No business is an island—in our complex and interconnected world, no one can "go it alone." Businesses work together all the time, but the greatest wins come from building successful partnerships with companies that can help you achieve your long-term goals. From extending your capabilities to growing your reach or even achieving a higher number of sales, the right partnerships are a must-have for a growing business. At the same time, a business partnership lets you create value opportunities for others. Collaboration yields mutual benefits.
It is easy to understand that partnerships are a connection for your business, but what does it functionally mean to build them? What do you need to know about this process, and how might you benefit from structuring sales incentive programs and other tools? Let's take a quick look at what makes a business partnership, then explore more about what you need to know.
What is a Business Partnership? Quick Definitions
There are many types of business partnerships, but in this instance, we're referring specifically to the process of two separate businesses identifying a mutual need and working together to achieve that goal. Most commonly, this means connecting with potential new channel partners—other companies that you can incentivize to sell your products and contribute to building your brand's reach. We aren't referring to the partnerships between founders of a new business but two teams coming together to achieve outcomes that benefit everyone.
What Defines a Successful Partnership?
Success has many measures, but how do you define it within the context of a partnership between your business and its channel partners? What constitutes a win? There are several aspects that the best partnerships display:
- A clear and mutual understanding of what each partner expects of the other and a knowledge of what steps to take to achieve goals. When you know how to furnish your business for success and your partners understand what they need to do to earn incentives and bonuses, you're already well on the way to a strong partnership.
- Transparent metrics for measuring growth, sales, and other key facts enable a thorough, data-driven evaluation of your established channel partners. With so much riding on your partners’ efforts, knowing how they perform—and seeing where you can make positive changes to your programs—is essential.
- The free flow of information between partners. For example, a business should be able to provide its channel partners with in-depth information on how to sell its products most effectively and how to understand those items in the first place. Good partner training programs are a key part of forging success.
Just like in all business endeavors, success doesn't come overnight. Instead, building long-term reliability into your strategy requires hard work, attention, and nurturing.
How to Build Partnerships That Last, From Start to Finish
Let's say you're ready to take the next steps—you recognize there is value and potential in building a new partnership, but you aren't sure where to begin. By following a step-by-step process, you can apply a successful B2B partnership strategy and find like-minded operators who are ready to grow to the next stages of success. Consider the five stages of partnership-building to increase your sales and extend your reach.
1. Identify and Approach Candidates for Partnership
The first step is the most fundamental to your efforts to generate future success: finding the right partners. Identifying potential partners and starting a conversation about how your respective companies could benefit one another is the foundation of all the next steps.
There are many ways to identify potential new partners, be it in-person networking at industry trade shows and seminars or through online outreach and advertising. Develop a profile of your ideal partners before you begin and use that rubric to gauge who's worth your time and investment.
2. Define Mutual Needs and Goals with Clarity
How can your businesses help one another? That's the most important question to answer once you begin a deeper exploration of a partnership. For potential partners, you should inquire about the facts of their performance. What kinds of markets can they access? What are their sales capabilities? Meanwhile, you should be ready with answers of your own concerning the incentive programs you can build and the type of support you can provide to your partners. Work together towards a mutual understanding.
3. Solidify Clear and Reliable Lines of Communication
As you develop the partnership more deeply, do not overlook the importance of good communication and clear expectations. "Set it and forget it" does not apply to the hard work required to maintain a strong partnership. Instead, create an atmosphere where communication is easy and crystal clear. Robust partner portal software can simplify this task while providing a reliable way to gather data, track progress, and communicate goals and expectations.
4. Remain Engaged and Strive to Deliver on Your Promises
Over time, it can be all too easy for other things to take your attention off your partners. While eventually, these arrangements can be self-sustaining and easy to maintain, especially in the early stages, you should keep up with your partners and their progress. The more responsive you are and willing to accept and share feedback, the more your partners will want to strive to produce results.
5. Put in a Consistent Effort to Engage Partners
Sticking with the same programs and incentives year in and year out might seem like a recipe for stability, but it can also be a ticket to sluggish growth and plateauing numbers. To keep your partners motivated and engaged, you should periodically evaluate how to improve and change elements of your work together to keep things fresh. Over time, the best partnerships come from two companies whose teams maintain a high level of motivation for enabling each other to succeed in the marketplace.
Why Are These Partnerships So Important Today?
Why should you invest the time and effort to learn how to build partnerships and then follow through on the work? A look at the realities of what these partnerships can offer to both sides reveals three core benefits that any B2B company should want to unlock. Today, partnerships are critical for these reasons:
- Achieving the extensive reach necessary to boost profitability can be a challenge. You may not be able to access every market or audience that may want your product with ease. Strong channel partnerships ensure you're moving more goods through a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Channel partners can alert you to new trends, buying pattern shifts, or sales materials problems. Together, it is possible to workshop an improved sales procedure. Remember, others have the expertise, too—combining their understanding with yours leads to better business outcomes.
- Build your brand reputation—not just with your targeted customers but across your industry. A track record for a strongly incentivized partnership program and a reputation for fair treatment, cooperation, and an easy-to-use system will generate positive word of mouth. Over time, this can lead to even more partnership opportunities.
From boosting your bottom line to improving your brand image, partnerships should be a cornerstone of your strategy today.
Looking to the Future of Your Partnerships
From developing a clear strategy to reach out to other businesses to equipping yourself with tools such as partner onboarding software, reaching out to other companies should be near the top of your to-do list. Today's partnerships are about more than one-sided benefits—they're about mutual gain and close collaboration to enable innovation, satisfy customers, and boost each other's bottom line. Take a step back today and start considering how you can put your business in a better position to succeed through strategies and software for constructive partnerships.