3 Steps You Can Take to Build Great Strategic Partnerships

Nearly every company can benefit from partnerships, but partnerships should be considered carefully. Building strategic, mutually beneficial relationships between companies requires some advance thought and planning.

June 20th, 2018   |    By: Darren Wilson    |    Tags: Development, Management, Team, Success, Strategy

Big brands know the value of teaming up. Starbucks and Spotify, Lucasfilm and Covergirl, and IKEA and Dreamworks have all forged lucrative partnerships.

Nearly every company can benefit from a good partner. My own company, bluemedia, fabricates and installs experiential activations for some of the biggest brands, events, and venues across America.

We’ve had plenty of success, but our partnership with a variety of key vendors in our space has helped us forge meaningful relationships to fuel our growth.

This teamwork helps us reach our clients’ goals faster and more efficiently. On top of that, the clients are happy because they’re getting two steps of the process done at the same time.

How partnerships help business

Strategic Partnerships

With a successful partnership, everyone wins. First, and most importantly, customers get better value. A partner company brings added expertise and quality, which means a better, faster, or more convenient product for the customer.

Additionally, the companies themselves are more likely to retain their existing customers. Outside companies won’t have much luck at poaching clientele when a partnership offers everything the customers need. A strong partnership also shows that the company is growing, which is a good sign for customers.

A new partnership can provide access to new customers as well. It’s essentially free advertising. Customers at Starbucks don’t just see its familiar green logo. Google will pop up when they log on to Wi-Fi, and they’ll see Spotify when they go into their Starbucks app to find the song playing in the café. Each of the three companies in the partnership is gaining valuable exposure.

Building the right partnership

Strategic Partnerships

Companies benefit from strategic partnerships only when the partnership is strong. Starbucks’ connections with Google and Spotify work because internet and music are two amenities customers enjoy at coffee shops.

A Starbucks partnership with a concrete company would make much less sense — after all, when is concrete top of mind at a café?

Companies shouldn’t just jump into partnerships to tap into a new client base. Just like a marriage, partnerships should be considered carefully.

Use these three steps to help your business forge a strategic partnership that benefits everyone involved:

1. Identify your ideal customer.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is known for leaving one seat open at every meeting for the customer, “the most important person in the room.”

The message is clear: The customer comes first. Before your company starts to think about the best partner, you need to think about the best customer.

Every company needs to know who their customers are and why they buy. For example, BMW knows that the people who buy their cars can afford and expect luxury and quality.

Its best customer is very different from someone who would buy a used Honda. Thus, BMW’s partnership with luxury luggage brand Montblanc makes sense with its customer base.

2. Brainstorm potential partnerships.

With that ideal customer in mind, it’s time to brainstorm potential partnerships. Pull together your team, grab a blank piece of paper, and start throwing around ideas.

No suggestion is too wild as long as you keep your best customer and your company’s core values in mind.

Consider current customers and industries that you’re involved in, as well as places you’d like to grow. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Burberry, another luxury brand, thought outside the box when it partnered with Japanese messaging app LINE.

Clothing LINE’s sticker characters in the famous Burberry plaid was an unconventional move, but it exposed tons of app users to the brand.

3. Research the partners you identify.

Once you have some ideas for potential partners, do your research. You want to work with a company that has a similar alignment, purpose, and values.

Avoid competitors, and look for companies that are trying to reach the same customer from a different angle.

Then, once you know something about the company, start small. There’s no need to put a multiyear plan in place right away. Contact the company with your ideas and join forces on a small project or two.

If things go well, you might have opened the door for a new strategic partnership that can take your brand to the next level.

A business partnership is like any other relationship. When you meet a new person, you’re instantly connected to his group of friends and their ideas.

Connections are how we grow as people, and it’s often how companies grow as well. If your company is thinking about how to move to the next level, remember the adage: Two heads are better than one.

About the Author

Darren Wilson

Darren Wilson is president of bluemedia, strategist, entrepreneur and speaker. His contagious approach to business has resulted in more than 18 years of success for his companies, along with industry-leading wins for clients like the NFL, Warner Brothers, Target, and AT&T.

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