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ASAP Welcomes New Board Members

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Friday, August 21, 2020

ASAP is extremely pleased to announce the appointment of four new members to its board of directors in recent months.

The new ASAP board members are: Kriti Kapoor, former head of social media and online communities, customer service and support at Microsoft and currently the founder of Automation Ready Inc.; Knut Sturmhoefel, CA-AM, vice president and global head of alliance management at Novartis; and Sally Wang, group vice president, global alliances and partnerships at International SOS. In addition, within the past six months Lucinda (Cindy) Warren, vice president of Janssen business development, neuroscience, for Janssen Business Development/Johnson & Johnson Innovation, has also joined the ASAP board.

“We’re very excited to have Kriti, Knut, and Sally join Cindy and our excellent group of board members as our newest additions to ASAP’s board of directors,” said Michael Leonetti, CSAP, president and CEO of ASAP. “They truly enhance and diversify the depth and breadth of experience we have on our outstanding board of directors, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the association which I know will help us immeasurably as we move forward into the future, with all the challenges of these times. I expect they can help us by serving on some of our board’s standing committees, such as membership, finance, and editorial, and through their financial and operational oversight, including approval of the association’s annual budget. And most of all, they’ll come to the table with fresh thinking and new ideas, and we’ll reap the benefits of their experience and knowledge as they contribute to the ongoing governance, growth, and success of ASAP.”

Kriti Kapoor’s long tech career includes stints at Microsoft, HP, and the hypergrowth automation startup UiPath. In her technology marketing and customer care leadership roles, she’s been a builder of online communities and diverse, high-performing teams, not only in the US but in Asia Pacific, Japan, and EMEA. She has a proven track record in her career of successfully executing across multiple functions covering customer service, field and regional marketing, product management, and technology sales, driven by data analytics and customer insights and partnerships. Kriti holds an MBA from the London Business School, and a BSc in computer science from the National University of Singapore. She serves as an advisory board member of the CMO Council Asia Pacific, and was an executive sponsor of HP’s Americas Women’s Leadership Council.

Knut Sturmhoefel is vice president and global head of alliance management at Novartis. He has worked in business development at Novartis since 2005, with broad experience in partnering and deal transactions including more than seven years in alliance management. Knut has a background in research and drug development across different therapeutic areas, including immuno-oncology and ophthalmology. He previously worked at the German Cancer Research Center, as Fogarty Fellow at the US National Institutes of Health, and at two biotech companies in the Boston area (Genetics Institute and Lexigen) before joining Novartis in 2002 as a project manager. He earned his PhD in immunology from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg and holds a master’s certificate in project management from George Washington University.

Sally Wang’s career spans over 20 years in operations, business development, product development, alliance management, and strategy. She currently manages global strategic partnerships for International SOS as group vice president of global alliances and partnerships. Sally works closely with the International SOS senior leadership team and business units globally to identify, develop, and operate critical business relationships to help International SOS grow its capability and global footprint. She and her team manage a portfolio of global partners that includes technology, security, mental health, travel, and professional service companies. She has built a strong partnership division at International SOS, which has been both a winner and a finalist in ASAP’s Alliance Excellence Awards. Sally also advises nonprofit organizations on strategy and partnerships management, and currently serves as vice chair for St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, an organization in Philadelphia that improves children’s health and dental care through community outreach and education.

Lucinda (Cindy) Warren has been a featured speaker at past ASAP events, including most recently the 2019 ASAP BioPharma Conference and 2019 ASAP European Summit. She heads the Neuroscience Business Development Team at Janssen, which includes scientific finding, licensing transactions, mergers, acquisition, out-licensing, divestitures, and alliance management. With over 24 years of broad industry experience, Cindy began her pharma career in Canada. In 1999, she joined the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and has held various US and global roles of increasing responsibility, including sales, marketing, new product development, alliance management, and business development leadership. Just prior to joining the Janssen Business Development Leadership Team, Cindy led the Immunology Business Unit in Australia, returning to the US in 2014 as vice president of alliance management, Janssen, responsible for leading the total pharmaceutical portfolio of collaborations. She received her bachelor of science degree from the University of Alberta, Canada.

As ASAP welcomes these four new board members, we also say goodbye to some longtime ASAP stalwarts who have recently stepped down from the board: Russ Buchanan, CSAP, former vice president of global channel strategy alliances and operations at Xerox and chairman emeritus of ASAP’s board; Donna Peek, CSAP, former vice president of global alliances at Genpact, who steps down as board secretary; and Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca, who steps aside as board treasurer. We’re very grateful for their service on the board and for all their contributions to ASAP. We wish Russ and Donna all the best in their retirement, and we’re thankful that we’ll continue to have the support and leadership behind the scenes from Steve.

Tags:  ASAP Board of Directors  AstraZeneca  Automation Ready Inc.  Donna Peek  Genpact  International SOS  Janssen Business Development/Johnson & Johnson Inn  Knut Sturmhoefel  Kriti Kapoor  Lucinda (Cindy) Warren  Novartis  Russ Buchanan  Sally Wang  Steve Twait  Xerox 

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School of Thought: Three Case Studies Illustrate How to Train Your Alliance Pros

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Sunday, August 16, 2020

Training is still a priority to corporations around the world, according to research from Vantage Partners. More than $80 billion was spent on all forms of coursework in 2019, but how much of that was dedicated to teaching formal alliance best practices? Not much, according to Ben Siddall, partner at Vantage Partners, who revealed that the same research found almost half of companies invested zero or few resources in teaching collaboration skills.

Siddall and his fellow partner at Vantage Jessica Wadd took some of their time to talk about the benefits of making this investment in their on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries,” where they presented a trio of case studies showing that successful collaborative training can take many forms.

Before delving into the actual use cases, Wadd shared that organizations that are best-in-class in executing collaborations have devoted resources—usually on a large scale—to fostering the following skills within their employees: creative joint problem solving, managing emotions, collaboration, communication, influence, conflict management, change management, and facilitation. She outlined three broad categories of skills to help companies tailor training to the needs of their troops: 1) analytical (i.e., technical knowledge), 2) behavioral (i.e., mindset-oriented), and 3) blended—talents that require a mix of the first two skills. As Wadd and Siddall would subsequently reveal, the organization’s overall training objectives, as well as the company and department culture, often dictate which format and skill-development exercises are best for a given situation. 

Come Together: Salespeople Gather to Network, Share, and Learn

Wadd outlined the first case study, which saw a $3 billion tech company design a certification program to ensure that its sales-oriented alliance team developed the talents needed to manage a large stockpile of go-to-market partnerships. This organization was at “level 2” on a four-point scale rating organizational collaborative capability, where level 1 signified a low alliance proficiency and a propensity to engage in partnerships on an ad hoc basis and level 4 indicated that collaboration was coded in an organization’s DNA. The organization envisioned moving up two levels by teaching a variety of executives from within and outside of the alliance practice the basic tenets of “Alliance 101,” including partner value creation, coopetition, multiparty problem solving, collaboration and influence, negotiation, matrix usage, and account planning.

This organization determined that in-person training would best fit its sales-centric culture—its charges “craved interpersonal interaction,” Wadd said. Training sessions served as a reunion of sorts where the largely dispersed employee base could gather to experience firsthand “the value of getting together with their colleagues, sharing experiences, networking with each other, and building a knowledge of what others had done,” as Wadd recounted. The actual sessions were organized into four broader tracks:

  1. Alliance concepts and best practices: Alliance management basics, change management, and coopetition
  2. Understanding partner business models and alliance business plans: Customer value creation and value chain analysis, and account planning and strategy development
  3. Advanced collaboration and influence: Multiparty problem solving, negotiation, and general collaboration and influence skills
  4. Roles and responsibilities (in the organization and within the alliance itself): Working in a matrix, coaching, and talent development

Learners were officially certified when they demonstrated competency in these skills, not upon completion of the courses. They were evaluated based on a three-part assessment: 1) a qualitative review by the trainee’s manager or sales leader, 2) a 34-question multiple-choice test, and 3) a presentation of two case studies demonstrating the application of alliance principles in real-life scenarios.

Biopharma AMs Ease into Self-Guided Alliance Journeys

On the other side of the spectrum of training methods was the largely customizable, self-service program architected by a level-3 $30 billion global pharma company that relied on partnering for growth. These alliance managers were proficient in the basics of alliance management, but they were increasingly engaging in early-stage partnerships, a departure from the largely late-stage collaborations the team was used to. With a decentralized team scattered in multiple geographies, this pharmaceutical giant took the opposite tack of the previous use case and created a library of prerecorded webinars and an accessible central alliance toolkit that provided a “baseline and discipline in how they engaged in alliance relationships,” according to Siddall.

Prospective students could assess their training needs through surveys and self-assessment tools. Employees had different needs depending on the types of alliances they worked on and the particular skills required for their respective engagements. Each individual could mine this central repository of virtual real-time learning sessions, classroom sessions, self-guided learning, one-on-one coaching, and community-based learning to create “their own learning journey out of that landscape,” said Siddall. “Folks were able to tailor what they needed and how they got it to their specific constraints, all within the construct of the core alliance management tools, processes, and playbook.”

Pharma Company “Layers” AM, Leadership, and Governance Training on Thick

Another biopharma company was looking to advance its alliance practice from a level-2 standing and become the coveted “partner of choice” in its market. With most of the employees engaged in its partnerships centrally located in a few offices, the company opted for a classroom style and a syllabus designed for alliance professionals. It decided to “layer” leadership training on top of the basic alliance curriculum, and then codeliver the entire offering to the rest of the organization in an “open enrollment” format, in Wadd’s retelling.

Within a few years, the course was heavily attended by alliance first-timers and other employees whose managers felt that they could benefit from learning core collaborative competencies. These classes were eventually complemented with online learning resources, as well. The program evolved to cater to specific governance needs across the alliance portfolio. Although they were not required, executives who were appointed to committees were urged to take courses that were conceived specifically for these roles, as well as half-day sessions that took place a few times a year where committee appointees could network, share ideas, learn from each other, and enhance their skills.

Integrating alliance training for all levels and roles in this fashion “makes sense when you have a limited budget,” in Wadd’s estimation.

Three Different Ways to the Next Level

Each of these three use cases relied on very different means to train alliance managers and non-alliance personnel in the core tenets of alliance management, yet they each molded stronger alliance managers and elicited better results from their collaborations. The certification program expanded the number of tools in the team’s arsenal, engaged employees from other departments, and increased the value of the portfolio to the point where alliances now contribute 40 to 50 percent of the company’s domestic revenue growth. The biopharma giant’s self-administered training similarly expanded the role and visibility of alliance management within the organization. More important, the efficient use of resources ensured that the practice could “optimize the use of [its] scarce central alliance expert time and apply [it] only to the highest-value challenges [it] faced,” said Siddall. The last training helped the alliance management team better defuse potentially volatile situations, reduced the number of escalations to senior governance committees, and produced better resolutions of the issues that were brought to senior management. The alliance practices of the first two organizations have reached level-4 status, while the latter pharmaceutical company has moved from level 2 to 3.

Although these case studies make it crystal clear that there is no “single silver bullet” for alliance training, Siddall outlined a few common principles in achieving collaborative training goals among them:

  1. Think about the learning journey as a process, not an event. “You can’t create collaboration, influence, [and] the kinds of complex skills alliance managers need at a one-time event with no prework, no follow-up, [and] no action learning,” said Siddall.
  2. Make sure all subject matter is contextualized. “Generic content will not be as impactful. Folks won’t develop the skills, and they won’t be as engaged,” counseled Siddall.
  3. Instructors should have real-world expertise and speak the same language as attendees.
  4. Emphasize practical application. Siddall recommended a “learning laboratory” format where students apply concepts to real-world scenarios.
  5. Think carefully about format,” Siddall exhorted, hypothesizing that analytical-category learning outlined by Wadd earlier in the presentation might lend itself to self-guided tools, while behavioral and blended training may necessitate live, interactive sessions.

“Alliance Management Skill Building: Case Studies Across Industries” is one of about two dozen 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit sessions available on demand to Summit registrants. ASAP members and Summit registrants can access great knowledge like this that applies to all industries and all phases of the alliance life cycle.

Because in the world of alliance management, the learning never stops. 

Tags:  alliance best practices  Alliance Management  Alliance Pros  alliances  Ben Siddall  biopharma  case studies  certification  collaboration skills  Jessica Wadd  partner  portfolio  resources  Skill Building  Vantage Partners 

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ASAP Recognizes and Celebrates 2020 Chapter Achievements

Posted By Kimberly Miller, Sunday, August 16, 2020

ASAP chapters build local, alliance best practices communities by providing regional programs and networking events. Chapters are volunteer led by some of ASAP’s most active and engaged members. Through their passion for alliance and partnership management, they invest their time and energy in planning and delivering events with a diversity of topics and speakers equal in quality to those experienced at ASAP global conferences.

Current active chapters include California, France, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, North Carolina, and the UK.

This year three chapters earned commendations for their achievements, dedication, and delivery of local community events.

The UK Chapter is being recognized for reenergizing the chapter this past year by building a leadership team, growing the local ASAP community, securing event sponsorship, and expanding cross industry content. The chapter executed three events that received many complimentary reviews for quality content and networking activity.

The Midwest Chapter has consistently delivered 3-4 well-received programs each year, offering valuable content, and kept an ongoing presence in the alliance community. The chapter accomplished this with the leadership of strong volunteers across a large geography.

The New England Chapter has not rested on their past achievements. They maintained momentum with an active and engaged leadership evolving an event team model that has led them to consistently deliver interactive programs of quality and interest to their regional alliance community. Furthermore, the chapter continues to engage new ASAP certified team members.

Congratulations and thank you to the chapter leadership teams. These ASAP volunteers remind us that the strength of our community lies in each of us through our engagement, contributions, and investment of time.

Tags:  certification  Chapters  community  leadership  partnership management  programs 

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Mashup or Culture Clash? When Biopharma and IT Meet Up in Digital Health Alliances

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Monday, August 3, 2020

It’s generally accepted that the alliance management profession is entrenched in IT and biopharma more deeply than in other industries. In these vertical markets, no business can sustain significant growth without developing an alliance practice and a deep portfolio of partnerships. No one company could develop a full stack of hardware, software, and cloud services on its own and still keep pace with the blisteringly fast tech sector, nor could a single pharmaceutical entity complete the entire drug life cycle solo for an entire portfolio of drug candidates.

Yet for many years these industries have operated largely in separate spheres based partly upon vastly different alliance principles. This is starting to change with the advent of digital health, an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of initiatives that utilize digital technologies to advance and streamline patient care in the form of preventive treatment, hyperpersonalized medicine, more accurate drug discovery, and a more efficient patient-provider relationship, among other applications. (See “Digital Health at the Crossroads,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q4 2019, for more on this rapidly expanding area.)

Suddenly, cross-industry alliances are popping up everywhere, from GE Healthcare’s Edison intelligence platform (see “It’s the Data—and a Lot More,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2020), to the alliance between AstraZeneca and Flex spinoff BrightInsight, to the myriad data-driven pharma collaborations hard at work today. Now, Big Pharma, biotechs, and academic medical researchers are increasingly mingling with tech-industry startups, midsize companies, and Global 1,000 enterprises, necessitating the coalescence of these two alliance cultures.

Mind the Gaps

In their on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “The Alliance Management Mashup: Bridging a Digital Divide,” the proprietors of alliance management consultancy The Rhythm of Business laid out a common alliance framework that would help digital health partners on both sides better understand each other and function together more successfully.

Or course, to close gaps, you must first identify them. According to Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD, principal at The Rhythm of Business, the most glaring of these disparities is the timeline in which these industries innovate and bring solutions to market. In tech, companies develop products iteratively through agile processes in order to bring offerings to market in the tightest of windows—the “next big thing” can become yesterday’s news in a hurry. By contrast, it can take up to a decade to commercialize a therapy thanks to a stricter regulatory climate and pharma’s more methodical drug-development processes, although Shuman noted that today’s exceptional circumstances have led to some COVID-19 research being conducted in an “accelerated manner” using iterative techniques.

“‘Move fast and break things.’ That may help promote innovation, but it’s not a good principle when people’s health and lives are at stake,” said Shuman, referencing the famous operating philosophy Mark Zuckerberg used to take Facebook to stratospheric heights. Not a great recipe for pharma, to say the least.

Tech and biopharma differ in many other ways as well. Generally speaking, tech is solution-centric while the pharma market revolves around products. Tech solutions are code-driven, while pharmaceutical offerings involve complex manufacturing processes that are “highly customized for each drug and drug formulation, often requiring a dedicated cold chain to get from factory to patient,” said Shuman.

Technology products are peddled in large part through channel sales and collaborative selling efforts, while pharmaceutical firms spend lots of resources comarketing and copromoting joint products. Tech companies—particularly software vendors—can sell and distribute products through distributors, resellers, and system integrators,  or by “white labeling” their products­ via OEM agreements. Patients buy drugs from pharmacies, while pharma companies often rely on combination therapies. Where new subscription-based business models are predicated on the “land, adopt, expand, and renew” approach, pharma’s product-based life cycle management is usually expressed in the form of “new indications and new formulations.”

Disparities Extend to IT, Pharma Alliance Practices

Alliance portfolios, partnerships, and alliance manager roles look much different in these industries as well. Pharma alliances are negotiated individually and often underpinned by detailed long-term contracts with multiple subagreements, while tech partnerships can often be grouped along a particular area of focus and covered by blanket contract terms that apply to an entire partner program. Today, technology companies partner on platforms around common APIs, while pharma companies license individual assets. The pharmaceutical industry banks on partnerships at all stages of the drug-development life cycle, from research to commercialization, while tech usually partners when it is time to go to market.

Just about everything a tech alliance manager does is in the name of driving revenue—in fact, alliance practices are expected to generate new streams. Although revenue generation is a major imperative to pharma alliance managers, it is secondary to risk mitigation and maximizing the value of joint assets; pharma managers spend more time monitoring contract compliance—determining when amendments or entirely new agreements are necessary—than their tech counterparts do.

Tech alliance managers must earn the commitment of partner resources, while pharma contracts usually spell out resource obligations. Instead, biopharma alliance managers focus their energy on giving higher-ups “all the data they need to make smart decisions,” according to Shuman. Given the distributed nature of tech alliance management, the alliance division must actively engage field sales to get salespeople to actively shop an alliance solution. In biopharma, the field “doesn’t have choice,” in Shuman’s words.

Reconcilable Differences

How do you actually reconcile these differences? Jan Twombly, CSAP, The Rhythm of Business’s president, illustrated the answer with an anonymous case study where a Big Pharma corporation and a technology outfit leveraged the latter’s IoT platform to codevelop apps and medical devices and collect real-world evidence (RWE) from patients that would ultimately enable highly personalized care. Their business model rested on software subscriptions paid for by the biopharma entity to the tech company, which is “different from what biopharma companies are used to,” said Twombly. A collaborative framework was established in several key areas—the two organizations settled on joint development, cocommercialization, and revenue sharing arrangements. However, the pharma company was tasked with deciding what it wanted in the device, what the device would do, and what outcomes it would produce, while the tech company determined how to take the platform itself to market.

On a broader level, the companies needed to align on the intended outcomes, regulatory pathway, decision-making processes, and go-to-market messaging. This turns out to be easier said than done. Pharmaceutical companies are used to applying software to internal processes but not to product development, nor are they well versed in working with tech companies in a true vendor-relationship capacity. On a practical level, IT and pharma alliance managers have drastically different titles and functions.

“It may be challenging to engage in stakeholder mapping and getting the right people in the meetings,” said Twombly.

Extensive regulatory-, safety-, and quality-related processes are new to tech, which forced the IoT vendor in this case to rely on the pharmaceutical company’s expertise.

“[Pharmaceutical companies] should be in the lead when it comes to determining what the regulatory pathways are going to be,” said Twombly.

Lighter and Leaner Governance, Stronger Champions, and More Listening

Both entities needed to reimagine the governance process and the role of their joint steering committee (JSC).

“Governance-through-committee doesn’t work all that well in a lean tech company,” said Twombly, before noting that this presented an opportunity for the biopharma alliance managers to try on a lighter, “more agile” governance where teams met more frequently but for less time.

Governance is especially important in ensuring transparent decision making; it may require especially rigorous stakeholder management and a different decision hierarchy from what either side might be used to. In particular, the parties must devise a governance structure that helps partners align on evidence standards so that the tech company can produce data that will “pave that [regulatory] pathway” to meet the biopharma entity’s standard.

Senior leadership champions are especially important in getting stakeholders to understand the value of digital health partnerships and engage in the new modus operandi required for their execution. To foster collaboration, Twombly spoke of “listening to understand,” a process that involves creating a “common language with shared meaning” that helps leverage each party’s strengths. 

Follow the North Star—and Respect Culture’s Hearty Appetite

Twombly urged partners to boil down their discussion of desired outcomes to three points: 1) Align on a North Star—“know what it is that you are trying to produce, know what the outcome is that you want from this partnership, and keep everybody focused on achieving it”; 2) Agree to milestones and metrics; and 3) Make status against plans visible to all.

Twombly also reminded the audience of the old saying that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” To remedy cultural differences, she recommended that tech alliance pros assume the best of intentions on the part of their biopharma counterparts and speak up and provide alternatives when something won’t work in their environment. On the flip side, pharma companies need to explain their world, with visual aids showing how their organizations work, wherever possible. As with all alliances, everyone must celebrate successes and learn from mistakes.  

Twombly closed with a series of “tips and traps.” For the former, she outlined the following:

  1. Take time to understand how each partner innovates, goes to market, and what partnership looks like to them.
  2. Understand your counterpart’s focus, job, and core responsibilities.
  3. Use the alliance management foundation to decide how to bridge differences—the toolsets provided by ASAP “give you a common baseline which you can work from.”

The three traps to avoid?

  1. Allowing stakeholders to think that a digital health partnership is like all the others—“you’re really going to have to adapt new behaviors and ways of looking at things” because the status quo will not suffice, warned Twombly.
  2. Make sure each side appreciates and leverages what the other brings to the alliance.
  3. Don’t fail to champion your partner and partnership.

Above all, Twombly exhorted companies on both sides to recognize the high stakes and the game-changing potential of these collaborations.

“The promise for digital health is significant for both technology and biopharma companies, never mind the patients,” she said. “Allow these new therapies, applications, and ways of developing drugs to thrive.”

If you registered for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, don’t miss out on the bounty of career- and partnership-boosting tips and tricks from some of the profession’s most senior practitioners. The three days of live Summit sessions, plus more than a dozen prerecorded presentations, are available to you on demand until Aug. 18. Log on to the Summit portal soon to access them before they’re gone! 

Tags:  Alignment  alliance practice  alliance principles  Biopharma  biotechs  cloud services  cross-industry alliances  Digital Health  digital technologies  drug candidate  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  metrics  milestones  North Star  partners  partnerships  pharmaceutical  software  The Rhythm of Business 

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Keeping It Relevant, Keeping It Real: Summit Session Tackles Promoting Joint Marketing Initiatives amid COVID-19

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, July 23, 2020

“Enterprises are being tested. People are being tested. Certainly, strategic alliances are being tested.” As Mark Reino, principal and founder of Merit Mile, spoke, a quote from Cengage CEO Michael Hansen about the importance of staying ahead of the curve in these trying times appeared on the screen. A few moments later, Andrea Katsivelis, global strategic marketing advisor at Microsoft, shared anecdotes accompanied by screen shots of young children, dogs, and cats making unsolicited cameos in work-related Zoom meetings and Microsoft conferences. Shortly thereafter, a Warren Buffett quote graced the screen offering the silver lining that we will all be better off in the long run after we overcome the interruptions to our normal ways of doing business that have been forced upon us.

Reino and Katsivelis were setting the tone for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Are Your Alliance Marketing Strategies Destined to Boom or Bust?” They were about to spend the next half-hour reviewing some of the basic tenets of joint marketing, but first they wanted to remind viewers that we have to play the cards we are dealt and make sure our marketing programs account for the current climate.

“We learn how to block out the noise and accommodate. It’s a lot to handle. It’s the elephant in the partnership virtual room, and we keep on working through it,” said Katsivelis.

Flexibility Helps Stretch Shrinking Marketing Dollars, Resources

With that, it was time for the audience to feast on the meat and potatoes of joint marketing. Reino began by emphasizing that alliance marketers, like many of us, are being asked to do more with less—or “more with flexibility,” he said, trying to put a positive spin on it. “More partner alliances. Fewer dollars to support them. Quicker timelines and limited access to people and resources.”

Joint marketers also face tactical challenges. According to Merit Mile’s own research, 55 percent of executives felt that the development of substantive joint messaging is the toughest part of creating a business plan, while 40 percent cited limited access to subject matter experts (SMEs) as the biggest obstacle in plan execution. On top of that, companies are facing a talent shortage; there aren’t enough specialized joint content marketers to perform essential marketing tasks, such as joint messaging and sales enablement. Moreover, 54 percent struggle to produce memorable messaging, 42 percent encounter bottlenecks in joint marketing/sales programs, and 40 percent do not have access to creative teams.

Katsivelis concurred that joint messaging, in particular, is “a struggle.” “Finding those key points that resonate can be like finding a unicorn,” she said, before reiterating that these hurdles are compounded by the fact that alliance portfolios aren’t shrinking. More than half of organizations expect to increase or maintain the same number of alliances in 2020, yet nearly half of people are still using traditional tools like spreadsheets and email instead of modern digital transformation tools to manage these large stables of partnerships—14 percent have no formal process or tools at all.

Content to Address the Customer’s Problem

How should marketing partners solve these challenges? Reino started with an idea that, on the face of things, should go without saying.

“Having a plan and executing it might seem simple enough, but the data indicates that four in 10 companies do not have a COVID-19 plan or a crisis communications plan in general,” said Reino. In addition, 23 percent are not communicating externally or don’t know how.

One of the most important tools for bringing plans to fruition: content that resonates with prospects and customers, which Katsivelis proceeded to address in greater depth.

“No one wants to be pitched on how great your company and alliance is, or how your widget is the best,” she cautioned. Rather, the goal is to get your prospect to connect with a story or image that resonates in a “lasting and meaningful way.”

To spark this relationship, it helps to address the customer’s problem or need, and then back it up with customer success stories. On a more granular level, Katsivelis stressed the importance of sprinkling keywords related to the business problems you are solving into the title, opening paragraph, headings, and tags to help your content gain SEO traction. Most important, both partners must align on what exactly the customer need is and how the partners can remedy it together.

Storytelling is particularly critical in email marketing, the method of customer communication leveraged by 65 percent of Merit Mile’s survey respondents. However, Katsivelis emphasized not looking at any single piece of communication in a vacuum. No single ad, blog post, or web page will sustain a marketing campaign, but “a planned series of connections that inform [the prospect]” will create and maintain a steady drumbeat as long as every piece of content starts with the business challenge, not the alliance’s joint solution. Katsivelis called this process feeding the “conversation funnel with your content.”

Third Parties Are the First Choice for Delivering Your Message

Dotting your content with contributions from thought leaders is paramount. Once you identify the appropriate experts for your marketing plan, be aware that each might present different opportunities and constraints in working with them. Some are very busy and need help creating content. Others are excellent writers but not necessarily dynamic speakers. Many have large social networks and lots of followers to leverage.

Third-party experts are pivotal to your marketing campaigns as a whole, not just your content, as both presenters explained later in the presentation. Tech bloggers, journalists, industry analysts, customer advocates, and independent SMEs lend added credibility to your messages that inherently cannot be earned by even your most respected company executives.  

“The notion of credible industry leaders extending your message to targeted audiences is here to stay. From the agency standpoint, the number of these types of requests for paid media have increased nearly tenfold over the last two years,” said Reino, who added that influencer marketing isn’t just for consumer audiences anymore; B2B companies that don’t engage independent influencers will get left behind.

The Road to Salesperson Adoption Is Financially Driven

Joint marketers must also bake internal and external communication into their plans to highlight alliance successes. Reino outlined four elements of driving alliance program awareness: 1) energize audiences with fun materials, 2) educate both external and internal audiences on how your programs will help them strategically, 3) recognize high performers and success stories at appropriate moments—Reino urged viewers to be judicious in doling out praise, however—and 4) create incentive programs that drive the financial structure of the alliance program.

To that last point, Reino reminded the audience that the sales department has many solutions to sell, so it is up to the alliance team to make joint solutions a higher priority. Sales accelerators, special compensation plans, employee recognition and rewards, and hands-on assistance from the alliance team in joint planning and coselling are just some examples of tools alliance marketers can use to whet salespeople’s appetites.

“This audience is largely financially driven,” Reino said.

Show You Care When You Share

Of course, as Reino and Katsivelis said at the outset of the session, these principles need to be contextualized in today’s socially conscious climate. According to Metric Mile’s survey, 41 percent of people feel socially responsible messaging has a positive impact on alliances, which is why organizations must get COVID-19 messaging right. Katsivelis said Microsoft has actively touted its recent partnerships that help identify and track coronavirus cases. The organization has also actively engaged its own employees to make sure they are safe and give them a sense of community in this time of remote work and social distancing. By contrast, in looking at her own inbox, Katsivelis swore that most organizations “have missed the mark” in their coronavirus-related communication in that they talk the talk about caring about their customers but don’t get into “what they can do to help or provide new information that can be relevant to me.” 

Companies have also seen recent opportunities to align with the growing Black Lives Matter movement or Pride Month in June. Either way, if companies decide to connect with particular segments of the population, content and social media engagement should be developed and delivered through the lens of those audiences.

“Are Your Alliance Marketing Strategies Destined to Boom or Bust?” wasn’t the only source for marketing knowledge at the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Check out our coverage of veteran Citrix marketer Liz Fuller’s on-demand session on creating marketing moments. Or better yet, use your Summit registration credentials to watch “Integrated Joint Alliance Marketing Best Practices: How to Establish Joint Marketing Moments That Drive Impact” in its entirety, as well as several other presentations that are chock-full of tricks of the trade for optimizing your alliance portfolio.

Tags:  alliance  alliance program  Andrea Katsivelis  best practices  Cengage  COVID-19  Joint Marketing Initiatives  Mark Reino  Merit Mile  Michael Hansen  Microsoft  modern digital transformation  strategic alliances 

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