Strategic partnerships matter if you are serious about increased revenue and improved profit and if you have relentless focus on your end user customer.
Our research, which includes direct client interactions, the Voice of the Customer survey and Net Promoter Score results, indicates that innovation is the No. 1 desire of end user customers. Forming strategic partnerships, specifically manufacturer/distributor partnerships, provides the foundation to deliver innovative solutions for your customers.
Doing so increases your market opportunities and creates new paths for revenue. Differentiating your company by bringing added value — a strategic partner — to your clients increases customer retention and customer loyalty.
So, what approach should you take to enable the formation of a strategic partnership?
1. Recognize that you are in the customer business.
Your primary reason to form a partnership is to bring value to your customer. By being “in their business,” you understand the importance you bring to their success. The addition of a strategic partner advances the relationship and increases your opportunity to gain revenue. As a trusted adviser to your customer, you are also positioned to help them through their buying process by helping them recognize needs and evaluating options.
2. Understand and work within your customer’s operating reality.
Being able to see problems and opportunities through the customer’s eyes legitimizes the purpose to extend the relationship with a quality partner. In addition, “operating reality” also applies to the partners forming a relationship. A successful partnership requires both parties to establish and adhere to parameters established at the beginning.
3. Clearly define your reason to form the partnership.
Your customer or new prospect will be accepting of your partnership only if you demonstrate how combined partner resources will help them achieve objectives. Here are a few good reasons that will position your partnership with your customer:
- As experienced print industry providers, you share a similar vision to provide enhanced service, products and technical expertise to meet your evolving needs.
- Each of you has something of comparable value to bring to the partnership — skill sets that complement and enhance each other to deliver your innovative solution.
- The combined resources provide you with a single-source, cost-effective solution.
- You have worked together on many projects, but to ensure consistent and uninterrupted service, you have formalized a partnership agreement and are committed to being in it for the long haul.
- You share a work ethic and morals. You work well together.
Use your combined tools to keep your customer informed of the value you are providing, continuing to advance your relationship. Build a Balanced Score Card (BSC) to show your customer the value the partnership is bringing to their company. How are you delivering innovation? How has your solution helped your customers deliver value to their customers? What are you learning and how can you improve? Document the financial advantages of the partnership. Include your partner in your quarterly business reviews. Remember that your success is due to your combined resources.
5. Survey your customers.
People like to do business with winners. The most effective way to demonstrate this to your customer is to share with them what other customers say about the services you provide.
Here are three points to think about as you create your valued partnerships.
- Conduct a Net Promoter Survey (NPS) to understanding first-hand your customers’ challenges and use that data as the basis for building partnerships.
- Be a demanding partner and create partnerships with organizations that survey their customers and can document loyal relationships.
- Collaborate with your customer and use the NPS to predict data for future revenue and potential risk (for both partners).
Strategic partnerships matter to manufacturers, distributors and, most importantly, to the value you can bring to customers.