When done correctly, a network of strategic business partners can mean a boon to leads and sales revenue. Carefully selected and vetted brands, referral partners and affiliates can give your company the edge of the competition by helping your sales team access prospects who you otherwise might not be able to reach in a meaningful way.
So how can your company forge powerful partners? What goes into getting it right? Here are our top tips for developing strategic partners.
Finding the right partner is a major undertaking. Its much more than the efforts which goes into finding a vendor or advertiser for a one-time or paid-relationship. It involves researching existing contacts and possible new collaborators who not only offer complementary products and services, but are also open to working together, fit with your brand and are relevant to your long term business goals.
When entering in to discussions with a potential partner about brand/audience alignment and mutual benefits it is important to clearly define a strategic mutual vision of success. This is the time for ‘real conversations’ – those discussions which will mean that there are no hidden issues that may surface later in the alliance. Once both sides partners agree on the KPIs, potential for mutual growth and how each party can make the most of the strengths of the other, then the foundation is established.
There’s very little point in your sales or business development staff spending countless hours identifying synergies with other brands, qualifying the opportunities and developing the cross-marketing activities plan if the partnership, or the whole premise of a strategic partnership initiative does not enjoy buy-in from all those that need to have a say. Senior executives, for example, are the main influencers, and it is vital they are on board with the what the strategic partnership or partnerships look like. Particularly in larger companies, they should be connected to their counterparts at the partner brand and able to communicate the core partnership goals.
Get it in Writing
Some strategic partnerships can be less in-depth. For example, when they are based on simple cross marketing efforts. Others can, and should, involve formal contracts and established deliverables from either party. Try to document the details. This includes the type of relationship, partner responsibilities, risks, payback, payments, service level agreements, guidelines, and the rules around engaging prospects.
If your two companies are offering a product or service which involves mutual involvement (so more than simple referrals) it is essential that your internal tools and client-facing solutions seamlessly integrate. The fastest way to lose the confidence of the joint-client is if they feel that the solution offered doesn’t work properly because components don’t gel.
Often strategic partnerships will involve some degree of compensation distribution across companies. It is important to clearly define the sales compensation process and goals so companies from either side can understand and support the way sales efforts will be rewarded.
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