Business Development is a lot like Product Design
Business Development is a lot like product design. You might not know what you are going to build when you start, but if you have the right conversations, explore the right questions, and don't immediately rule anything out, an organic partnership will develop that outlasts any contract. In the same way, a good product comes to fruition.
During my time at .CO and Neustar I managed the business development of the .CO brand. This included over 70 partners that spanned the globe and industries. It was my job to work with Taco Bell, 500 Startups, The State Department and many more and find ways these companies could work with a domain and drive both businesses.
The foundation of each partnership was our .CO domain. Taco Bell - Ta.co. WeWork - We.co. Twitter - T.co. The list goes on. From there we worked on an endless of initiatives that would boost the sales of .CO domains, as well as help our partners be successful.
While the agreements are all confidential, the approach we took was the same every time. Talk with the company about their goals, what they want to accomplish, how they normally work with partners, and their upcoming plans for the year. Where they plan to activate their brand, new products they were launching, and the audiences they reach.
You can always tell who is going to be a good partner by one characteristic. Flexibility. When you get on the phone with someone looking to sell you levels of partnerships, run. Instead, seek partners that understand your business goals, and look for unique ways to work together.
In situations where the potential partner lacks the flexibility necessary for a beneficial partnership, it is helpful to have in-kind ways of partnering. For example, offer to promote their events on social media, include an offer for their product in an upcoming email to members, or provide their members with an offer of your own. This way you have opened the door to a future partnership and left the company with a positive impression of your company.
The magic of business development is sitting down with another company, neither side having a clue how the two are going to partner, and having a friendly conversation that brings to life all of the possibilities.