Apr 15, 2021
Amber Alston

Why is Everyone Obsessed with Licensing Relationship Management?

For some companies, partner management can be the most difficult part of running a brand licensing program.


Deciding to extend your brand is easy. Make sure people love your properties, get to know the fans and figure out which products might be a hit.


But if you don’t have a strong system for managing your new licensing partnerships, your deals might go up in smoke.


Licensing Relationship Management is the approach that’s adding smiles to the faces of licensing professionals across the industry. And stamping out the flames. The company-wide business strategy is designed to improve licensing sales, royalty revenue and partner services all while reducing costs and increasing licensing partner loyalty.


Why is it so powerful? Well, the LRM philosophy is pretty simple: just put the licensing partnership first!  


When people talk about licensing relationship management, they are referring to the systems that help licensors, licensees, and agents manage the full range of their licensing duties. LRM tools can help automate and simplify time-consuming processes like forecasting, design approvals, and royalty recoupment.


An LRM system can help teams survey each and every interaction to deliver better customer experiences. The more satisfied a customer is, the more likely they are to keep supporting your business.


LRM solutions have gained popularity because they help teams zero in on relationships with individual partners— including customers, colleagues, or suppliers throughout the partnership lifecycle. They can even help you spot new partnership opportunities, support negotiations, and provide support throughout the relationship.


This article will help you understand what LRM is, who needs it and give you real-life examples of happy teams that have optimized their licensing workflows and become more engaged partners with the help of LRM.


What kinds of companies need LRM?


An LRM system gives everyone— from brand owners to manufacturers (yes, even the interns) — a better way to manage their partner interactions and the licensing functions that drive success.


LRM tools can store agreement data, identify growth opportunities, manage and track creative assets, sort accounting data, and more all in one centralized location


It’s not enough for one person to be in charge of all this information. With LRM, you can make information about every partner interaction (pocket-dials and run-ins at the Vegas Expo too), available to anyone at your company who might need it as well as designated external partners.  For example, your design team can submit a new style guide to the system and automatically notify the manufacturer without the need for a middleman or a one-sentence addition to a mile-long email chain.  


Today’s LRM systems don’t just offer a variety of technologically advanced functions and user-friendly interfaces. They also offer a variety of solutions that are designed to address even the most complex problems, like custom deal parameters or multi-territory rights. Modern LRM systems are constantly being updated, have flexible costs, easy maintenance, and onboarding. Simply put, it's fast, easy and you’ll love the price.


With increased visibility of your operations and clear access to data, anyone who invests in LRM is guaranteed to increase productivity. It doesn’t matter if your licensing team is a 100-person engine or just a handful of dedicated staff – LRM is going to help you establish closer connections with your partners, streamline tasks and gain more revenue to grow your business.


Why does LRM matter to your business?

In 2019, brand licensing revenue topped $280.3 billion. According to a recent Amazon study, (and anyone who’s been to Comic-Con) that number is only growing. Licensing relationship management is the only system built to help teams scale as quickly as the market demands and spot opportunities to corner their section of the market.


If your business is going to last, you need a system to help you build a strategy (or five) for the future that is centered around your partnerships and supported by the most up to date technology. Remember, you have goals for getting your product on store shelves, business objectives, and profits. How do you track those interests and turn your learnings into useful information to guide your business?


Flowhaven’s system gives you a clear view of your relationships. With simple customizable dashboards, you can instantly see the history of your relationships, the status of your deals, and flag issues to mitigate risk. You can even choose to add partners as users so you can communicate and exchange information directly.


Bye, bye email. It was nice knowing you.


A good LRM system pools information from different teams and departments in the company to give a unified, view of each licensing partner in real-time. This gives your customer-facing employees (sales, account management, approvals, and more) the power to make quick and fully-informed decisions about everything: from improving the quality of communications and responsiveness to coordinating the management of partnerships.


It’s not a crystal ball. But it acts like one.


It’s no surprise then, that most LRM users say LRM has radically changed their relationship with data. When implemented properly, LRM does more than give companies insight into whitespaces. It also offers a way of measuring their value. After all, relationships are not created equal.


Some partnerships can drain a licensing team’s resources without returning value. Others do business frequently, build new style guides or product ranges, and might even disrupt the market. LRM helps businesses prioritize efforts for each partner group, as well as offer a better understanding of partner needs (and wants) to improve the way service is delivered.


LRM has several sub-categories. Each address one or more of the challenges licensing professionals say they find hardest.

  • Licensing Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Digital asset management (DAM)
  • Product and design approvals
  • Royalty and financial management software


Choosy brand owners choose LRM


The Rebel Girls media engine electrified children's publishing. Making a splash as the fastest funded children’s titles in Kickstarter history (raising over $675,614 with an original goal of $40,000), the publisher’s debut title has sold more than 1 million copies. The books introduce diverse and powerful female heroes to a new generation of readers through vibrant illustrations and engaging stories. 


In 2016, the company decided to extend its brand with licensed merchandise including clothing, stationery, and more.


Early on, the small licensing team organized everything from billing to agreements with excel sheets and outdated filing systems.  As partnerships grew and fans asked for more, the company saw the flaw in their system. There was no way to:


·   Effectively manage their treasure chest of custom artwork

·   Track updates to make informed decisions

·   Generate reports with the granularity they needed

·   Draw conclusions without manual time-sucking computations


With Flowhaven, they now have access to data across all business touchpoints— licensee relationships, time from contract to product-on-shelf, assets usage, and more.


They use the system’s design approval and asset management tools to safely share assets and fast-track approvals. It even helps them determine which assets are being used the most and where they are the most popular to help focus marketing campaigns and scope out new leads. The team particularly loves that their licensing partners are notified every time a new asset becomes available.


Rebel Girls both employs small teams and works with partners in several cities across the globe. To nurture each relationship and promote healthy communication, the company sought out a system that would make sharing ideas, assigning tasks and flagging issues simple. The team points to the ability to exchange notes, schedule email notifications, access new product designs, and more in just a few clicks as key factors in their decision to implement the Flowhaven system. 


“One of the biggest reasons we decided to move forward with Flowhaven and will continue to use Flowhaven is the solution’s capability and flexibility,” says Michon Vanderpoel, head, publishing partnerships, Rebel Girls. “When approaching workflow needs we always go to the platform first, which has streamlined many of our processes—from sending out pitch emails to closing money to approving sample submissions. We have been able to tailor the solution to fit our needs, rather than changing the way we work to fit with the solution.”


Read the full customer case here. 


LRM is an agent’s best friends


Art Ask Agency is a leading lifestyle licensing agency (try saying that three times fast). With properties such as Frida Kahlo and Jimmy the Bull on their roster, the agency has grown quickly and experienced the pains of outdated operational processes that they were unable to scale.


The Barcelona-based operation has become a model of success for licensing agencies interested in turning art and internet brands into home, apparel, and home décor successes. To grow the Frida Kahlo program, they needed to find partners at every consumer level, tap into multiple distribution streams, and keep track of granted rights in several territories. They also needed to ensure that the life and legacy of Kahlo were respected.  


In the past, the agency used word processors and notebooks to store lead information. Some updates would be shared by word of mouth. Spreadsheets helped them map out data to evaluate the progress of their deals. The team dedicated long hours to analyzing records to create reports that lacked any in-depth analysis.


As owner, Maria Strid put it, “There was never enough time for lunch.”


The Flowhaven system gave the team a single place to pool and quickly recall partner information. This made them better armed for negotiations and helped them make stronger arguments about why two companies should partner.


The system also made it possible to grant rights and release assets according to contract terms. They could even make suggestions on product approvals if they didn’t feel in line with the brand’s goals. With a single switch, they could do the work that used to take large chunks of time out of their day.


Today, the Frida Kahlo program is one of the agency’s most successful, with partnerships worldwide including Zara, Princesse Tam Tam, Urban Outfitters and more.

Read the full customer case here. 


LRM is a manufacturers secret weapon


Headquartered in Massachusetts, Boss Fight Studio is a creator-led, full-service toy design company. Its founding partners served at leading toy manufacturing companies, including Mattel and Hasbro. There they helped bring the GI Joe, Star Wars and Spider-Man product lines to life.

The company leads in highly-articulated toy design and is celebrated for its ability to freshen up into classic properties, including Flash Gordon and the Little Prince.

The team started Boss Fight with great enthusiasm. But, they lacked the formal business experience they needed to secure licensing partners.  If they wanted to build a good reputation, they needed an error-proof financial management system.

"When we started, royalty reports were just emails and excel spreadsheets back and forth," offered Arana. "None of us had any business sense so we were learning to do royalty reports from scratch and doing the calculations on our own. There was no confirmation. We were just hoping we didn't screw up. Luckily we started with two small agencies, but when you deal with big companies, you can be fined for every percentage you're off. If we made a single error in our math, we would have had to pay."

Flowhaven's royalty modules helped. The team could file royalty reports with ready-made templates and summon those reports from anywhere. They could also validate reports before sending them to partners. This helped the team spot errors quickly and associate their name with honest service.  

Read the full customer case here. 


Keep Learning.


The LRM Buyer’s Guide

Learn what it takes to change mindsets, connect business silos, and recenter around your customer.

Make LRM the Core of Your Customer-Obsessed Strategy

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