When Aly Habib joined Indochino almost five years ago, his role was to help build their customer experience strategy. The made-to-measure menswear brand was considerably smaller back then. They only had a few showrooms across Canada, nothing compared to the 57 they currently have across North America today.
With a lot of ambition and a desire to do something different, Habib starting growing the strategic partnerships branch of Indochino. To date, some of his highlights include suiting up NBA stars for the draft, creating custom uniforms for 200+ Museum of Modern Art employees for their renovation and becoming the made-to-measure partner of the New York Yankees.
We sat down with Habib to talk about what it takes to build a strategic partnership and how he continues to cultivate relationships with some of the most sought-after sports stars in the world.
What does a strategic partnership mean to you?
A great strategic partnership is ultimately working with someone on the same goal and achieving a win-win outcome. When I work with a company I’ll look to create real wow factors, go above and beyond for them in order to make a really strong relationship that is sincere, genuine and authentic.
Let’s say I’m working with a pro athlete and we do a partnership that’s more traditional, I might look to suit up members of their family or include a charitable component to a cause that’s important to them.
When we do these types of things, it really brings a lot of authenticity. I get such an enthusiastic response from them, which only helps the cause when you’re working with them to try and tell your brand story through their platform to their audience.
How do you foster those sincere relationships and ensure they stay authentic?
Like anything, it takes a lot of effort. The partnership world is one that’s primarily made on great relationships–I learned that early on. That’s what I think I’ve always been genuinely good at. I’m a curious guy and the great partnerships that we have executed at Indochino have likely resulted in friendships that will last a lifetime for me. Especially during a year like COVID, you’re calling your list of partners, potential partners or people you’ve interacted with over the years and seeing how they’re doing. Maybe there’s an opportunity to help their business and the energy is always reciprocated. It’s all about putting in the time and effort to foster the relationship.
Why are partnerships important for smaller brands as well as more established brands?
The start-up world sees these brands doing massive six-figure deals with large-scale partners and they have a lot of questions, such as: If I’m going to spend a lot of money, is it worth it? My answer: Done in the right way, it’s absolutely worth it. If you align with a great partner, it can really mean standing out among the noise in a truly authentic way and getting your product in front of an entirely new audience.
Ultimately, the goal is to drive revenue. So you don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that if you get a prominent figure to post and tag on Instagram that it’s going to solve all your sales problems. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to activate a partnership.
A benefit to growing brands is also the energy, engagement and excitement that you create within your own organization. When you suit up a star like Pascal Siakam or 50 Cent, our entire organization lights up with pride and energy. And if you’re not working for Indochino, maybe you will consider it in the future because of all the great and exciting things we’re up to.
How does a big partnership go from idea to reality?
Last year we saw really great success suiting up fellow Canadian RJ Barret so this year we thought: What can we do to make a splash in the NBA draft? We locked in three players pretty quickly and were talking about the idea of building more excitement in a year that’s thirsty for excitement. So, three quickly turned to five, which turned into 10 and, in the end, we suited up 15 players for the draft in November 2020.
I coordinated across four different agencies and nine different showrooms for one night broadcasted on national TV and on social media. It was a phenomenal event that everyone got behind and got excited about.
What skills are most important for someone looking to get into a strategic partnerships role:
Hard skills are definitely required (organization, communication and project management). There are a lot of moving pieces to these partnerships so being on top of that is key. But number one is the relationships. Put effort into building your network and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in the industry. It’s a massive community full of warm and wicked smart people.
Also, bring a creative element to your approach. Transactional partnerships that just include your logo on a billboard are things of the past. Creative storytelling and experiential types of partnership activations are the future.