Driving Revenue Through Partnerships
Ed Porter | July 11th, 2023 | Dublin, Oh
Simply put, it’s harder to access buyers in today’s economy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in B2C or B2B, capturing the attention of your audience is noisy and you are competing with plenty of other channels, brands, and people. You’re also competing with those pet voiceover videos from TikTok. It’s hard to break away from those…so I’ve heard.
Traditional marketing and sales tactics are quickly deteriorating in effectiveness.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) is now a strategy, not a tactic like it was before. It takes time and money to build and sustain a solid digital presence through content. We live in a world where content is consumed everywhere so it’s natural that you want to be where your buyer lives. But there’s no magic bullet.
- Paid ads (ie Google pay per click, LinkedIn ads, Facebook/Instagram ads, TikTok, etc) are getting more and more expensive…and less and less effective. They sound like great investments, but the reality is that paid ads work well at the top of the marketing pyramid so you need a digital foundation built (ie website and SEO) and an executed content strategy before they start returning any sort of positive results.
- Trade shows are getting more expensive to sponsor and flights and hotels aren’t getting any cheaper. Attendees are more guarded as they browse vendor booths. It’s a sea of piranhas waiting to attack their prey making attendees more apprehensive when going into the exhibitor area.
- Sales tactics like cold calling and cold emailing are terrible go-to-market (GTM) tactics. Connect rates on the phone are around 3% at best, and email reply rates are below 1%.
- Customer acquisition costs are increasing. Whether you are using marketing and salespeople, agencies, contractors, technology, or simply time building your brand, these costs continue to escalate making it a heftier investment into growing and sustaining the business.
This is where partnerships come into play as an underused marketing and sales strategy. It helps solve the problem of buyer access and allows you to enter closer nit circles with some credibility backing.
Partnerships often take shape in the beginning when a business is getting off the ground. Think about partnerships like networks…accessing channels to generate referrals. We live in a world of networks and accessing those networks is more critical now than ever. Some networks are hard to crack, so having an insider to help you out pays dividends in the end.
The key to partnerships isn’t an all-or-nothing strategy. Don’t ignore the direct channels in place of partnerships; use partnerships to augment your revenue growth strategy.
This is one reason why I’m part of the AWH Scout Program. To augment my growth strategy, I need to surround myself with companies and people that I can leverage to help my clients drive success. I want to be viewed as a trusted partner to my clients, and I can help deliver that by bringing in partners of mine to help solve problems that I can’t. Here are a few tips to consider when investing time and money into partnerships:
Create “Ideal Partner Profiles”
- Who are the partners you want to target and why? Look at people inside your network first and see if you can come up with partner profiles (ie well-networked individuals, companies you’ve worked with in the past, influential customers, people in positions that interface with prospects and customers, etc). Work with them to find your ideal prospects and ask for connections.
- Is there a fit for complementary or adjacent products/services to yours? If I were selling peanut butter, I’d talk to jelly makers and bread makers and see what we could do together. If I were selling recruiting services, I’d look to companies that are selling training and development services to clients that have needs for talent acquisition.
- Do the partners sell to the same buyer personas? What a great referral connection! Hey, you’re selling to CIOs, I sell to CIOs, can we complement each other?
Clarity and Objectives of Partnerships
- What do you want from the partnership? Are you looking for someone to sell your product or service through their company (ie reseller), or are you looking for referrals so you can run things directly through you? Both options have pros and cons but think through why it would/wouldn’t make sense to do them.
- Referral fees/markups/discounts, etc. This area is never a motivator for a partner, so don’t overthink it! However, have an idea of what makes sense for you and what you can afford. These fees should be considered marketing expenses as you think about investments in business development. Not all referral relationships warrant referral fees, so don’t get hung up on the money side of it.
- Speaking of marketing investments, have an idea of joint marketing efforts you can do together. You will want to have a game plan of how to market your product/service with your partners. What content will you share? To whom will you share it with? What activities can be done to get you in front of their audience? Think through a marketing plan that can help drive conversations around value.
Partner Onboarding and Engagement
- This is one of the most missed steps in developing good partnerships. Partners are a lot like your own employees. They need to be onboarded, educated, trained, and understand your buyer, messaging, the problems they face, and how you solve them. Even if you are working with partners with the same buyer. You still need to work with the partners to teach them how you solve problems and why you are different.
- Onboarding requires joint marketing efforts as well. This is where you dive into marketing outlets, discuss content sharing and distribution, and offer to be part of their team or client’s meetings, webinars, workshop sessions, etc. Think about how you get in front of their audience and work on building solid reasons why it makes sense for a partner to bring you into their audience.
- Don’t lose touch with your partners after onboarding or after a first deal. We’re all about relationships here, so keeping your partners involved is important. Invite them to be on webinars or podcasts. Highlight them in social posts and newsletters. Create standing meetings with them (quarterly or bi-annually) to review business, outcomes, events, etc. Lack of engagement with partners dries up the well in the pipeline, so make sure there are some regular info exchanges.
Create Joint Outcomes
- If you’re going to invest time building something, whether it’s a company, a partnership, a product, etc work on defining what success looks like. These can be in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs), achievement milestones, or tasks to complete. Think about how you work through the partnership and what steps it takes to properly work together and the steps leading to successful outcomes. Again, like that of an employee…define the goals and outcomes.
- Partnerships revolve around you and the partner, so look at outcomes that make both sides successful. It’s easy to just look at a partnership as a revenue generation source, but work with your partner to better understand the “what’s in it for them?” A few things to consider are their clients viewing them as a resource, further credibility in an industry, and complementary/adjacent services to help drive bigger client value. These are just a few reasons why partners want to work with you.
Partnerships represent a strategic growth lever that businesses can pull at any time throughout their existence. The sooner the better, but know that it requires more than just a thought and a little effort. The work must be put in to make partnerships mutually successful and it often requires tweaking along the way. Partnerships are a lot like trees in the ancient Chinese proverb…”The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
If you want help exploring how partnerships can drive a sustainable revenue-generating process, let’s connect and see what works.