Alliance Partnerships Start With 1 Question: Who Are Those Guys?
An alliance partnership is a strategic agreement between two or more organizations that agree to work together through shared resources, expertise or market access. Terms of the agreement will vary depending on what each partner brings to the table. In almost every case, an alliance partnership is established to gain a competitive advantage in a particular market or industry.
But where do you start with alliance partnerships?
Alliance partner prospecting will start with requests from the stakeholders for more information about a specific vendor — a request, basically to understand, Who are those guys?
The reasons for those requests will be as broad and as varied as the stakeholders you serve:
- Sales might ask based on customers speaking highly of the vendor and stating that interoperability with the technology will be table stakes for a potential opportunity. Conversely, a customer might cite the lack of connection to that vendor as the reason for not awarding the contract.
- Technologists might ask based on curiosity about the value proposition and how it might fit with your own firm’s offerings to accelerate internal product development efforts, or allow them to cut development efforts through the alliance.
- Strategists might ask based on senior executive or board curiosity about the prospects of an alliance or a potential acquisition.
Capturing the basics
Profiling a potential alliance partner starts with the basics of what, to whom and how?
- What does the company provide in terms of products and services?
- To whom does the company sell its products and services?
- How does the company go to market and provide support?
In most scenarios, your stakeholders will know pieces of this information as they request more details from you. Aggregating these facts and augmenting them with additional information will be the formulation of your company’s internal knowledge base. Other critical elements to curate include basics about the company entity such as the year established, annual revenue (or main investors if a young firm) and key employees.
Knowing the key employees in a smaller firm can often provide insight into how the firm will operate. Did many of the key personnel work together at a prior firm? What do you know about the firm? Does this company have any operating characteristics that are similar to the prior, better known company (if so, what?).
Larger firms obviously have more nuance. If you are trying to determine how to approach them, it likely will be the remit of a specific business entity within the firm that you will want to engage. Profiling from that vantage point likely requires more digging to determine the proper business unit to contact.
But what’s in it for your target partner?
Your stakeholders likely have a good understanding of what’s in it for your company. The key is also to determine what can be in it for the target company to entertain partnering with you. The target company’s website will likely have a general flyover of different partner designations. These should be studied intently, especially for larger firms.
Once slotted into larger firms’ partner programs, it is often difficult to interact with other parts of the organization. This is an emerging disconnect in business alliances during a time of great industry disruption and has to be addressed cautiously.
Many alliance professionals broadly organize partnerships into three categories:
- Sell to directs the transaction to the partner, which may, in turn, “private label” your products in a way that could limit end-customer awareness of your company involvement.
- Sell through aligns with classic reseller dynamics where your firm’s involvement with the end customers could be limited, but customers will have awareness of your brand.
- Sell with has very broad connotations of a true partnership arrangement. These arrangements are often highly customizable in terms of the joint employee interactions, responsibilities and compensation metrics. Smaller firms have to take great care when launching these relationships.
In this blog we look at the basics of creating alliance partnerships and how to prospect potential partners. We suggest profiling a potential partner by aggregating basic information about the company, its products and services, and its key employees. Additionally, is essential to understand what can be in it for your target partner, which should be studied intently, especially for larger firms.