In Part 1 of this article last month I highlighted the benefits of good commercial partnerships and how they are key to creating companies that grow and succeed. I also discussed that many companies struggle to identify potential partners and introduced the “Whole Product Ecosystem” as a tool to help flush them out. This month I’ll introduce another tool to help analyse the results of the “Whole Product Ecosystem” and ways to successfully engage with partners to create win-win relationships.

Identifying Partners

The first step is to take the work done with the “Whole Product Ecosystem and use that to identify potential partners. At this point it’s important to understand that at the moment they are only “potentials”. We will have to do a lot further work to understand if can actually be partners that we work with. More on this later.

The tool we will use to do this analysis is the “Partner Matrix” shown below and I’ll outline now the steps to complete it:

Step 1:

Take the elements identified to build out the solution using the “Whole Product Ecosystem” and enter them in the centre (Product Stage Elements) column of the “Partner Matrix” for each product stage.

So, for the Coffee Shop example, we would write “Coffee” in the Generic, Product Stage Elements box. “Cakes, Pastries etc.” in the Expected, Product Stage Elements box. “Bagged Coffee and Branded Mugs” in the Augmented, Product Stage Elements box and “Loyalty and Gift Cards” in the Potential, Product Stage Elements box.

Step 2:

Having completed the central column with all the elements of the solution we now need to move to the final column, “Supplied By You Or Partner”, and consider who provides each element. Either us or another company.

Again for the Coffee Shop example, Coffee in cups would be provided by our Coffee Shop but who provides the coffee beans? We would enter that in the “Generic” box of the right hand column. Then who could provide cakes and pastries? List out the bakeries that do this in the “Expected” box and so on.

Now the right hand column contains a list of all the other players in the “Whole Product Ecosystem”. These are all potential partners but now we have to consider who we will actually partner with and why. We’re looking for a win-win situation so some things to consider are:

  • How is it that they can help us and in return how can we help them?
  • How could we take the relationship beyond a purely transaction one and make it strategic?
  • Are there opportunities for joint promotion?
  • Do their values align with ours?
  • Will we be able to work with them?

These are just some points to consider when selecting partners but, we will need to meet face to face with them to be sure it’s something that will work for both parties, that they see things the same way as we do. The key thing with partner engagement is to see it not just as a commercial arrangement but also as relationship, and that takes time and effort to build. You don’t go on a first date and then get married so be prepared to take time to nurture your partnerships. It’s an investment of your time, you have to build trust before you see the returns but when you do the effects will be game changing for your business. If you work with people that get what you get, that see the value you bring, and build trust you will create a powerful partner network that will drive your business growth and success.