Anna Neri Datri is the Vice President of Marketing for Innovative Food Brands, a company that owns and oversees restaurants Teriyaki Experience and Chopped Leaf, and is dedicated to rolling out healthy food choices within the fast food industry. Neri Datri is deeply rooted in retail marketing having held senior roles with leading retail brands including LCBO, Indigo, Second Cup, and her own retail consultancy firm Datri Design Group.

Below is Part Two of our conversation with Neri Datri about strategic partnerships and what important factors are contained within them.

How do strategic partnerships differ in your opinion from traditional sponsorships?
I think the biggest difference is that strategic partnerships are active. Smart people are coming together and working hard to see how they can each benefit their customer. With traditional sponsorship, there’s a contract that is followed and it’s very technical, but less active. Strategic partnerships are live, require very out-of-the-box thinking and are always mutually beneficial.

What are your key considerations when selecting a strategic partner?
The biggest thing is the reputation of a business. Not just who they are, but who they are to their customers. What are they doing other than just making money? Are they a brand you’d want to be associated with? Are they growing? Are they growing at a similar pace as you? You definitely do not want to partner with a brand that is stagnant in its growth.

Another consideration is the similarity between brands. At The Chopped Leaf, one of the values we aim for is to be deeply rooted in the communities we enter. We’d be off synergy with a brand like Starbucks who aims to be situated on the corner of every major intersection. With UP Express, we strove to be culturally relevant to the community, and partnered with brands that made sense to help us achieve that goal.

How do you ensure a partnership is successful over the long term?
The critical thing with a strategic partnership is, right out of the gate, to be open minded to what can be versus what has been done before. To be able to be successful, both partners need to be open to the unknown, and able to find opportunities that are mutually beneficial to the brands and to their customers.

There needs to be some level of trust between partners in order to share future plans of where a brand is headed. Some companies are protective of this type of information, but you have to build that relationship to the point of open communication and trust.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about strategic partnerships base on your personal experience working in this realm?
In my experience with UP Express and with The Chopped Leaf, it’s so important to have a third party that is neutral to the process to help people see what’s out there. Having that neutral person that understands both sides and can act as a mediator is key in bridging these opportunities, especially in the beginning stages of a partnership. Once communication has opened up it’s not as critical, but starting with that third party really promotes understanding and opens new opportunities.

With a background as extensive as Neri Datri’s, it’s no doubt these strategies are tried and true.