How to build B2B partnerships that grow your business
The sheer impact of value-driven business partnerships can’t be overstated. While forming B2B alliances and strategic partnerships takes time and effort to foster, there are huge benefits for both sides including an increase in quality leads, boost in sales and revenue as well as an improved stakeholder experience across the ecosystem.
Building a B2B partnership comes down to 3 fundamental actions.
- Identify opportunities for sharing growth and development
- Determine the type of B2B Partnership
- Outline roles, responsibilities and expectations
Keep on reading as we break this down even further and go over the different kinds of partnerships and how to quickly build successful relationships. In some cases, building a partner program will be the best strategy to skyrocket your company’s growth.
What is a B2B partnership?
When you’re trying to build similar growth-focused partnerships, there are a few things to keep in mind – and we’ll get to those in a moment.
First, let’s explore the different types of partnerships in the B2B world.
What kind of B2B partnerships can you build?
- Mentors and Advisors: Many industry experts take small businesses under their wings to help them grow. For a small-scale business, this kind of a partnership can be extremely beneficial. These alliances can help you grow your network and connect you to other industry experts or potential customers.
- Non-Competitive Businesses: You can also seek partnerships with companies within your industry that offer complimentary products or services. For example, a full-service digital marketing agency can partner with web development and software development companies that provide non-competing ancillary services for similar audiences. This way, both companies can refer clients to each other, collaborate for services, and help them flourish their businesses.
- Business associations and trade organizations: You can build partnerships with your local business associations like the Chamber of Commerce. These associations can provide a massive opportunity for marketing and networking – the events they organize are also a great option to build relationships and generate leads.
- Media Companies: Media can be a powerful source of marketing for your business. Partner with media companies and trade publications that publish relevant content for your industry and audience. This will put your company in front of the types of companies that you want to attract as clients.
- Distribution and sales: B2B Partnerships across the channel ecosystem let you liaise with:
- Merchandise vendors (remember all those rewards on the redemption catalogue)
- Various channel partner organizations with varying strengths, cross-sell capability, enhanced geographical reach – you name it.
- Automation platforms like Fielo that streamlines the incentive programs for channel partners
- Suppliers and vendors that provide high-quality ancillary parts
- Others that help with the softer aspects of the business – marketing, Human Resources, payroll, and such
The fundamental role of B2B partnerships is to ensure that you continue to focus on what you do well.
How do you create a B2B partnership?
A. Identify opportunities for sharing growth and development
Before you start looking for synergetic partnerships, it is important to identify what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a lead-sharing arrangement? A co-marketing / co-branding opportunity? Or do you want to bundle your product with other products for a better selling prospect?
Partnerships sometimes emerge organically, through networking and random encounters with peers from the industry. In most cases, however, you should actively look for companies that complement yours, offer a related service or engage with a similar audience.
B. Determine the type of B2B Partnership (refer to previous section): No matter the type of partnership that you choose, there are two broad categories that can define their structure –
- Strategic Alliances
- Join Ventures
A Strategic alliance partner is another business within your industry (or a related field) that can send referrals your way, potentially adding value to the work you’re already doing.
Think of the CAT dealer network. The average CAT dealer profile looks like this – they are:
- Knowledgeable sales representatives
- Factory-trained and certified service technicians
- Regular preventative maintenance services through its dealers
- Customer support agreements
For CAT, dealers serve as the source of crucial market information, act as consultants and problem solvers, and inform CAT about what the customer really wants. CAT has a strategic partnership with the North American Dealer Marketing Association Board of Directors that is an aggregator of dealers on the ground.
Joint Venture partners, on the other hand, involve cooperation in one or more distinct projects. Both the partner companies are focused on specific projects sharing financial costs, including investment and income generation. A famous example of this type of partnership is the joint venture between Ford and Toyota that started working in 2011 to develop hybrid cars.
Before you codify your agreement into a contract, you and your partner should define the partnership clearly and set fundamentals to make the partnership work effectively.
C. Outline roles, responsibilities and expectations
Who’s paying for what? What is the charter of consequences and of expectations? Are you splitting costs? How are you splitting profits and losses? If the partnership doesn’t work out as you’d hoped, what’s the process for ending it amicably? Once you define the partnership, make sure you formulate roles and responsibilities clearly for each stakeholder. Being upfront about expectations and responsibilities from the very beginning helps a successful partnership for the duration of the contract. With clear communication and thorough planning, a B2B partnership can flourish quickly.
The best B2B partnerships to grow sales
(Did you know that 95% of Microsoft’s revenue comes through partners?)
The most important relationship for growth is with channel partnerships. To summarize, these are strategic partnerships with 3rd party organizations such as distributors, resellers, wholesalers and licensed service providers that are rewarded for their performance in increasing sales and driving revenue.
Their main function of a channel partner is to generate additional sales through product promotions, events and other sales related activities. It is beneficial to both sides because the channel partner will be rewarded for each new deal they close.
Some good reasons to invest in a channel-driven B2B partnership
- Entering a new geography: channel partners have significantly local reach and credibility in their geographies. You no longer have to be based in Atlanta to sell in Atlanta – your channel can build that client network for you. One of the fastest ways to elevate your presence is by leveraging the reach of your partner’s network or customer base and creating a new channel for growth. Also, a well-managed partner program can help you work together to expose both you and your partner’s brands to new audiences, drive additional awareness, leads, and revenue, with less work. This reduces the cost of acquiring new customers too.
- Complementary markets: isn’t it far easier to sell in places where your audience is already buying from? If you are selling keyboards, the best place to sell one would be where people get their PCs from. Or if you are selling smartwatches, look up a channel partner that’s already selling electronic wearables. Complementary markets ensure that you don’t have to start from scratch.
- Bringing a product to the next level: don’t we all want to do well? So when Microsoft partners with companies who are also certified on Microsoft installations – it is the literal cherry on the cake!
As you bring on more partners, you may want to consider a partner program solution that will streamline and automate:
- Deal registration
- Providing Market Development Funds
- As well as Incentives and rewards for selling your product or service
Three ways to ensure that your channel partnerships are super successful
- Set up dynamic reporting processes – not only should you be able to see what each channel partner is up to, but they should also be able to see their progress, rewards, next levels and such. Use the level/ tier program so that everybody knows where everybody is at.
- Use different channel partners for different stages of the sales funnel – remember, there is always a behavior that you can incentivize your channel partner on. Give greater benefits and leads to the ones who have invested the most into learning about your product. For the newer channel partners, ensure that they focus on learning about your offerings and creating awareness in their customer base. Success becomes easier once you know which behaviours to incentivize.
- Create an immersive and responsive partner experience with a partner program – Building this experience starts with a partner portal. Apart from figuring out their rewards, partners should be able to use it to access product information, get marketing materials, leverage training for their team, and do more.
In the current interconnected markets, B2B partnerships offer a phenomenal opportunity to organizations looking to scale – and channel partnerships are a prominent piece of this puzzle. If you’re looking to learn more building B2B partnerships, let us know here.