Pitching to big business: Securing your spot as a ‘partner of choice’

In today’s world, successful R&D needs to be flexible, agile and open to partnership - i.e. bringing the outside in.

"It is in the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Large companies have typically always focused on internal research and development (R&D), building substantial teams who are experts at developing products to meet consumer needs. But in today’s world, successful R&D needs to be flexible, agile and open to partnership - i.e. bringing the outside in. 

For start-ups and small businesses, it’s a hugely exciting time. Big established businesses are actively looking for innovative partners to help grow and expand, and often have a dedicated team with the requisite resources and experience to do this. It’s a huge step-change from the previous internalisation where you had to knock on door after door to secure a meeting that eventually led to nothing. 

At RB outside (open) innovation is part of our DNA. It’s something we’ve always done. Many of our biggest blockbuster innovations such as our Mucinex Fast Max product or the Scholl/Amope Express Pedi have been enabled by partnerships. However, we continually need to change and adapt if we want to keep attracting and collaborating with companies that will help us deliver our purpose of healthier lives and happier homes. 

We’re very clear on what we’re looking for. We want to connect with unexpected partners who will challenge us, disrupt our brands/categories and open our eyes to new ideas that will define and drive the future of our business. For us it’s about building our global partnership ecosystem. Creating win–win partnerships with exciting innovators who share our values and want to co-create solutions to drive a better, different tomorrow for our consumers.  To start this, we’re teaming up with Indiegogo to discover and potentially partner with an exciting health, home or hygiene product and explore how we can bring it to life globally.

However as with any company of our size, we do have a ‘partner of choice’ wish list – an overview of the types of businesses, organisations and partners we want to connect with. Those who are changing the game with disruptive innovation, creative thinking and new ways of working.  Sometimes we are unaware of these potential partners, in many cases they come to us but when we are looking, we know what we are looking for.

So if you’re a start up or a small to medium enterprise, how do you ensure that you are attractive to big business? If you make it through the shortlist from the Indiegogo challenge, what is it that puts you on that ‘Partner of Choice’ wish list when pitching yourself?  

Here are 10 principles for success:

1. Strategic fit is crucial – do your homework!

One size doesn’t fit all. Rather than blanket pitching to a group of companies that you think are similar, you need to really do your homework to make sure you are the right fit. Do you understand the company culture, brands and approach to partnering?

2. Be clear on what you want from a partner

No one knows your business like you do so you should be very clear on what it is that a big business can offer you and what it is that you actually want. Think about your vision and value proposition.

3. Be clear on what you have to offer

Also be clear on what you have to offer in return.  This is imperative in forming a true partnership going forward – the minute the interest wains is the minute it becomes purely transactional and unlikely to be sustainable.

4. Put the consumer first

We are a consumer led organisation. All of our brands and products are based on consumer insight and we invest heavily in consumer research to ensure we are creating products that meet a real consumer need. 

When pitching your business, be clear on what is your USP and differentiator. Ensure that you can really translate the technology/technical benefit into consumer benefits and validate with consumers as much as possible. The stronger your consumer insight, the better your pitch.

5. Be honest about the commercial opportunity

This is where you tell the story about the scope and scale of the problem you are solving. You need to showcase the ideal customer/consumer and how many of them there are. What is the total market size and how do you position your company within the market? Big companies are interested in big commercial opportunities, so show them how you can help them tap into one.

6. Think globally

And I don’t mean think about money rolling in from all over the world! Consider the challenges that come from operating globally as most big businesses do. For example, be prepared for and show you’ve thought about scale-up challenges such as multi-country regulations, manufacturing, consumer research etc.

7. Understand the competitive landscape

Don’t be naive. The key here is explaining how you are different than the other players on the market and why customers will choose you instead of one of them. Show that you understand the competition.

8. Know the numbers 

Do you really understand the costs? Are projections accurate? Be honest about the figures as any corporate partner will need these to really understand the commercial viability, and time is wasted when the figures become the topic of debate.

9. Sell your company, not just your product

Tell us who your team are and why your team are the right people to build and grow this company? Sell yourself - showcase what experience you have that others don’t. Highlight the key team members, their successes in business, and the key expertise that they bring to the table. We buy as much into people as we do companies.

10. Finally, keep the pitch short and impactful

This should be a given, but we are often surprised (in the wrong way!). Use demos, videos and other creative ways of sharing the key messages – make an impact.  Think elevator pitch and tell your story. 

If you have a game changing product you’d like to get in front of the Innovation Team at RB, submit here by February 28th. 

Dr. Phil Bolton, Director Outside Innovation at RB
Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil joined RB in 2006 and has worked across a number of Innovation and Category R&D roles in the UK, Italy, Singapore and the US. He currently leads the global Outside Innovation team and has responsibility for delivering new and innovative solutions to the company’s category pipelines.