Strategic partnerships matter if you are serious about increased revenue and improved profit AND if you have relentless focus on your end-user customer.
Earlier this year, my partners and I were asked to lead a panel discussion on this topic for an audience of 120 C-level executives. Our research, which includes direct client interactions, Voice of the Customer and Net Promoter Score surveys all indicate that INNOVATION is the #1 desire of end-user customers. Forming strategic partnerships, regardless of your industry, provides the foundation to deliver innovative solutions for your customers. Delivering solutions increases your market opportunities and creates new paths for revenue. Differentiating your company by bringing added value, a strategic partner, to your clients increases customer retention and customer loyalty.
If we solve our customers’ problems… we’ll solve our own®
So, what approach should you take to enable the formation of a strategic partnership?
1. Recognize that you are in the CUSTOMER business. Your primary reason to form a partnership is to add value to your customer. By being “in their business” you understand the importance you bring to their success. The addition of a strategic partner only advances the relationship and increases your opportunity to gain additional revenue. As a trusted advisor to your customer you are also positioned to help them through their buying process by helping them recognize their needs and evaluating their options.
2. Understand and work within your customer’s OPERATING REALITY. Being able to see problems and opportunities through the customer’s eyes legitimizes the purpose to extend the relationship with a quality partner.
In addition, OPERATING REALITY also applies to the partners forming a relationship. Your business may be the same, similar or different than that of your partner. So, it is critical to understand that a successful partnership requires that both parties establish and work within the guardrails agreed to on the front-end of the relationship.
3. Clearly define your reason to form the partnership. Your customer or new prospect will be interested and accepting of your partnership only if you demonstrate the value the combined partner resources bring to helping them achieve their objectives. Here are a few good reasons that will position your partnership with your customer:
As experienced service providers, you share a similar vision to provide enhanced service, products, and technical expertise to meet your evolving needs.
Each of you has something of comparable value to bring to the partnership, skill sets which complement and enhance each other to deliver your innovative solution.
The combined resources provide you with a single source, cost-effective solution.
You have worked together on many projects, but to ensure consistent and uninterrupted service you have formalized a partnership agreement and are committed to being in it for the long haul.
You share a work ethic and morals.
You work well together and can demonstrate how you worked with your partner to deliver unique value.
4. Measure and drive best practices. Use your combined tools to keep your customer informed of the value you are providing, continuing to advance your relationship.
“If you are not keeping score than you are just practicing.” -Vince Lombardi
Build a Balanced Score Card (BSC) to show your customer the value the partnership is bringing to their company. How are you delivering innovation? How has your solution helped your customers deliver value to their customers? What are you learning and how can you improve? Document the financial advantages of the partnership. Include your partner in your QUARTERLY BUSINESS REVIEWS. Remember that your success is due to your combined resources.
5. Survey your customers. People like to do business with winners. The most effective way to demonstrate this to your customer is to share with them what other customers say about the services you provide.
Conduct a Net Promoter Survey to understanding first-hand your customers’ challenges and use that data as the basis for building partnerships.
Be a demanding partner and create partnerships with organizations that survey their customers and can document loyal relationships.
As strategic partners, having NPS data will provide you with predictive data for future revenue and truly knowing if your clients are at risk---for both partners.
Providing clients with innovative solutions is a clear differentiator that may require you to form partnerships to deliver the added value expected by your clients. At Butler Street, we help companies get closer to their clients. Beginning with VOC, our structured, repeatable methodologies are designed specifically to advance relationships and improve client retention. Learn more
Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.