Businesses that are primarily backed by a direct sales team is a strategy that is slowly dying. This new age of “digital” and “eco-systems” is fundamentally altering the way businesses interact with prospects – and a big part of this is the growth of B2B partnerships. Partner programs help grow your business in areas you may not have previously thought of. Although you may think that a channel partner means that you'll have limited access to that partner’s customers including less face to face meetings, it most definitely doesn’t have to be that way. This blog post will walk you through 5 best practices to make sure your partnerships are set up for success.
According to this HBR Article, there are 5 simple best practices we can all follow that lead to a successful partnership strategy:
Focus Less on Defining the Business Plan and More On How You Will Work Together
This is not to say a sound business plan is not important. It just means that there is more to creating a strong partnership than just outlining the formal details of an agreement. Spending time figuring out how two companies will collaborate is just as important, if not more important than building out a business plan. Learning how your partners operate on a daily basis is critical. Asking yourself questions like how do they make decisions, how do they allocate resources, how do they share information is a great first step. Making sure you understand their culture, processes, and norms will give you better insight on how you will work together.
Develop Metrics Pegged Not Only to Alliance Goals but Also to Alliance Progress
When looking at key performance indicators of your partnerships, it's common to focus on the standard metrics – revenue increases, cost reductions, and so on. When setting these metrics, realize that most strategic partnerships can take months or even years to yield any significant results. Knowing this can prevent a loss in confidence from both parties, and less resources being allocated to the partnership. Instead of focusing primarily on the $$, look at interim metrics that can measure the success or failure of your partnerships including information sharing, the speed of decision making and new integrations.
Instead of Trying to Eliminate Difference, Leverage Them to Create Value
Partnerships are created because of shared similarities as well as differences. Differences in target markets, processes, and know-how can be leveraged to generate value. There is a common misconception that differences will always result in mistakes and conflicts. Reframing these differences as opportunities that can be leveraged for growth will increase the likelihood that the partnership will be successful. Prospects and clients are more likely to trust partner eco-systems that work collaboratively and trust their joint value propositions rather than partners that will just pass off contacts to each other and leave the rest of the process in each others hands.
Go Beyond Formal Governance Structures to Encourage Collaborative Behavior
Recruiting and on-boarding new partners requires an investment of networking and a focus on building strong relationships, but it should not stop there. These relationships need to be constantly nurtured and that means that leaders within each organization need to encourage collaborative behavior from their partnership teams. If something goes wrong, or a mistake is made, rather than assigning blame, emphasis should be put on inquiry rather than judgement. This can make sure both parties are still heading in the right direction.
Spend as Much Time on Managing Internal Stakeholders as on Managing the Relationship With Your Partner
Alliance management can sometimes lead to a crisis. Companies are making huge investments in strategic partnerships and alliances and in doing so, are becoming more reliant on them as a source of revenue and growth. That said, somehow more than half of them still fail. Alliances and partnerships work differently than traditional business relationships and this needs to be kept top of mind. Following the best practices laid out in this blog can help make sure you're getting the most out of your partnerships.
Overall, you want to make sure you treat your partners as you would treat your valued customers - with safe, easy, fun and personalized experiences.