Should I contain my excitement?  Today’s meeting was OFF THE HOOK!  Honestly, it couldn’t have gone better if we had scripted every minute of it.  From my team’s interaction, to the fun back and forth with the nonprofit team, to their comments, everything was perfect.

So what did I learn from this?  A few important things:

1. Transparency really is key.
As we predicted, emphasizing transparency was really important.  As it turns out, they are huge proponents of transparency as well and even bragged that previous corporate partners had called them the most transparent organization they’d worked with.  They told us, “so much of cause marketing is smoke and mirrors, and it’s so important to be ahead of all that, and we see that’s important to you, too.”  BAM!

2. It pays to be detailed.
I don’t want to be immodest, but our presentation rocked.  We filled it with real facts, real analysis, and a real statement of how we’d manage the partnership.  What was the response?  “Normally as a rule we’d shy away from startups, but we can tell you guys are really serious and have a great business and a great team.” BAM!

3. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn.
We know a lot about these guys, but it’s all third-hand analysis.  We’ve barely talked to them.  Well, now we’ve spent an hour and we know A TON more. In just a few moments, we learned about some of their other partners, their long-term aspirations, what’s important to them, how they choose new partners, and what their timeline is for the next 3-6 months.  That’s all information we can use to build our relationship, establish impactful campaigns, and drive more value for both organizations.

4. Stick to your guns.
In the Q&A section, only one question really made us pause: “Will you offer us exclusivity, or will there be other partners?” Crickets.  All on the phone and with no face to face cues, it was impossible to know what each of my partners thought was the right answer.  Then my partner says, “Ian…?” To which I said, “Well, we’ve considered that, but the answer is no.  We expect to take on more partners as we grow and we won’t offer exclusivity.  That said, keep in mind that each new partner will be strategic and will add value to the brand, with the overall goal of increasing sales.  So we will add partners only when there’s an opportunity to really grow the pie, so that each organization’s share is really improved as a result, even as a smaller percentage.”  No opposition at all… a perfectly acceptable answer and they were happy with the honesty.

5. Add value, all the time
We are not running a cause marketing campaign.  We are not running a cause-related contest.  We are building a cause-related brand with giving and advocacy at its core.  We want to build real, long-term relationships with our partners that will develop friendship and trust.  We want them to know we’re sensitive to their challenges, their resource constraints, the demands on their time, and we want to work with them to find innovative solutions to all our needs.  They couldn’t have been happier to hear it, and seemed perfectly pleased to hear a company talk about mutual benefit.

6. Remember, it’s just the beginning.
We haven’t signed anything yet.  They still need approval from the top.  Further challenges will come.  We need to stay focused, stay responsive, and continue to knock their socks off even as we move on to meet the countless other tasks, meaningless and meaningful, that we need to perform to launch this product.  Only in our actions will we build the trust we seek.


One Response to Lessons from Today's Meeting

  1. Noland Hoshino says:

    Congratulations Ian! It sounds like your meeting was a success. Good for you. Now I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you, your company and the partnership.

    Obviously you’ve done your homework and learned a lot from the Cause Marketing Forum and the connections you’ve made at the conference.

    Nonprofits have a greater to lose than for-profit companies when partnering with start-ups because “trust” is the heartbeat of the organization. Without trust, both internally and externally, a nonprofit organization will never succeed; which leads to transparency. Being open, honest, and laying all the cards on the table from the beginning (nonprofit and your company) builds trust and a solid partnership.

    You must of really impressed them because there are risks. Without having the product on the market, your cause-brand model is what sold them on the partnership (which makes me more curious to hear your model). That speaks volumes about your creativity, ingenuity and passion to help others.

    Congratulations again. I’m looking forward to your product launch.

    If you need help, let me know. You know where to find me…in Twitter World :)


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