Appearance over function: What can the Rialto Bridge teach us about partnerships?

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy                   (image source: destination360.c0m)

Venice’s best known bridge and its oldest, the Rialto Bridge, was completed in 1591. Not always the most architecturally admired by the experts because of its awkward style. Today it serves as an icon rising to a point over the center of the Grand Canal. Despite its funky appearance, people the world over hold a passion for the bridge whose style is not often replicated in other bridges. From a functional standpoint, the Rialto conceals a road and two rows of shops on either side of the road. If you are unfortunate to not have time to cross the Rialto, the impressive appearance from the Canal below will no doubt still satisfy the “OMG, I’m actually in Venice” validation you desire.

Appearance over function: What can the Rialto Bridge teach us about partnerships?

New businesses will find this lesson most helpful. When you haven’t yet developed a respectable track record of business success or notable clients, sometimes the next best thing is to associate yourself with businesses and experts that have. These associations or partnerships serve more for early appearance sake than direct profitable function. They place you in the environment in which you wish to be doing business, and create a perception of market validation, albeit sometimes indirect.

Many examples exist. Years ago, I served as a publicist for professional speakers. One of a speaker’s most important tools for attracting speaking engagements is to have authored a book relative to their subject matter. It is basically their “calling card” and serves as credibility that they’re an “expert” in their field. The book is touted in all their sales pitches, sold at the back of the room after the presentation, and is prominently featured and sold from the speaker’s website. By all appearances, the book elevates the speaker to the professional level that they anticipate will result in achieving their speaking fee and desired publicity. Meanwhile, what’s the appearance of a new speaker if he/she hasn’t published a book? They’re an amateur.

It’s common practice for new speakers who haven’t yet authored their book to initially ride on the coattails of successful speakers by partnering with them in a variety of ways:

  1. Blog and post with links to the successful speaker’s events, books and website
  2. Agree ahead of time that the successful speaker will re-share, comment, endorse and otherwise “like” the new speaker’s posting content
  3. Sell successful speakers’ books on the new speaker’s website and at back of presentation room
  4. Offer to join the successful speaker on his/her speaking circuit as a “warm up” presentation for the audience
  5. Request a forward and/or book jacket review of the new speaker’s book when ready to publish
  6. Develop a fee agreement for the professional speaker’s marketing distribution of the new speaker’s book

Common to general new businesses, the right appearance can come from:

  1. Partner page on website that includes recognized names and logos of successful businesses that you have talked to about partnering and who give permission to publicize their good name
  2. Advisory Board  that is comprised of highly respected experts and who have given permission for photo and bio to be added to business website
  3. Consultants under contract who are well known and respected for their expertise
  4. Co-posting references and citations between the new company and the consultants, partners, and advisory board members, in order to leverage existing followers of more well known partners
  5. Attendance at exclusive/special events where you can be seen in the company of successful professionals and prospects in your field

In all cases, it is mandatory that the new business use its affiliation responsibly and with integrity, referencing its association with experts and partners in the desired manner agreed upon and to audiences that benefit all parties.

What appearances of success have you found useful?

Part of a series: Causeways-business insight from the world’s most celebrated bridges
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