When I started looking into the topic of business partnerships a while ago, I obviously started reading about them a lot (I am a content marketer after all). And while some articles about partnerships were better than the others, there’s one I keep coming back to.
It’s ‘From 0 to 2 Million Daily Active Users: A Guide To Growing via Partnerships’ from Brian Balfour.
The post was initially published back in September of 2013 (over 5 years ago!). Balfour shares his perspective on partnerships referring to his concept of growth loops, and it’s definitely influenced the way I think about business partnerships now.
In my today’s article, I’d like to highlight some of thoughts about business partnerships from the original post.
Growing through business partnerships
If you’d to take just one lesson from his article, it would be exactly this: partnerships can be perceived as loops. When approached the right way, they can serve as an effective way to expand your business.
You need to make sure that the process is scalable too: you can repeat it over and again with different partners, refining the model each time.
What I really like about this post is how Brian Balfour starts it by listing all the traps of building B2B2C partnerships. It may seem counterintuitive, but once you know what you’re actually up to, it’s easier to focus on the things that you just need to get right.
Disadvantages of business partnerships
In his opinion, partnerships can be at times:
According to Balfour, any company that has left the startup stage and therefore, has a big enough user base to start a business partnership with will be moving much slower than an up-and-coming company. If your business is like that, you can expect delays and at least some of the decisions to be made not soon enough.
If implemented too early, partnerships can be distractors to your business process. As Balfour states, it is important to not get too far from your own path and to always, even when negotiating and executing a partnership, have your end user in mind.
- Difficult to control
When it comes to business partnerships, not all things depend on you and your team. Balfour goes on to tell a story of a collaboration his social platform Viximo was involved in: ‘At Viximo we once had a partner delay the release of a feature for two months that immediately increased the revenue of the partnership 20%. The reason? They couldn’t decide if they should use an image of a smart phone or feature phone as an icon’.
- Forcing you to divide your attention
This is surely self-explanatory, but having to think about your business partner AND your end user all at the same time can be exhausting.
- Built with mismatched priorities
Some of your business collaborators may have the same priorities, others - may not, and that is ok. Just remember about having your priorities straight.
In the next part of the text, Balfour writes more about when it is the perfect time for your business to start thinking about partnering up with another company.
This time is when:
You’ve already found your product-market fit.
You’ve built momentum and can easily leverage it.
You won’t be depending entirely on your partner, so if anything happens to your collaboration, you will still survive.
For Balfour, two elements are crucial when getting involved in business partnerships: evaluation and implementation.
Business evaluation process
Let’s start with the first one.
Evaluation is all about carefully choosing your partners and planning how your future business partnership will look like. There isn’t a way to skip the process and trust me: you don’t want to do that. Preparation is as important as execution.
Balfour then lists questions that can be helpful when evaluating the growth opportunity and your potential partner. It all goes down to working out a process that can be repeated, having it matter on a micro and a macro level, and the right time and sufficient resources on both your and your collaborator’s side.
Let’s go back to Balfour’s text once more: ‘Getting B2B2C partnerships right is not just about timing, but executing smoothly’.
I’ve written more about when is the best time to go into business partnership above. Now, here’s Balfour’s take on the implementation part of the process.
Building an integration
From his perspective, the number one priority is integration, and how fast you can make it work for both sides. This will surely work for technology partners, but you may need to focus on a different aspect of a business partnership if you have a tool or an app.
When the implementation part is over, it’s time for something that Balfour calls ‘post-implementation management.’ It’s when the partnership is established, and both sides can go from checking what works and what’s not to having an evolved process.
Here’s what important about it (according to Balfour):
- Establish A Point Person On Both Sides
There should be one point person for each party. All communications should either flow or involve that point person otherwise there too much room for confusion.
Other elements of an effective post-implementation management process include:
- Establishing a rhythm of the partnership. Having regular meetings is a must.
- Making sure that you meet with your business collaborator in an out-of-work context as well to get to know them better.
- Upselling is crucial. Don’t forget about involving your partner is as many comarketing and exposure opportunities as possible.
- Communication, communication… Inform your partner about any changes to your business so they will not be taken by surprise in any case.
Over to you
That was a lot to chew on, wasn’t it?
Let me finish by summing up the most important takeaways from Brian Balfour’s ‘From 0 to 2 Million Daily Active Users’.
- Plan everything in advance. Make sure that your business collaboration is based on a model that can be repeated over time with different businesses.
- Communicate at all levels. Decide who will be a contact person on both sides and make sure that your partner knows about any changes to your company. Also, try to connect on in a more personal way. It’s not all about business.
- The devil is in the detail. Getting all small elements right is essential, not optional.
What articles or books have challenged your thinking about business partnerships? I’d love to hear more about them in the comments below.
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