Consumer demand is becoming increasingly more complex, and businesses must scale while remaining nimble. But companies can’t “be everything” to their customers. In an effort to cover customer needs, enterprises employ creative innovation strategies, new product development, imaginative digital marketing and even costly qualitative acquisitions.
As the need to provide a greater array of services becomes more apparent, strategic partnerships have emerged as an opportunity to help enterprise businesses scale. Many organizations are experiencing remarkable, incidental innovation and growth by partnering with providers to meet their customers’ needs. Make sure your organization doesn’t get stuck on the sidelines!
A tale of two partner types
Different types of partners can serve your business customers in varying ways, thus producing a variety of possibilities and benefits. Two primary types have surfaced again and again as continual drivers of the trend.
1. Platform partners
Vetting, training, and certifying developers to gain and employ API-Ievel access is a high-reward move companies make to add functionality not previously available to their commercial customers.
For example, a multi-location restaurant may discover (within a partnership integration) an on-premise accounting solution that collects previously unsaved data from the point of sale. With the right integration, the commerce data, the date-and-time data, the payment data — and more — of every transaction can now be fed directly into an application that could generate both the monthly accounting and the regular tax filing.
If the food and beverage example represents a smaller-scale visual, then consider when that restaurant, candlemaker, tutor, merchant, courier, salon, or local service provider, for example, begins to grow. Their complex needs will likely work with your (also expanding) products for a time, and they may even be able to “engineer” simple integrations on their own. But the more complex their unique needs, the more help they’ll need.
Having built trust, they’ll turn to your company for that help. If professional services are not within your strategy, platform partners can provide that consulting work.
2. Agency and reseller partners
These partners often build new functionality and help extend a company’s current reach, allowing them to reach new audiences. A good example is when an agency helps a large commercial client build a website with you or your channel partners. Meanwhile, resellers whose technology expands and enables yours would, put simply, resell your products.
A more creative way forward
Disruptions in traditional growth tactics have prompted enterprises to think creatively about other players in the space. We know that 90 percent of innovation labs fail, new products rarely deliver, ad fraud and opacity plague media buys, and over half of mergers go awry.
Unrelated suppliers are increasingly considered valuable resources, and unexplored markets are now viable for business.
More enterprises have realized that their customers’ many unique, multidimensional needs are out of their scope. Conventional wisdom addresses that predicament by encouraging businesses to “focus on one thing, and do it well,” which serves to ameliorate that frustration — but only temporarily. Strategic partnerships, on the other hand, enable new experiences that enterprises don’t have to build directly. And that puts those monumental possibilities back within reach.
Getting started with building strategic partnerships
While it may sound time-consuming and complicated, the steps to building your own partnership program aren’t as daunting as you think. The first (and perhaps most important) step is to define what you’re looking to get out of your partnerships. Decide if you are looking to create new product experiences, explore new areas and audiences, or alleviate workflow burdens. Or maybe all of the above. Next, decide what partnership model will best serve the unique needs of your business.
Then, evaluate the potential partners that you want to work with. Consider what they can offer you and what you can offer them in return, in order to set yourself up for a productive and worthwhile partnership for both companies.
Once you’ve identified the type of partners you’d like to work with, grade them. The criteria may vary by organization, but there are a few tried and true questions to ask yourself when assessing how valuable a partnership will be.
- What market do I need to reach? Will this partner be effective in reaching them?
- Does this partner complement my product?
- How will this partner help my organization reach our stated goals?
- How likely are your partner’s customers to purchase your product?
From there, categorize your ideal partners by A and B targets (based on how well they meet the above criteria) and then start engaging them. It’s worth noting that when you’re first starting out, don’t gloss over your B targets – they may be more accessible and willing to take a chance on your organization.
Finally, it’s critical to continue collaborating with and strengthening your partnerships through constant partner management and nurturing. You’ll start driving growth in no time.
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