The SMART Guide to Building Successful Alliances

Organisations of all sizes often find it difficult to get the most out of their alliance relationships. A productive relationship is one where your marketing strategy aligns well with your alliance objectives, and you can work together towards a common goal. Where you are clear on your target audience, and your marketing activities are integrated into a strategic plan that supports both your organisational objectives and those of your alliance partners.

Top 5 things you must have in place to build successful alliances

Strategy

Share a common objective for your marketing activity that satisfies the alliance goals – and your own.

When you bring up the topic of alliance marketing it is always met with a whole range of reactions, but a common thread that seems to be present in many of the conversations I have had, is the difficulty in aligning an alliance marketing plan with that of your organisation’s. Frequently, co-marketing is seen as a parallel activity to your strategic marketing plan, with the two streams very rarely integrated into a cohesive plan of action.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Marketing teams should work closely with their alliance partners, share their business plans and jointly identify ways in which they can collaborate to achieve a common goal. This may be a simplistic view, and I can already hear the nay-sayers heckling at the back …

“You try selling product to a business audience”; “All they want is licensing, they’re not interested in services”; “They don’t understand my business” … But it can be done, and working together to identify your common objectives is a key step towards building stronger alliances.

When Mavenwire wanted to strengthen their relationship with Oracle, they engaged with Bright Innovation to manage and execute a range of marketing activities to generate revenue and build brand awareness. A joint campaign approach combined Oracle products with Mavenwire’s delivery expertise to offer prospects a complete solution, enabling them to identify new sales opportunities and win new business jointly with the Oracle sales team.

Messaging

When working with most alliance marketing teams, they will be able to provide you with a wealth of material to use in your marketing activity, such as collateral, competitive information, product features and benefits. Every other partner will also have access to the same information.

It is important that you go to market with messaging that clearly differentiates you.

If you are reselling product, what value is your organisation adding to the process? If you are a systems integrator, what experience, frameworks, methodologies can you offer that others may not be able to. It is your key differentiators that your messaging needs to communicate in order to stand out from the hundreds of other partners.

Audience

On occasion, your alliance partner may work with you to develop a plan and even provide you with a database of contacts ready to market to.

At this point, you must assess whether this fits in with your target audience, and carefully evaluate whether you proceed with the newly gifted database you have just acquired, or invest in building your own data set that matches your target profile perfectly.

Often, a little time and investment here can save a lot of pain further down the line when the results are not as expected. It is important to have clarity in who your target audience is, and why.

Reporting

Communicating effectively with your alliance partners is always a difficult balance between over-communicating irrelevant details and not sharing the results of your marketing activity at all.

If you are churning out a raft of activity each quarter, your alliance partner may not necessarily need to know every single detail about the tactics you’ve deployed, what articles have been published, client engagements, down to each technical detail.

However, a regular flow of concise and relevant communications can be a hugely effectively way to market to your alliance partner. A one page summary of who you’ve targeted, using the same terminology (and acronyms), who you’ve engaged with, revenue generated, and key messages is often sufficient enough to keep your key alliance contacts up to date, without inundating them with detail.

Tactics

Another theme that’s often arises is marketing teams being driven to adopt tactics that may not necessarily prove effective for their business. For example, webinars can be a great way of engaging with your audience, raising your brand and profile within certain communities and building a wealth of content that can be distributed across multiple channels. However, they are not appropriate for all messaging and audiences.

If your organisation is trying to position itself as a market leader, perhaps some value-driven thought leadership would be more effective? Maybe consider a highly-targeted digital campaign?

When planning which tactics to use in your co-marketing plan, you need to make sure these support your brand and positioning in the market and are consistent with your marketing activities.

Our Minimum Viable Marketing™ approach allows you to quickly identify which tactics will be most valuable by experimenting and then removing, and/or improving, elements of your marketing plan that do not work as well as expected.

Marketing can be highly effective when structured as an integrated campaign, incorporating many different routes to market. The key point here is that each element of the plan must work together to increase momentum. A poorly executed tactical campaign will only serve as a distraction from core activities and yield below average results.

With over 20 years experience working with alliance partners, the Bright Innovation team understands the challenges involved when working with alliances, and some of the most common pitfalls made by organisations.

We have taken this experience and knowledge, and developed a set of services that enable our clients to overcome these challenges and build successful alliance relationships.

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