6 Core Elements of Developing a Strategic Partnership with Your Customers

February 19, 2013

Strategic Partnership: Just a Marketing Strategy or Something More?

6 Core Elements of Developing a Strategic Partnership with Your Customers

If you’re a emerging state technology venture company, you’ve likely encountered fierce competition to get to where you are. In some cases where customers have difficulty differentiating providers, there can be a “race to the bottom” in terms of competing on price. Typically, that is a situation you obviously want to avoid. But what are other ways you can differentiate yourself?
For some, a core differentiator is the technology. If your product provides a clear competitive advantage then you can market to your product’s strengths and let your marketing and sales teams take it from there.
But what happens if that competitive advantage isn’t obvious to the customer? Or if the advantage doesn’t give you a clear distinction in the market? Offering prospects more than just a product or service, but also a partnership might be a compelling strategy.

What is a Strategic Partnership?

The term “strategic partnership” has become derided these days as little more than pure “marketing.” With every company espousing they are terrific “partners” to their clients, has the term ceased to carry any significant meaning? Note quite yet, but in order for your customers to truly feel that a strategic partnership exists, you will need to follow up your promises with actions.
In the Buyers Insights interviews I’ve conducted, clients have often have told me true strategic partners are those who go the extra mile and try to build a long-term relationship. Here are a few tactics you can use to form a long-term strategic partnership with your customers:

  1. Proactively understand the customer’s needs and propose solutions: Examine their business issues and propose any solutions that your company can offer them. Check in regularly with your primary client to see if their needs have changed.
  2. Be sensitive to their limitations: If you’re proposing to transition them to a new technology, give them options. If you are pitching to small or medium-sized businesses, discuss at length what their needs are. Make sure to distinguish between their most crucial/time sensitive requirements and those that can be put off until later.
  3. Gauge the potential objections of your prospect’s stakeholders and tailor your proposal accordingly: Be aware of their buying process, the chief stakeholders involved, and the concerns they each will have.
  4. Leverage all of your selling points: Sell your proposal not only on the technical merits, but also on the strength of your product roadmap and customer service teams.
  5. Ensure your pricing is competitive, and explain your value add services: Unsurprisingly, pricing is typically at the top of the prospect’s mind, but services also play a role. It’s important to illustrate the full cost of your competitor’s offerings (especially if they only provide a “bare bones” service) in comparison to yours.
  6. Prepare marketing materials that help them make the sale: This could be as simple as a matrix chart that compares what your product offers versus the competition. Other materials include a Total Cost of Ownership and ROI calculations to help them compare the competitor products versus yours.

Going the extra mile to maintain your existing customers and establish long-standing strategic partnerships will help maintain a steady revenue stream, and the potential for growth down the road. It is always cheaper to keep the customers you have, versus sourcing new prospects and trying to make the sale.

Do you agree establishing yourself as a strategic partner can still help distinguish you from the competition?


Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="http://www.alegeus.com/">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.