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5 things startups need to do when trying to sign with big brands

When startups are looking to expand and sign with big brands, it can be a daunting task, so we ask someone who’s been there before to share her wisdom.

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Startups on the verge of growth need an extra push

Your idea has become a full-fledged company, and now it’s time to take the next big step and approach big brands to partner with. Whether you’ve created an app, a jewelry line, a pet product, or a new service, the etiquette for approaching and working with large brands is the same.

To learn more about this process, we reached out to Arry Yu, CEO and Co-Founder of GiftStarter (Emotiv Labs), who has spent the last 12 years immersed in business leadership roles growing new offices in the services world and in the world of startups. Yu is known for her passion for combining design, strategy and technology in new and novel ways and has a lot of experience building high functioning teams striving to make a difference with global impact. She has experience connecting with big brands and offers her advice below.

Taking on Goliath

“Working with major brands when starting out seems like a monumental task – especially considering that some of the larger brands are worth billions, have thousands of employees and processes, and millions of customers,” Yu notes. “It can be overwhelming. Often you have five minutes to make an impression that’ll give you a chance at a second meeting or not.”

To better navigate the first few sales in signing on major brands and partners, Yu shares her five tips below in her own words:

  1. Learn as much as possible. Tip around this is to work through your network if you can to get warm introductions to people who may be experts in the brand customer type you are targeting. If not, reaching out cold via LinkedIn or Twitter have worked the best with the task of finding time with an expert to help you learn about the top priorities and challenges for that particular business.
  2. Don’t sell. Listen. Ask questions. Add value. Learn and talk about their priorities + challenges. Don’t even talk about your solution or idea in the first 80% of the meeting if possible. The goal is to secure a second meeting.
  3. Build a relationship. Every interaction (and non-action counts). Be on time Respond in a timely manner. Do what you say you’re going to do. Build trust. Ask about how they got started, where they are from, where they are headed. Find non-business related topics to bond on.
  4. Be consistent Have your facial expressions, tone, words, and body language reinforce your intended verbal message, and this important to building up a reputation fast in 1 meeting. Make sure your brand and message are consistent all the way through.
  5. Give credit where it is due. Often your brand contact has both personal and company goals they are working on – know what these are, and do all that you can to support your contact opportunities to achieve those goals.

“Whether you’re working with one person or many people, business is about relationships,” Yu concludes.

So get out there, don’t let the size of a big brand intimidate you, and grow your business!


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