If there’s anything I’ve learned after 20 years of business development in the professional services and IT solutions industry, it’s that having an ally on your side as a strategic partner will benefit and accelerate your company, regardless of the industry sector your business operates in. This is especially critical for start-up companies trying to get their name out in a competitive environment, or even a new business vertical. By effectively selecting the right alliances for your company, you can offer products and solutions to clients that are different from the competition. So… How do we go about selecting the right partner?
The best approach is to attack your market segment from several fronts, while giving you a competitive advantage covering a wider range of resources and subject matter expertise. The process of selecting strategic partners requires them to be thoroughly vetted. First off, the best ROI from a strategic alliance happens when both partners’ capabilities and deliverables are different, but have a common denominator amongst the other partners. It’s also important to have a partner who’s marketing to a target audience in the same industry. This allows working closest to the dollar by focusing on clients in the same swim lanes.
So once you’ve selected a partner, now what? First, you’ll need to have an NDA put together to protect each other’s interest, customer information and any intellectual property that could be potentially shared between you. Second, depending on the purpose of the partnership, a mutual referral program is a great way to incentivize all parties to refer leads and opportunities to one another. Finally, frequent and open communication.
Making industry friends and partnerships can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding IF set up properly from the beginning with agreed upon clear expectations. Here are a few tips for a CLEAR partnership:
- Communication – Have a regular set 30-minute conversation every week or two in the beginning to share market intel and updates on potential opportunities. The agenda and frequency should be predetermined and must add value.
- Lead Generation – Relationships are everything. Cherish all of them. You never know when someone you encounter may not only be a good partner for your business, but a good partner for your partners. Referrals are the gifts that keep on giving.
- Expectations – Make sure when you are having initial meetings with prospects you have a clear agenda of why you would make a great strategic partner. Know your value proposition, what benefits you can bring to them. Take the position of you need them more than they need you.
- Accountability – Holding one another accountable is important to a fruitful relationship. You shouldn’t manage your partner(s) but goal setting for one another makes it fun and profitable.
- ROE’s (Rules of Engagement) – Just as you can have ROE’s between you and you customers, you should have them with you partner(s) too especially when making introductions to one another.