Three Things Your Startup Needs to Know Before Pitching To Brands

March 13th, 2015

Visual marketing and engagement platform Chute is somewhat of a darling in the realm of brand and startup partnerships, working with over 100 top brands including Nike, Taco Bell, REI, The New York Times, Capital One, Vanity Fair, NBC and Red Bull.

But it’s no easy feat to work with brands.

“Brands are unique in that their size and scale are hard to completely understand and they can remain a mystery from the outside, hence you need to understand the full ecosystem to succeed — which usually means finding ways to peer inside sooner than later,” Chute co-founder and CTO Gregarious Narain (pictured above on left) tells KITE.

Here are the three most important things, according to Narain, startups need to know before pitching to brands:

  1. Know their business
    Not all brands are created equal. It might be simple to make the assumption that all retailers are the same, but in reality there are thousands of differences at play at any time and generally many fundamental ones that keep them distinct. For example, some brands have strong a retail presence which they own and operate while others work completely through channels. Understanding how their business operates and where you fit into that ecosystem is critical to seeming informed and, ultimately, to be taken seriously.
  2. Know the buyer
    Brands don’t make decisions the ways startups do – they’re too large and often have too much at stake to be anything be deliberate. There is almost always a separation between the buyer, the responsible party, and the operator. It can be quite easy to confuse the person most willing to speak with you as the buyer, leading to lots of spun cycles on your way to the bigger relationship. One of the most important factors here is understanding where the budget to fund your startup would come from and the KPIs most associated with that part of the organization.
  3. Prepare to Pilot
    More often than not, it’s a game of hurry up and wait. Most brands need time to consider the way your business fits into their business and their options when it comes to your specific solution. It’s all too common that you may need to be prepared to open up your system to an internal, even potentially public facing pilot so that you can be properly evaluated in a real-world scenario. This, unfortunately, isn’t what we’re usually hoping for and often is not as simple as granting access but might require customization, even extension, to make it possible under their terms and conditions.
Final takeaway: “All in all, it takes patience and perseverance to ultimately succeed, and even then it’s not guaranteed. Hold tight, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!”

Be sure to check out How to Successfully Work with Brand Innovators at SXSW for more insights from Narain, executives from PepsiCo and The Walt Disney Company, and KITE CMO Tarah Feinberg on Monday, March 17 in the Startup Village.