Optimizing Strategic Partnerships

By Karen Pattani-Hason, Head of Strategic Partnerships at TribalScale

As an executive who has specialized in strategic partnerships for a number of years, I am often asked what partnership means. Why is it necessary in today’s business environment, and what makes a good partnership? Here is my take on developing productive partnerships, at TribalScale and beyond.

Why partner?

Partnerships are a critical tool for the growth of any business. This is especially true for companies that are scaling quickly to meet the demands of a growing customer base. To expedite growth beyond the capabilities of current staffing and resources, leveraging strategic partnerships can achieve the following:

  • Boost revenue growth
  • Expand industry expertise
  • Increase market awareness
  • Grow your business overall
  • Developing a robust partnership strategy can accelerate growth by providing access to technology, service offerings, and connections that complement your business. This is especially true of TribalScale, and my focus as Head of Strategic Partnerships. We’re a young innovation and transformation company expediting dramatic changes within some of the world’s best known brands. We’re a small but mighty team, currently 240 engineers, designers, product specialists and brilliant futurists and idealists working hard on numerous large-scale engagements around the world. How do we expand our reach, bring in new technology for the solutions we build, stay fresh and scale? By properly leveraging strategic partnerships.

    Who should be a partner?

    Not every business is qualified for partnership. Not every company that wants to partner is suitable. This is especially true of TribalScale — we’re headquartered in Toronto, hailed the next Silicon Valley due to the explosive growth and investment in tech from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and many others — and our work with these companies and global enterprise clients is growing. When your star is rising — everyone wants to partner with you.

    Therefore, it’s critical to stay focused on those potential partners who will have the biggest impact on your business. Ask the following questions to help qualify a partner:

  • Is their product critical to the work we do with clients?
  • Can we replicate it in-house, or is it too heavy a lift?
  • How many of our clients/prospects currently use this product? Is it something we’re required to integrate on an ongoing basis?
  • Does partnership require certification? Do we have the bandwidth to commit team members to this effort?
  • Do they target the same personas on the client side that we do? Are their solutions marketing-oriented, or technology focused?
  • How is their visibility/credibility in the larger market? Would a partnership reflect well on us?
  • Do they have the resources required to make our partnership a success, in terms of enablement, co-marketing, press, and events sponsorship?
  • If these questions above are answered affirmatively, then partnership is worth exploring. But what does partnership actually mean?

    Defining your partnership

    Partnership can mean many things. Some companies call clients partners because they are partnering together to develop solutions for which such a partner would pay. I don’t define this as a partnership, however — it’s a more collaborative way to describe a client relationship. If another company is contracting TribalScale to build a product or service for them, they are a client. Or client partner. But not a partner in the traditional sense.

    A partner is a company with whom you join forces to bring greater value to a client engagement, more than would be possible working independently. Partnering with Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services or Pivotal Cloud Foundry or Microsoft Azure enables TribalScale to bring a level of advanced expertise in building solutions with their tools and cloud, which benefits our clients in terms of expertise, service, and partner discounts passed through to the client. Partnering with SaaS platforms such as mParticle, Urban Airship, Braze, or Localytics provides our delivery team with preferred access and support when building mobile solutions for clients, while ensuring coordination on the back end that makes life easier for the client. Partnering with AI companies, or Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant provides expedited access to these tools which helps our internal teams develop and iterate faster. It expands our ecosystem of expertise, and keeps us fresh and always learning.

    All qualified partnerships are valuable — but it’s a lot to track. How does one manage so many disparate relationships?

    Developing a Partnership Program

    What does an effective partnership program look like? This depends on your goals for partnership and your targets. Successful partnership programs have parameters that may include the following:

  • Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement to keep all conversations confidential
  • Non-exclusivity as few partners will limit their collaboration options
  • Training/certifications on the use of the tech or services of each partner
  • Account mapping and sales team alignment and enablement
  • Go-to-market materials to support partner joint value proposition positioning
  • Agreement on metrics to measure success
  • Measuring success

    What metrics should be used to measure success in a productive partnership? The most obvious and desirable metric is increased revenue from partner activity — but it can be hard to track. Partnerships do originate deals — but more often they influence deals, increasing the likelihood that they’ll close. Partnerships provide credibility for reluctant prospects, they signal that you’ve been vetted by top partners in key verticals. They boost pipeline when partner teams are enabled to sell joint solutions. They provide co-marketing and PR vehicles to boost awareness. These are give-and-take relationships that grow business in a variety of ways, including the bottom line. Strategic partnerships have become a critical function at a variety of forward-thinking companies, and I’m excited to be leading this effort for TribalScale.

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    Reach me at karen@tribalscale.com if you’re interested in partnership!

    About the author

    Karen Pattani-Hason is Head of Strategic Partnerships at TribalScale. Karen’s career spans 25 years of marketing and business development in media and tech, at MTV Networks, Sony Music, Island Def Jam, and most recently as Global Head of Agency and Strategic Partnerships at Urban Airship. At TribalScale, Karen manages and optimizes technical and strategic relationships to maximize returns for partners and clients. She has a BA from Tufts, an MBA from Columbia Business School, and is based in New York City.

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