“Let’s do something together.” I hear it all the time. It’s all the rage, this obsession with networking, social media, and a business offshoot, strategic alliances. When it works, it’s great – more people talking about your company and buying your products. What we’ve discovered, however, is that it’s not a race to see who can have the most Facebook friends, or the most strategic alliances.
I’ve often wondered how bigamists pull it off – relationships take so much work. If yours is truly a strategic alliance, and not just a swap of website backlinks for SEO purposes, there will be a commitment of time and resources to support that partnership. If your relationships aren’t generating a profit, how many of these dalliances can you support? Fortunately, you won’t require a shrink to get past these relationships – just a well-written alliance partner agreement. Here is a short list of issues to consider when creating that agreement:
- Your Goals – Whether it’s access to new markets, new technology, or a joint venture to deliver a combined solution, understand what you and your ally each seek from the alliance and confirm the ally’s ability to deliver.
- Your Commitments – Clearly understand what you and the ally will each contribute to the alliance and any deadlines or funding requirements that must be met.
- Your Expectations – While harder to document, there should be a shared expectation in how the alliance will be organized and managed and in the communication style and frequency of both allies.
- Who Owns the Account? – In most situations, the customer wants a single point of contact and no confusion over who has ultimate responsibility for their satisfaction. This means one ally will own the account, and generally, that ownership is valuable.
- The Money Trail – Clearly specify to all alliance partners and customers which ally is to be paid for value delivered. Again, customers want to deal with a single vendor, but in some business transactions they have a responsibility as well to ensure all suppliers to their projects are paid.
Tip: Base a new strategic alliance on a new sale. Until there is money on the table, a strategic alliance can be a lot of talk, an expensive dalliance.