There are obvious ways in which partnerships can be effective – with the goal that the sum of the parts is more valuable to customers than the individual parts alone – and equally ways that they can be worthless or even detrimental. A “paper” partnership is no use to anyone, and a partnership with someone which results in a lot of time and effort with little benefit can actually be a distraction and waste of time. To reflect this philosophy, we have recently re-focused our partner list to those that we believe will ultimately benefit our customers. We came up with 5 guidelines that help to guide the future of our partnerships – mostly common sense but here goes:
1) Choose partnerships where both sides have a real motive – partnerships take time and effort, and are only worthwhile to the customer where both partners are really committed.
2) Avoid partnerships where there are overlapping interests – or if you do engage in them, create a clear and watertight agreement as to where the boundaries are. Nothing kills a partnership quicker than going after the same dollar at customers.
3) Make time and resources for planning and tracking – it costs to have someone dedicated to planning and tracking activities with a partner – but everyone is busy, and out of sight is out of mind, and it helps to brainstorm with partners; they will bring new perspectives to opportunities, ideas, products and other related activities that you didn’t see yourself.
4) Keep the partnerships alive – everyone is busy, and focuses on their own interests first; but you don’t want to wait for a customer opportunity to arise in order to try to rekindle a relationship which may have turned towards your competitors (partnerships are rarely exclusive). It is worth investing in regular meetings even in the absence of active opportunities, so that when one comes along, both parties think of each other first.
5) Don’t spend time on paper partnerships – customers will one day ask about it, and discover the partnership has no value, which will immediately devalue your other partnerships.
Looking forward to 2014 being as active or even more so with our partners!