The Role of Marketing in Partnerships: An Imperative, Not Just a Nice-to-Have
All too often within a partnership, marketing teams are brought in reactively, to address ad hoc requests: press releases or partner microsites, for example. Being a marketer for over a decade, I have always found this to be a rather suboptimal utilization of marketing talents. To realize the full potential of one’s marketing teams, marketing should be included as early as possible within an alliance life cycle and not tossed in at the end as an afterthought.
This post will discuss the value that marketing brings during the life cycle of an alliance. Here’s how marketing can help elevate a partnership across some of its various phases:
At this stage, when contemplating an alliance, marketing can be particularly useful when thinking across the “Four C’s of Strategic Positioning”: Customer, Company, Competition, and Collaborators. From target market segments to buyer personas to customer needs and drivers, market information can be readily accessed from product marketing teams. Besides market and customer information, marketing teams own a wealth of competitive intelligence that can immensely help alliance teams to define their partnership vision and strategy.
Analysis and Selection Phase
As the name suggests, this phase has dual purposes. Analysis and selection of partners includes establishing performance goals for the partnership and subsequently evaluating potential partners against those goals. Below are the ways marketing can particularly increase an alliance team’s efficiency and better serve the partner:
- Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of prospective partnerships
- Defining partnering propositions, i.e., the value of joint solutions (covered in detail in my earlier blog post, https://www.strategic-alliances.org/blog/guest-post-position-your-alliance-strategy)
- Analyzing strategic and business fit, including understanding marketing fit
- Estimating the STROI (strategic return on Investment), which entails evaluating the market impact, competitive advantage, and financial return of a particular partnership
In the operational planning phase, partner teams translate the value proposition defined in the first stage into a realistic operational business plan and blueprint, adding finer details to mobilize the vision. A few of the many critical elements where partner teams require marketing to draft a plan are:
- Creating a product launch plan
- Establishing a customer acquisition and retention strategy
- Defining overarching marketing strategy—understanding target segments, identifying buying criteria, exploring upsell opportunities, etc.
- Planning outreach channels—owned, earned, and paid media
- Competitive intelligence—identifying existing competitors and potential new entrants, communicating differentiators and unique selling propositions (USPs)
Launching and Managing the Alliance
An important aspect of managing an alliance is designing a measurement system that focuses on key leading indicators that enhance results, synergetic actions, and innovations. Marketing metrics turn out to be very important in diagnosing the health of a partnership. Some of the marketing metrics that should be considered are:
- Market impact
- Market share
- Expansion into new markets
- Brand recognition
- Customer retention and upsell
- Competitive advantage and differentiators
- Speed to market
- Barriers to entry
- Intellectual property
When used properly, marketing teams can be a force multiplier for alliances, augmenting partnering teams by bringing in a strategic outlook and at the same time streamlining operational workflows over the course of partnerships’ life cycles. More important, to get the most of out of your alliance marketing teams, you should include them and get them involved right from the start of your partnership journey.
Aditya Kammula is a technology alliances manager and marketing executive with Nutanix.