The relationship is everything. You can have a fantastic product, offer a tremendous service, with prices that are beyond fair. But ultimately, the strength of your brand will come down to how well you play with others. This is especially true now that anyone, anywhere, can type a few words and have it ricochet around the halls of the interweb for all eternity.

You can create and leverage partnership opportunities that help build your brand and introduce you to people and organizations that would be tough to reach with a cold call. These opportunities are all around, you just have to be creative to find them.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a friend I had met in a Tread Lightly Master Trainer class. He was organizing a weekend event for his Toyota FJ Cruiser four-wheel drive group and needed help staffing a booth to share the good word about outdoor ethics and responsible off-pavement recreation. A fun gig, a chance to get out into the backcountry, meet some new friends, and maybe drive a trail or two. I volunteered and we started planning.

The Tread Lighlty exhibit anchored by the XP Camper, with the Cobb grill in the forground.

The Tread Lightly exhibit, complete with a Cobb grill and anchored by the XP Camper.

My first challenge was dealing with the weather. The event meant two full days staffing a table in the middle of a dirt parking lot. If I didn’t want to end up with heatstroke I would need to find some sort of shade structure. I contacted my friends at XP Camper to find out if they might be interested in donating the use of their demonstration vehicle to be the base camp for my Tread Lightly exhibit. Not only would the camper and its attached awning provide shade, we would have a cool place to come indoors and a refrigerator for cold drinks, right in the booth. And XP Camper would get a chance to show off its new design to a whole new group of potential buyers. One quick conversation and I had an awesome plan to avoid sunstroke.

Next problem was how to stand out and draw foot traffic to the booth. There would be lots of cool stuff to see and a lot of activities over the weekend. If I wanted any of the attendees to come to my exhibit, I was going to have to get creative.

Enter the scent of grilled meat. A most powerful attractant for outdoor-folk.

I planned to set up a small portable grill and cook up some tidbits of something tasty. With luck, the wind would spread the scent around and draw folks in. I’d offer them a bite to eat then deliver my pitch. For some time now, I’ve carried a Cobb portable grill on my trips and used it to cook up some fantastic meals. It’s a great product and would be perfect for this event. And, coincidentally, at this year’s Overland Expo, I happened to meet the folks who import the Cobb grill into the US. So I contacted them to say I’d be showing off their product and ask if they wanted to donate something toward the event’s big Saturday night raffle. That conversation went extremely well and I had managed to not only score a cool prize for my friend’s car club meet, I had also gotten Cobb named as one of the sponsors.

The event was a huge success for all concerned. We spread the Tread Lightly message to a very receptive audience, we showed off a cool new camper design, we gave away a very nice prize, and we all had a great time. Moreover, this was a chance to build on some new relationships and set the stage for future collaborations.

It’s a sort of connect-the-dots kinda thing. And it’s all good.