Take Your Seat at the Table:

Ensure that your brand doesn’t get swallowed up in your next partnership.

Image by Jieun Lee

Collaboration and unconventional partnerships between innovators and incumbents are rapidly becoming the engine that drives positive change across healthcare. And it’s happening everywhere you look.

Start-ups with breakthrough technologies are helping to deliver telemedicine on patient portals, truly meeting patients where they are. Oscar with health systems like Mount Carmel is extending its progressive approach to completely change people’s expectations for how they engage with their health insurance provider. An exciting dynamic for sure.

In reflecting on my conversations with a number of health innovators over the past year, I’m amazed at how many give away the store when it comes to their brands and how they “show up” in partnerships. For health innovators and start-ups, fighting for brand prominence, getting credit for your brand’s contributions and avoiding white-label status when partnering with a larger company or industry incumbent is an absolute must.

Sadly (and too often), brand discussions are the stale leftovers after a deal is struck, leaving value on the table and marketers to scramble. What a missed opportunity when the stakes are so high.

The problem? Lack of influence. If marketers had a voice in this process, they could ensure recognition of the company’s brand and boost the power and potential of any partnership. Marketers should be equipped to guide their leadership team with the criteria, tools, and metrics to support or refute the benefits of a proposed deal and how it will impact brand perceptions moving forward. This might sound intangible, but it’s essential.

So, what can a marketer do to get a seat at the partnership table and maximize the strategic value to their company? Follow these three steps:

1. Look in the mirror: you’re a B2B brand

Regardless of your product offering. Or technology. Or how “consumer-first” your company is. If you want to disrupt healthcare, you’ll need the right partners and to attract the best partners, you must consider and understand a broader group of audiences than ever before. So, like it or not, that makes you a B2B brand. And for our industry, the need goes a step beyond attracting business partners. Marketers must now treat critical gatekeepers such as payors, regulators and policymakers as key audiences for their brands.

This presents a huge opportunity for marketers. Become your company’s expert in what these gatekeepers are looking for. Take the necessary step of understanding these audiences, what they value and what makes them tick. Doing so will help to shape a more meaningful strategy for telling your story, and increase the unique value you bring to your executive team.

2. Build your playbook

One of the best things a marketer can do is to build a partnership playbook — an objective set of criteria to guide which relationships to pursue, how your brand will show up in partnerships and drive the right outcome.

For example, what gaps are hindering your company’s growth? How could another company help fill those gaps by complementing what you do well? How much control or influence will your leadership team have in driving the success of the overall partnership? How much of the specific value of the deal is driven by your brand’s technology? How strong are perceptions of your brand relative to your partners within a key category or audience?

Arming your executive team with specific decision factors and strategic guideposts will maximize the impact your brand can make. It will also give them the necessary criteria to identify circumstances where the best answer is to say no.

3. Focus on success

It sounds simple, but with limited resources it’s critical to focus efforts to drive impact. It’s one thing to come in with a strategic rationale for a partnership. It’s quite another when you can quantify the value or “lift” that your brand will deliver to other partners. More so than ever, there is a need to understand the KPIs that will indicate whether a partnership will be successful and to proactively demonstrate the incremental benefit that you offer to a collaborator.

So, ask the right questions to determine the factors by which success will be judged. Is your partner viewed as old-fashioned by a key audience, where an association with your brand will elevate its perceptions as an innovator? Is the deal largely about demand creation and as such, what proportion of incremental sales would come directly from your company?

Then, go out and get the data you need to show the benefit your brand provides against the most meaningful KPIs. Having hard metrics against the KPIs that matter provides a critical piece of ammunition for your executives to ensure greater financial value secured from a partner and the elevated prominence of your brand in the partnership pushing forward.

With tangible best practices and the right metrics in place, marketers have the ability to push past perceptions of fluff and serve as their company’s secret weapon in forging valuable partnerships, without losing brand awareness and recognition.

The table’s been set, don’t walk away from your seat.

About the Author | John Breen
John Breen is Executive Director, Health Strategy & Analytics at RedPeak Branding, where his boundless curiosity and customer-driven mindset help clients to innovate amidst disruption. With nearly 20 years in the industry, John leads RedPeak’s thinking and practice in the complex health & wellness space and is the primary architect of the agency’s POV on brand measurement overall.