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How to bag big client partnerships

Corporate partnerships can fuel startup growth, providing revenue and expertise. So, how do you go about finding a corporate client?

By Anisah Osman Britton

Wilfrid Obeng is the cofounder of Audiomob — a platform that creates in-game audio ads for brands. It’s currently the talk of the gaming town, having closed a partnership deal with Socialpoint, a game development studio acquired by Grand Theft Auto creators Take Two. So who better to chat to about how to land corporate partnerships?

Wilfrid explained that in the early days of building partnerships, you need to focus on  helping bigger companies understand why they should work with your company, specifically, rather than build it themselves. Your role is to make it a no brainer: 

Start with smaller clients who love your product.

We started really small with games that no-one’s heard of — those with between 100-1000 daily active users. They are the type of client who is willing to take a risk to improve their own product offering — they tend to be loyal fans who will spend time integrating, providing feedback and are forgiving when things don’t go as planned. Get on a call with each of these smaller clients and ask, “What kind of features would you need?”, “What is missing?” and “What kind of bugs are you seeing?” We spent 18 months working closely with small studios to iron out our problems before approaching bigger companies which don’t have the patience to work with a growing company. 

Create case studies.

In the early days, you don’t have big corporate logos on your website to prove you’re worth working with. So you want to use your first clients as leverage for bigger partnerships — and create case studies out of those relationships — this is your validation. Make a case study a part of your initial agreement with a client: explain how case studies will be shared in pitches with future clients,  agree what data you will be able to collect and share, and get them to agree in principle to writing a recommendation if they’re happy with the work. 

Lean on research and data to win over clients.

Show potential clients why they need to be tackling this now. Is this already a trend or set to be one in the future? Are you helping the client get ahead of the game? We use focus groups and YouGov surveys to back up what we’re saying. We get sentiment analysis in our focus groups on audio advertising versus video advertising, and we also analyse people playing games with both types of advertising. To further make the point, we look to market trends to see what the big players are doing. For example, we want to show that a free to play model is preferred by audiences so we point to Netflix who are considering a free tier.  

Find companies worth pursuing.

Don’t waste your time on your dream client if they’re not showing any inclination to spend in the space. During the pandemic we knew we weren’t going to get any travel company clients but we noticed the music industry was thriving due to increased streaming at home. We then researched different labels and looked for ones with an active research and development arm — a sign they would spend. 

Find your key stakeholder.

Going directly to the top isn’t always the answer. That person may not have the knowledge or interest, or worse, you may have stepped over someone who is now going to block everything forever —  corporate hierarchy is real and it’s important to abide by it so a stakeholder doesn’t feel undermined. When we’re not stalking on LinkedIn, we ask for warm intros. The other way to get in is networking at conferences and events. Our final method is strategic partnerships with agencies and other partners who leverage their networks for us. 

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. Sign up here.

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