Partnering for Profit

Rocky Mountaineer | BCBusiness
Rocky Mountaineer has the space; Four Seasons brings the event management know-how.

If business is war, who are your allies?

According to an African proverb, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s surprisingly apt in business, where it’s as important to know your potential allies as it is your competition.

No one knows this better than tourism operators. In May of this year, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations Ltd. named Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver as the event manager and preferred caterer for its event space, the Rocky Mountaineer Station. It’s a strategic move that allows Rocky Mountaineer to outsource its peripheral business of event management and capitalize on the cachet of the Four Seasons brand.

While Rocky Mountaineer already has a relationship with Four Seasons through its vacation-package program, all business alliances require careful managing of expectations, says Kathleen Manuel, Rocky Mountaineer’s executive director of procurement and product. “It’s important to mutually agree on what success looks like for both parties, to set out defined targets at particular milestones so you can easily measure success,” she says.

When choosing a potential partner, look for a similar consumer profile, advises Mark Deans, CEO of Deserving Thyme Inc., a Vancouver-based provider of skin care and aromatherapy wellness products. While long-haul flights and scented lotion might not seem an obvious match, Deserving Thyme enjoyed profitable partnerships, first with Canadian Airlines and then Air Canada, between 1999 and 2009 as part of the airlines’ on-board amenity programs. Every Executive First passenger flying overseas received a complimentary amenity kit, which Deserving Thyme supplied with a rotating selection of its products and a discount code for purchases from its online store. The partnership both raised the profile of the brand and drove web sales, says Deans, “and it’s a great way to sample product to a very focused and highly appropriate consumer base.” Deserving Thyme currently has two bids with two other airlines.

Partnerships to Profit From

Partnering with a business to get free stuff for your customers
Partnering with a well-known brand to leverage its name
Partnering with a company to get your products in front of its customers

On the other hand, it was also a value-add for the airlines, so adding value to the service you’re providing to your current customer base is key to both retention and growth, as Chris Iuvancigh, location manager for car2go Canada Ltd., well knows. “The key is to find out exactly what your customers want and, if you’re not able to provide it, find someone who is—and who does it really well.”

This summer, as part of a larger contest promotion, the car-share service partnered with 10 restaurants to offer Ride2Dine, in which car2go members received exclusive deals at a different Vancouver eatery each week. Car2go approached select restaurants throughout the city—“ones we knew would serve our membership well”—and negotiated individual agreements varying in the extent of cross-promotion from the restaurant and financial subsidies from car2go.

As a relative newcomer to Vancouver (since June 2010), car2go’s primary goal is to increase brand awareness and the perceived value of membership. Given that car2go members aren’t required to take a car2go to the restaurant to get the deal, Ride2Dine is primarily a long-term marketing investment. Five weeks into the promotion, Iuvancigh was pleased with the midterm results, citing the participation of an estimated 400 to 500 members and nothing but positive reviews. “We’re promoting the restaurant to 30,000 of our members, they’re choosing the night that works best for them and our members get an interesting and rewarding dining experience at a reduced rate,” says Iuvancigh. “It’s win-win-win all the way around.”