Scaling Partnerships

Best Practices in Partnerships Business That'll Elevate Your Work

Capitalizing on partnerships just got easier.

Integrating strategic partnership programs is key when it comes to supporting and developing your customer base and giving it a competitive edge — but only when it’s done with the best practices in place. In 2022, brand loyalty has shifted and companies often only get one shot to impress and build trust in their business partnerships. Partners who have a bad experience or feel unsupported could run the other direction, potentially taking your good reputation with them. It’s critical that you set yourself up to be the best possible industry partner from the very beginning. 

If you’re looking to successfully scale up sales, customers, and revenue with strategic alliances, read on to learn what every company should consider before navigating the great world of mutually beneficial partnership programs. 

Communicate and be flexible with partnership management

In general, best business partnership practices vary and fluctuate depending on expertise and the types of strategic partners and services you have, what they need to be successful, and how these companies are going to market. While it’s easy for many businesses to have a one-size-fits-all approach or to use an existing example as a rule book, throw that concept away.

Instead, be prepared as a company to tackle joint ventures on a case-by-case approach. Communicate and listen in order to find out what benefits you can offer other potential partners in your industry. Take the time to put your finger on how a potential partnership could be mutually beneficial and how it might drive  success and innovation for everyone involved. Being prepared to shift your business relationship expectations or strategy in order to accommodate their needs is key.

Evaluate your partnerships and pivot when needed

Just because your company has established partnering terms doesn’t always mean you’re locked in to the exact joint venture you initially agreed on. The best strategic partnerships are flexible and allow both sides to use their industry expertise to evaluate and reassess what’s working — and, importantly, what might not be working. Then, learn to pivot accordingly to keep fostering those mutual benefits. 

For example, identify and evaluate risks, lost sales, and costs. Consider the way you speak about your product and how you enter new markets. Set up risk sharing or strategize on how you form your commission structure, or reconsider how you communicate your intellectual property. Being able to pivot and switch business partnerships up in order to try something else that could be better in the end is essential when it comes to growing businesses in the long term. 

See more: Quiz: how much do you really know about partnerships?

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Establish trust with your partners

The bottom line is important, but it isn’t the only consideration for companies when it comes to strategic partnerships and joint ventures. Company trust is the cornerstone of  any successful partnership, and trust can be jeopardized if a partner manager narrows partnership to a market revenue focused strategy.

Instead, avoid those risks by building trust. Start by establishing a dialogue and common goals. What are you trying to accomplish together? How will you do that? What are you ultimately building? And what are you bringing to the table in terms of commitment and expertise? Focusing on the business partnerships themselves instead of immediate financial gain is always beneficial when it comes to companies that want to build integral trust with another company.

Give your partnerships the attention and care they deserve

Crafting an agreement when you’re partnering with other companies and looking at overall strategy can help automate certain processes in the market and minimize some responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean partnerships don’t require any attention or site work.

These days, the best business relationships are still a combination of automated work and personal touches. Once a joint venture is set up, don’t forget about management. Ensure your company has dedicated employees managing the day-to-day, and have conversations to stay aligned on strategy. Both companies require access to needed resources, especially if new technologies or changes to either business offering are involved. Failing to dedicate proper resources and services to emerging or existing partnerships runs the risk of sullying your relationships and even your reputation in the industry, so resist the urge to set it and forget it. 

Establish a long-term business vision

Many companies make the mistake of entering technology partnership agreements with a short-term vision or goal, and often one that’s purely financially driven. However, the most successful strategic partnerships and joint-value propositions look for other benefits first as companies measure long-term business success. 

In the beginning stages of a business relationship it’s more important to focus on metrics, new customers, and KPIs, which should change drastically as markets and companies form. Look at how many partners and strategic alliances are applying to the program in the first place, and of those, which are actually good fits for your industry? Then, how many active partners do you have access to each month? Once your company has moved past those early stages and has had a solid 18 or 24 months to build a solid foundation and capabilities, then you can begin to examine how much revenue those valued partners are closing on a monthly basis. That’s also when you’ll want to examine your overall win rate and costs. 

Related: Partnerships 101: the ultimate partnerships checklist.

Show leadership teams and senior executives your growth

Company leaders may put too much initial focus on the bottom line, especially during early stages of strategic partnerships and agreements. However, being able to communicate more value and other increases in metrics like monthly strategic partner applications is essential. Use them to show your company growth and buy yourself more time to foster your technology, partnerships, and strategic alliances for the long-term.

Be prepared to roll up your sleeves in partnership management

In theory, a strategic partnership should be managed 50-50 between the two partners involved. However, the best relationships are ones in which the management fluctuates as you establish growth and expand. This agility becomes even more important within the context of a partner ecosystem where interconnecting relationships are continually added and developed. A strategic partner isn’t an employee of your company or part of your sales team, and their salaries aren’t tied to selling your solution or technology. They’re more like customers, and their priority is to do what makes sense for their companies, services, customer base, and clients.

That’s why in some cases, the early days of a partnership will realistically be one company bringing more value to the table and making those more established partners want to work with them. Keep the larger, more strategic opportunities in view and never rush through that initial relationship period of the partnership.

Know what you bring to the table in joint partnership ventures

When approaching strategic partnerships, do so with the perspective of wanting to create better business relationships. Often, that means asking what you can do for a joint venture to give it more value. Even though you’re looking to scale up in terms of sales or customers, it’s important to approach partnership business with the intent of helping your partners build their business, create opportunities, make their clients more successful, and to make their jobs easier and more efficient. If that alignment and complementary capabilities aren’t there from Day 1, it doesn’t make sense to partner at all.  

Before you try to scale, put the proper tooling in place

How do you feel about managing sales alongside 50 partners with manual work? How about 100? 500? If you’re aiming to scale, you need to put the right (preferably automatic) systems in place to handle your partnerships. It’s never a good idea  for any two companies to enter a partnership without the proper partnering strategies in place, and that includes tooling.

It’s best to think of your partnerships like customers or clients in this example, because when you do scale up without the proper tooling in place for your existing partnerships, you create the risk of drowning and decreasing your value. We want to stay well above water here. Scaling without the right tools can create disaccord and alienate your integration partnerships via late payments, a lack of deal progression, or other bad experiences. It’s important to prioritize your partner experience from Day 1 and never treat early customers like an experiment. 

If you're looking to elevate your partner program, join us at STACK’D, PartnerStack’s customer summit designed to level up your partner program and scale stronger partnerships. 

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