Strategic partnerships are often an ideal way to build brand traction, expand your audience and customer base, access additional resources and talent, and stimulate revenue growth without acquiring another company.
You can create a temporary brand partnership through a joint marketing campaign. Also you can aim for a longer partnership (e.g., joint venture) to create new products or services. I’ve worked in various partnerships throughout my career.
Here are some tips to help you approach and manage partnerships in a way that creates a win-win.
1. Define individual and mutual value
While a strategic partnership can increase your brand value, don’t forget to assess your own value and ensure it is recognized within the relationship. Defining value up front is important to maintain equal footing and illustrate why the someone should work with you.
Before you formalize a partnership, make sure you understand the value you both bring, how that value is enhanced, and what additional customer-centric value is generated through the partnership. If you don’t have those answers or they don’t add up, you shouldn’t proceed. If you are satisfied, then it’s a strategic partnership that will likely deliver a solid return.
2. Identify a shared vision and principles
Create a written vision statement and principles to guide everything you do together. Although you are not forming a company, it helps to write this down and use it as a foundation for how you will interact and collaborate. Think of it as a temporary culture in place for the time period of the partnership.
Also, partnerships will have friction. You are both separate companies with agendas and objectives that may not always mesh. This is where your shared vision and principles will help. Consulted them when there is a conflict to find common ground and negotiate through the differences.
3. Take your time and do it right
Any rushed relationship typically does not go well — or last long. It’s okay to take time to get to know one another and feel each other out. Spending time on a social and professional level can help you understand each other’s quirks.
Conduct due diligence on each other, and have follow-up meetings until each of you is satisfied it is the right decision to collaborate. Also, once you are in the partnership, don’t rush to end it if you sense anything that makes you uncomfortable. It will take time to get into a flow with each other. If there are problems, talk them through rather than ditch the partnership.
4. Create partnership parameters
The partnership should have parameters on how you work with each other. This will bring structure and meaning to the partnership. It will also minimize any misunderstandings that could derail the value you are trying to create.
Parameters should be in the form of an agreement that describes the roles and responsibilities of each partner. It should also list goals, success metrics, and timelines to achieve certain milestones. It will also cover the financial aspects and how the strategic partnership ends in terms of estimated time frames and exit strategies.
5. Train, assess and communicate regularly
I’ve seen situations where brands partner, decide on some tactics and assume it will just go as planned. The better approach is to invest in training each other’s teams to understand the brand benefits on an individual and mutual basis.
Everyone involved in the partnership should regularly communicate. This can be accomplished through collaboration software and project management apps, while maintaining regular meetings.
Assessment is a must-have strategy to ensure the tactics are doing what both brands want. This is where metrics really help: If anything is not working, regular communication can prove invaluable to help pivot as quickly as possible. The integration of sales and marketing teams can also maximize the resources used for deployment and changes.
Increase partnerships in a thoughtful, strategic way
Strategic partnerships allow you to play the field. Yes, it’s okay to create more than one partnership at the same time — as long as it makes sense, follows the above tips, and doesn’t undermine another partner.
Most brands understand the value of multiple partnerships, but tread carefully or go in a different direction if you are considering strategic partners that could be competitors.
Not every business will be in a position to take advantage of strategic brand partnerships. If you are in the early stages, you may not have the value other brands seek. You also may not be prepared to work with others if you need to build more internal experience and knowledge about the industry and business operations. And that’s okay. You can always circle back in the future and consider how a strategic partnership can benefit your business in the long run.
This article has been edited.
Drew Hendricks is a business professional and CMO of Flint. He’s written for many major publishers such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.
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