There are very few businesses that completely ‘go-it-alone’: most businesses need business partners. Maybe you’ve already thought about the partners your business needs. But have you thought about what you’ll have to do to be attractive to partners? Have you figured out who those partners might be?
Some years ago, I realised that to create meaningful business alliances, you have to be systematic about it. You can’t just wait to run into ‘people who could be useful’, or spread your efforts too thinly across lots of potential partners. You need focus.
Your business needs will be specific, but amongst the good reasons for partnering, you’ll find:
- Providing complementary products and services, so that your clients can work with suppliers who have done the necessary work to ensure that their products and services integrate properly.
- Adding routes to market, to enable you to reach markets and territories that you could not reach by yourself.
- Gaining greater ‘critical mass’ through working with larger companies, to reassure customers that a small company can deliver on its promises.
- Sharing marketing costs, and gaining more visibility with less expenditure.
Actually, the list of reasons to partner could go on and on, but the key point is to work out what your reasons to partner are: it will be a list that is specific to your company and its current situation.
To produce a partner strategy in a systematic way, I devised a process called Alliance Mapping. Let me describe the process I go through with clients.
First of all, we identify the players in the landscape around you, so that you can understand who already partners with whom. Then we look at the reasons you need to partner, the reasons that other companies need to partner with you, and help you select the appropriate partners.
I observed a basic flaw in how most companies set about trying to work with partners. They only look at what they care about, and forget that the other company has concerns and objectives too.
In Alliance Mapping, the motivation on either side is examined and the different priorities of various motivators are determined. Seeing the other company’s point of view is crucial if the relationship you’re proposing is going to be mutually beneficial. If you don’t get these basics right, you virtually guarantee that your partnering efforts will be expensive, frustrating, and not achieve your objectives.
The ‘map’, once created, doesn’t look much like any geographic map you’ll have seen. But it does identify who is where, who is related to whom, and where the beneficial links are to be made.
Using the Alliance Map
The Alliance Map is used as a basis for recruiting partners and managing partner relationships to success.
It allows you to go out and pitch to a partner as easily as you can pitch to a client when I’ve helped you define your basic value proposition.
The map also allows you to understand whether each alliance you’re trying to form is tactical or strategic in nature, and helps you in setting reasonable objectives for what the partners in the alliance can achieve.
The Alliance Map of potential business partners that you need will be unique. It will deliver these benefits to your business development efforts:
- An ability to focus on relationships that can be productive.
- Economy in expenditure needed to initiate and sustain good partner relationships.
- A basis for designing effective partner marketing strategies.
If you’re at the point where you need to develop your business relationships in a systematic way, to enable them to have the greatest impact, perhaps we should be talking.