Spill the Beans: Annabel Gray & Dannan Jameson

Partnerships equal growth. We use it as one of the biggest drivers for growth for us. And we use it as a way to connect with brands and connect with new customers.

Dannan Jameson, Strategic Partnership Manager at Naked Wines

In her latest interview for Spill the Beans, our associate director Australia, Annabel Gray, spoke to Dannan Jameson, strategic partnership manager at Naked Wines, talking all things partnerships – and what makes them successful.

Thank you for joining me today. I’m joined by Dannan Jameson, who is Strategic Partnership Manager at Naked Wines. Hi, Dannan.

Hi, Annabel, thank you for having me, very excited to talk all things partnerships.

So before we jump into a lot of the questions, could you tell us a little bit more about the Naked Wines story and how you got involved in partnerships?

Yeah, great. Naked Wines is where the best Australian and New Zealand independent winemakers can make their best wines. We’re a little bit different than a lot of your other wine retailers, we actually invest into these independent winemakers up front, giving them the financial freedom and flexibility to truly create the wines that they’re passionate about.

And in return, we’re given amazing quality wine, and we’re able to give better prices to our customers because we’ve essentially cut out the middleman and given these independent winemakers a platform to connect with wine drinkers who we call our customers. We call them Angel members. We give them a platform to connect to the Angels, chat with them, get real time ratings and reviews from the wines. So it becomes a virtuous circle in the wine industry where the independent winemaker is being supported.

You’re obviously really passionate about Naked Wines, which is brilliant. What about the world of partnerships? What excites you most about this world?

Honestly, I’m driven by really going and finding more partners, because I know, for us, partnership is how we grow as a business. It allows us to tap into new audiences, bring on new Angel members. And, as we grow, we can invest into new independent winemakers. And that’s truly what drives us as a partnership team and really drives me as the partnership manager.

And we caught up previously about how amazing it is to be able to see firsthand the impact that you’re having and the positive influence you’re driving for these independent winemakers.

Yeah, I was recently in the Hunter Valley and meeting with one of our organic winemakers. He just recently opened up his cellar door, and he and his wife were touring the place for my husband and I. They were just like, “Listen, this couldn’t have happened without the support of Naked Wines.” And then my husband looks at me, and he’s like, “You are at a really great company.” So it was pretty awesome. It felt good, and I think after that day, I’m like, “Okay, how can I get more partners? How can we drive more growth? And, you know, make this even bigger and help even more independent winemakers?”

Naked Wines has been active in the partnership space for quite a while. Partnership has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different businesses. What does it mean at Naked Wines?

I guess for us, it’s a very simple definition. Partnerships equal growth. We use it as one of the biggest drivers for growth for us. And we use it as a way to connect with brands and connect with new customers. We’ve done a lot of testing and learning on what would be a successful partnership, so we know what’s going to work really well for us, and what’s going to drive somebody new to come to our site to try our wines out and then be just as invested in supporting the winemakers as I am. So really, it’s partnerships equal growth.

And could you share some sort of some of the examples or the different shapes that the partnerships could take?

Yeah, I mean, listen, it’s not a one size fits all. When it comes to partnerships, I think it’s really important to know what your objectives are. You can use it as your marketing objective, or your goals, and look into how you can make your objectives work within a partnership. And then how can you make your partner’s objectives work as well?

One example for us is, of course, when you think of wine, it’s easily “Oh, wine and food pairings. Yeah, that makes sense as a partnership.” But if you dig a little bit deeper, we’ve been working with a brand since 2014. And they’re actually a shoe brand. So you’re thinking “Wine and shoes, how the hell does that match?” But it goes into looking at if you have the same demographics. And it performs really, really well for both of us. You start off thinking “How can wine and shoes work?” And now, years later, it’s like, “Yeah, wine and shoes, perfect collaboration, perfect partnership.”

It’s because you’re focused on your drivers, and what’s going to be successful for you, and you look for brands who are going to be willing to work with you, and willing to collaborate in the sense of, “I know, my objectives, how can you help me and then listen to them?” They know their objectives – how can you help them?

It’s based on having the same demographics and having the same values to drive that success. I think it’s a really important sort of lens to take to it, because then when you look at it that way, the potential breadth of partnerships is just huge. It just opens up this whole universe that you could work with. There’s even other brands that are doing really great things in the partnership space as well. I know that another brand, a makeup brand, linked up with a cleaning company. You know, it just works, because they looked at demographic alignment and brand values. And so I think that those are two key criteria that can help guide you when you’re first starting out with partnerships.

So in terms of how you might approach a strategy, and with one of the brands that you mentioned, how could that take a different shape?

Yeah, it really comes down to what you’re after. So for us, we’re after ways that we can get in front of new customers. One partner specifically is a jewellery brand, they were after loyalty, so they really wanted a way to thank their most loyal customers, and increase spend, increase that loyalty piece of their brand.

We gave them physical vouchers that they use to reward their customers. And they gave them out in-store and online, so that gave us an opportunity to touch into new homes and link with really great customers. In return, we gave them cases of wine that they actually use to send out as a thank you to their 200 most loyal customers.

It really goes to show that, while both brands had two different goals, we aligned with a campaign that really worked well for both of us because we had that initial conversation and we were able to offer something of value to each other. It’s really honestly all about creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

So, on that side, what would you say makes a partnership successful?

I think it’s making sure that both sides are happy. For us, we’ve done so much testing and learning, we know what’s going to work well in the partnership space. So it’s easy for me to stay within my guidelines, and then branch out to different ideas and different opportunities, after we’ve had that first initial test with the partner.

When it comes to success for your co partner, it’s just making sure that they really utilise what you have to offer. But also, sometimes you could be talking to someone who’s just starting out in the partnership space, and they don’t really know what success looks like. Making sure that you’re not comparing your success to their success is key, because everybody has different objectives. And everybody has different expertise and different goals. So what’s successful is not going to be the same for us as it is for our co-partner.

You’ve got quite a mature brand partnership program, whereas you’re dealing with a lot of brands that are quite new to the space. What do you find most important when you’re nurturing those brands into this whole ecosystem?

Honestly, it’s open communication. I’m usually checking in with my partners to see how things are going. If something’s not working, whether it’s not working on my end, or if it’s not working on theirs, I feel strongly about communicating with them if something’s not working for us. I encourage the partner to also reach out if something’s not working, because you’re not going to find the perfect formula for the perfect partnership. Every time, just as seasons change, partnerships change, consumer behaviour changes. So you have to have an open conversation to really figure out what’s going to be successful. And I think it starts with a good relationship with your co-partner.

Absolutely. On what success looks like, how does data come into play for you when you’re measuring what a successful partnership is?

We’re lucky enough to have some amazing data that we can look at. There are a few things when it comes to partnerships. We’re looking at: how many new customers have we acquired through the partnership? What is the lifetime value of the customer? And with the investment into the partnership, what is the ROI of that investment. depending on the performance of the total campaign?

So we use that for me to guide and to know how the partnership is tracking, and you can also pull site visits from that specific partner, which helps as well. It allows me to look into what more I can do with the partner. If we know what works really well then we can start to be really creative, because I know that this partner is bringing in that higher lifetime value customer. And so that’s really a great way to utilise data when it comes to partnerships. But usually, it takes a couple campaigns to really get that smart data.

When it comes to data on new partners, I think that it’s less on the redemption with new customers, because usually if you’re in a new partnership, you’re reaching a new audience. So people are going to be fresh, you’re going to see our wine offer for the first time and be more likely to take up. With new partnerships, what the data allows us to get smarter on is the really strong link when it comes to customer lifetime value. Of course, we do want new customers, but we want new customers that are high quality and that are the right fit.

In terms of evolving your campaign activity, you guys recently moved on to a SaaS platform. How have you found that’s helped with the partnerships, your partnership strategy?

We’re really strong in the brand to brand partnerships, but where we need that little extra organisation is digital partnerships. We recently started working with Partnerize, a really fabulous affiliate partnership platform, and they’ve helped us link in with new digital partners. That’s been really nice for partners because a lot of times when it for us, when it comes to the physical vouchers, you have that upfront cost of printing the vouchers, but when it comes to digital, you don’t have any initial startup costs.

So, you can really go out there and test different avenues and trial a collaborative article with a publisher or cashback. It’s nice, because if you’re wanting to touch all these different areas and trial these new things, you have one platform that keeps you focused and allows you to pull data based on that partner.

So for us, we use it as a way to look up site visits and conversions. But I know that if you don’t have the intuitive data like we do, you can actually utilise partners to help drive lifetime value –  there’s so many different things and resources that you can use for partners.

I think it’s a very powerful platform, it adds another layer on to your strategy. It’s very interesting, because your partnership journey’s been starting at partnerships like brand partnerships and moving into affiliate space, whereas quite often we see it the other way around brands going from affiliate into partnerships.

Yes, it is. It’s all about learning. And there’s heaps of tests that I’ve done either on brand to brand partnerships or the affiliate partnership space, but it’s exciting because, you know, ultimately, you’re just trying to find new ways to meet your objectives. And for us, it’s of course growth.

Yeah. And it’s the instant feedback or the vast feedback that you get on what’s working and what’s not. You can change it and make those adjustments to that campaign.

Definitely, and you and you have kind of more of a concrete place to say, Hey, this is not working. And this is why, because, you know, you have that two way communication, right there on the platform.

Absolutely. So, looking ahead to the rest of 2021. What is most important for partnerships this year?

Yeah, let’s be real – 2020, weird year. I think it’s exciting that we’re in a new year, which gives us a clean slate for new opportunities. So I really think it’s the perfect time to be open to any type of partnership. And I think that it’s important for us all to work together to collaborate, try something new. I mean, usually, when it comes to partnerships, it’s not a huge, upfront cost, you’re not going to be spending a lot of money on a partnership, whereas you would on a TV commercial, or an outdoor advertising campaign. Partnership is just a light touch way to try something new and, you know, really focus on your marketing strategy of 2021.

You can probably tap into a new audience, come up with a really cool campaign that’s going to do really well, and then you’re going to be like, “Oh, I love partnerships, I’m going to totally rewrite the whole strategy to focus more on partnerships.” So try something new, whether it’s one partnership, ideally would love for you to trial it with me! But, you know, try something different. Don’t think wine and food, think shoes and wine.

And so for any brands where 2021 is the year that they’re getting into partnerships. What’s the one piece of advice that you’ve got for anyone looking at this space?

Just have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be a yes right away. And just be open to reaching out, reach out to a new brand, reach out to your favourite brand that you love. You may have a really great idea. And you may put together something that’s really strong. Have that conversation, look for brands that have demographic alignment, and the same brand values, and you’re in for success and successful partnerships.

And so before we wrap, I’m keen to hear what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received?

Well, one of them is don’t take no for an answer. But another one is really listen. I think that when I was first starting out in the partnership space, I actually came from advertising sales. So it’s definitely a different conversation that you’re having. And so a piece of advice was listen, get to know your co-partner’s objectives first, before spewing out our objectives and what we want from a partnership. I think it’s really important to learn what they want first through the partnership, and then utilising what we have to offer to then help them with their objectives.