It’s hard to argue against the benefits of good strategic marketing collaborative partnerships. When matched correctly, a collaborative partnership can unlock additional value, allow partners to extend past their internal capabilities and give some differentiation in the marketplace. Some arguably successful examples include Dell Computers and Intel processors, Ford and Mazda, along with multiple partnerships to deliver large construction projects.
As luck would have it, those learned folks at the British Standards Institute, together with ISO have developed an eight-stage Collaboration Standard excitingly titled ISO44001. While mainly geared towards establishing and improving collaborative relationships within an organisation, there are some core pillars strategic marketers should take note of.
Assuming that your partnership is destined to produce a winning combination, here’s some non-restrictive guidance as to how to make it stick:
Awareness - Partnerships work best when there is an alignment across vision, values, leadership, and objectives. Businesses need to understand their own internal drivers before looking for like-minded partners to grow with.
Knowledge- Plan, plan, plan. The world’s most successful strategic partnerships are a carefully planned thing. Strategy, desired outcomes, and a long-term partnership implementation plan are all required before you start knocking on the door of interested parties. Develop a plan of what your business wants to achieve with a collaborative partnership and map out what success looks like.
Internal Assessment- Know and understand your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. Know your people, their skills, and maturity. Do you have the right mix of people who are willing and able to work collaboratively to reach a partnership end goal?
Partner Selection- Now that you understand your own business well, including your own people, and have a good sense of what you want to achieve through a strategic partnership, it’s time to select that winning partner combination. With a picture of success in mind, look to partners who can help achieve these goals and unlock some untapped value.
Working Together- Once a partnership has been selected set some ground rules and structure behind working together. Alignment on goals and outcomes is a great start for partner selection but it is not enough to navigate any hiccups along the way.
Value Creation- Continually innovate and collaboratively design to test the best that the partnership might have to offer. Often capabilities within both your own organisation and that of your partner remain hidden until a challenge situation allows them to rise to the surface. The message here is to allow your partnership to continually evolve and allow it to extend past what you might have thought possible.
Staying Together- Like any good marriage, maintenance is essential for good health. By actively monitoring and measuring outcomes, anything unwanted can be addressed early before disruption snowballs out of control. As people are the key part of any partnership, monitoring behaviours and the health of relationships is essential. Internal frictions can quickly be outwardly portrayed resulting in an awkward situation for your target customers or client.
Exit Strategy- All good things come to an end. Like the Ricky Gervais version of “The Office”, knowing when to call it quits is a good thing. A mature partnership will put a line in the sand early allowing some disengagement triggers and processes to be locked in. This makes the exit process as clean as possible and allows all partners to move on.
Collaborative partnerships in strategic marketing can be complex, time-consuming and can place a large drain on resources. Given the investments made, a structured framework makes sense to give the best possible chance of success.