Building External Partnerships with a Density Strategy Approach
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
A key goal of retail RDN programs and services is to attract new shoppers to your retail stores. External partnerships can be an effective way to attract new customers as well as strengthen the loyalty of current customers. A density strategy is one approach you can take to identify the most beneficial external partnerships.
Defining a Density Strategy
The goal of the density strategy is to leverage partnerships that can have the most impact on your market area. If you’re a corporate retail dietitian at a company with 125 stores, your market area is much different than if you are a regional dietitian covering multiple stores in a major metro area or a store dietitian operating in one city, town or community. The density strategy can be effective in any of these situations. The point is to surround your location with partnerships that can have the greatest impact on your health and wellness initiatives and company’s business.
Building a Density Strategy
The first step in building a density strategy is gathering information on the community, much of which can be found on city and state websites. Consider the average age of the community, number of households with children, highest disease prevalence, home ownership, commute times, and other factors that may be relevant about the target market.
This information gives insight into potential types of organizations you might partner with to benefit your retailer’s business and the health of your community. Once you’ve captured some of these key insights, consider whether this data aligns with the goals of your retail company. Your market may have a high percentage of singles aged 25-34, but your company’s health and wellness goals may be targeted at Baby Boomers. In this scenario, you’ll need to reconcile the goals.
In the next step of developing a density strategy, consider methods to reach this demographic group. For example, if people in your target market have long commute times, local radio stations could be a logical partner. Or for our younger singles, fitness clubs could be a potential partner based on behaviors of this age group.
Once you’ve identified categories of potential partners, research the local area to identify specific companies in these industries. In our example above, which radio stations own the drive time radio market? Which gyms, fitness and wellness centers are most often visited by your young singles group? Once you’ve identified the individual companies, you’ll need to research them to identify which are reaching your target audience and who appears to have goals aligned with your retailer.
After identifying all the potential partners, evaluate and prioritize them. The benefit of doing this research upfront is that it can help you build a multi-year strategy to leverage partnerships. When evaluating the potential companies, consider these five factors:
- Does the potential partner have an established relationship with your retailer? If yes, identify who internally manages this partnership and seek to understand the scope of the partnership. Retailers are a key part of the community and have relationships with other businesses and entities. An established relationship will open the doors more readily to discuss partnering on your health and wellness initiatives.
- What are the potential partner’s goals and how do they align with your goals? Credibility is an important consideration. Partnering with health care facilities can lend credibility to your programs and services. At the same time, an organization that is not well-respected may negatively impact the credibility you have worked hard to establish in your programs.
- Often times, the idea is to go after the biggest, the best, the most well-known. But sometimes, a #2 company that is looking to get to #1 might be a better option as they are looking to move their business forward in a positive direction.
- When vetting potential partners, factor in both the number of consumers they reach as well as the percentage of these consumers that are in your target audience.
- Every company has internal politics and hoops that must be jumped through in order to get things done. Companies may have a reputation of actionability or the opposite, and finding this out ahead of time, can save you time and energy later in the process.
After conducting research and fully evaluating each potential partnership opportunity, there may be some organizations and/or companies which you choose to eliminate from consideration.
This density strategy approach will lead to a strong list of companies with potential for meaningful partnerships to meet the company’s health and wellness goals. A powerful element of the density strategy approach is that in the process you develop a comprehensive list that you can use over the next several years.