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Mutually Beneficial Partnerships – What does it take to get there?

Posted by Tracy Williams on
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Today's post is part one in a multipart series.

Partnerships take form in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of purposes in mind. While some companies are opportunistic about partnerships and take them as they come, others take an approach of evaluating each prospective partner to determine if it fulfills a need. Often partnerships aren’t readily defined on a corporate website but are categorized throughout a site: examples include strategic, technology, and marketing. Each company has a definition internally of what these categories mean, and that’s a good place to start on developing a partner evaluation process: define the types of partners that can help you make continuous improvements and provide value to your target audience.

Goals, criteria and evaluating

Regardless of what your prospective partner has in mind, take a look at your own initiatives when it comes to developing your partnership guidelines. The fundamental qualities you should look for include being like-minded, target the same buyer with a complimentary product, and add value to your brand. But more on this later.

Define your goals

A good place to start when defining the goals of partnerships is with an internal conversation including business development, product management, marketing and corporate management. Have a strategic conversation around topics such as:

  • Determine the importance and willingness to modify the product or service via third party integration
  • What technology would enhance your product offering
  • Define what you want from a marketing and branding perspective
  • List ideas for building new business avenues

Define your criteria

Goals solidified? Check. Internal teams in alignment? Check. Now we can move on to developing the criteria and ranking for your targeted list. First step, a list of needs that support your goals.

A list of needs might look like this:

List of targeted industries that offers a complimentary service to your customer base and preferably has the same buyer persona.

  • Analyze those industries and select companies from them that are a good fit for you and your audience. For instance, if you are a startup in the IT space, chances are you might have better success partnering with a second or third tier vendor rather than going straight after the big boys in the space.

Criteria for product enhancements that can be done with a third party might include:

  • Identify two or more potential companies per product enhancement
    • Production time/cost
    • Time frame for engagement
  • A list of associations and member-based organizations that are focused on the use case you are marketing to.
    • Can you barter services for marketing opportunities?
    • Can you do joint marketing activities?
    • Can you attend events?

Evaluating - developing a scorecard

It’s easy to make a hit list of companies you would like to partner with and then go about building a partnership. A better use of your resources and time is to rank your preferred type of partner on several criteria and let the scoring tell you where to start. Let’s look at some example rankings:

Industry– remember this is a company that offers complimentary services and sells to the same buyer.

Step 1: name the types of businesses that fall in the category of complimentary services. If you sell data cleansing services you may want to partner with CRM and marketing automation systems companies, demand generation consultants, and event management software companies.  
Step 2: build a list of companies that fall in each category you defined in the first step.
Step 3: Keeping your goals in mind, assign a rank to each company in these lists. Maybe you decided that brand recognition is important, or similar customer base, or geographic region. Choose a ranking system and prioritize each category.

Here’s an example of what that might look like:

Priority Criteria ABC Co DEF Co. GHI Co. JKL Co.
  Industry        
4 Marketing Automation     4  
3 CRM   3    
2 Event Management SW 2      
1 Demand Generation Tools       1
  Industry Total 2 3 4 1


 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in the figure above, marketing automation has the highest ranking, making it the most desirable type of company to do business with.

And now let’s add the timeframe for engagement and examine potential partners:

Priority

Criteria

ABC Co

DEF Co.

GHI Co.

JKL Co.

 

Industry 

 

 

 

 

4

Marketing Automation

 

 

4

 

3

Customer Relationship Management

 

3

 

 

2

Event Management Software

2

 

 

 

1

Demand Generation Tools

 

 

 

1

 

INDUSTRY TOTAL

2

3

4

1

 

Time Frame

 

 

 

 

5

0 to 3 mos

5

 

 

5

4

4 to 6 mos

 

 

 

 

3

6 to 12 mos

 

3

 

 

1

12+ mos

 

 

1

 

 

TIME FRAME TOTAL

5

3

1

5

 

GRAND TOTAL

7

6

5

6

Even with just two criteria, you can see that the highest desirable type of partner (MAS) is not ready to engage, yet a lower priority category will engage much quicker. Since they are all desirable audiences, knowing that you could close an event management software company in three months or less makes it easy to make a decision to start that process.

There are several key takeaways in this post; if you define your intentions up front you can identify and close partnerships quicker, manage your resources and stay ahead in the game.

The next post in this series will cover negotiating value, setting expectations and building on the relationship.


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