yes, but you know that isn't necessarily the best idea. And partnerships are still a great growth opportunity for brands. So I guess, what is, you know if I have never done a partnership before, and it's something I should look at and it seems appealing and something I want to look forward to doing in 2021? 

What's a good first step or a good initial partnership for an Ecommerce brand? You know, what's it kind of look like?

Conner Sherline  

Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing that I would think a lot about is just your own customers, right? Who are your customers and what do they look like? 

And then using your best guess, or eventually, my company will offer a tool for this, but we don't have to get to that yet. You can basically figure out who to partner with, right. 

So it's like, okay, I sell men's razor. My target market is male in this age range. Like there are five other brands that may be selling complementary products that are non-competitive with mine, maybe I should reach out to them because we definitely haven't, you know, we're both just getting started or at a mid-size. And we definitely don't have this insane crossover yet, but we have a really similar customer. 

So in those cases, that's like a very complementary type of partnership that where both of your lists or both of your customers are likely to not be a huge amount of crossover. And there's a lot of new acquisition, that new awareness that can be driven just by doing something together.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I mean, you make it sound so easy. So what's holding people back from doing this more often, you know?

Conner Sherline  

I mean, it's funny, because it's the same exact thing as the marketing funnel, right? It starts with discovery then you do it to consideration, then you actually convert. And it's the same thing with partnerships. 

The first step is discovery. Who are the people that I could even partner with? And that in and of itself, you don't have like a huge Rolodex of friends that are also working in Ecommerce can be a huge challenge. 

I don't know, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of brands, how do I reach out to them? How do I get in contact with them? 

Then the next step, is this actually a good partner for me? In that consideration period, you do have to keep in mind whether or not this is a customer list that you feel like is likely to convert, whether or not that partner that is participating is willing to do something in the way that you're willing to do it, whether it be like over email or an Instagram giveaway. 

And then it's like the actual execution of the campaign. Getting the assets ready. Doing the exchange and whatnot. And every part of that process is challenging. It's not super easy today to do each one of those functions. But there are a lot of examples just in retail in general of really successful types of partnerships that have led to just incredible incremental sales.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So I mean, you mentioned this earlier but a lot of these tactics seem like it'd be a little bit hard to scale. 

Conner Sherline  

Yeah. 

Chase Clymer  

Now, I'm super curious about co-op commerce and the solutions that you have. What parts of this do you guys make easier?

Conner Sherline  

Yeah. So the first thing that we've done is we've brought together 400 brands that are willing to partner together. So we've got 400 brands on our platform now, ranging in size from sub $1 million dollar brands, all the way up to $50 million brands that have all opted into working together. 

And then the second thing that we've done is we've built this post-purchase widget that exists on the post-purchase page that you can let run and look at the analytics on. 

So it takes two minutes to get set up, you create an account, you give us your brand assets, you tell us who you want to work with, who you don't want to work with, what category your brand is in, your volume, all those things. And then you set the widget live. 

And our algorithm figures out of the brands that you've opted into work with like, which ones have the highest click-through rate, which ones have the highest conversion so that you can actually take that discussion to the next level. 

So right now, that's our ecosystem. That's where we live. But eventually, we look at that being really owning that partnership process end to end and provide you with the tools to be able to do things, lightweight and heavyweight.

Chase Clymer  

Gotcha. So if you know, I'm a merchant, and I install this widget on my store, you guys are gonna provide me with data and be like, "Hey, this brand here, Brand X is probably good." And then it's like an introduction. And then it's back to something that's a little more high touch that where the brands need to kind of figure it out themselves still? 

Conner Sherline  

Yeah, so we have a Slack community right now that all brands are part of them. We facilitate intros in that way. And then we give suggestions and things that we've seen work well in our community. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that's, you know, any sort of frameworks or guidance of best practices, obviously, is going to be so helpful for people.

Conner Sherline  

Yeah. And then we're also building in some new tools, like we're connecting to Facebook's business manager, then enabling audience exchanges for custom audiences that will all be automated through our platform. 

Eventually, we'll provide brands with the ability to actually sell each other's products through their own storefront. All based on data, the things that we know. So it takes out a lot of that mystery and takes out a lot of the risk of thinking the time in, and not necessarily seeing the results, because you're in the dark. Right?

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, absolutely. And it also...there's something to be said about having a third-party involved to make sure everyone's being honest. So there's that as well. And I think that's good.

Conner Sherline  

Yeah. I mean, that's the nicest part about our solution is like we can see a full customer list from brand A and full customers from brand B and tell the brands like that you have a high match rate without them literally passing that PII back and forth, right?

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. And then the one other thing I wanted to say is I think that you guys having a marketplace already helps brands that are nervous about outreach. If you don't want to do the outreach yourself to brands and like do the discovery yourself. You know, having a marketplace is pretty cool as well. 

What happens if I'm in your marketplace, but I want to work with a brand outside of your marketplace. How does that work out?

Conner Sherline  

You can invite them. So we've built an incentive model for brands that are part of co-op already. They can start to invite other brands. And we'll give them additional distribution across the network.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So if I am listening to this and I am intrigued by what you have to say, what do I do? Where do I go? What are my next steps?

Conner Sherline  

Yeah, so go to coopcommerce.com and you can apply to join the community of brands directly there. Or you can set up a time with us. We'd love to walk you all through the process.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thanks. I'll make sure to link to all that stuff in the show notes. Connor, thank you so much for coming on today.

Conner Sherline  

Yeah, thanks so much. Appreciate it, Chase.