I recently had the opportunity to record a podcast all about alliance marketing with Peter Simoons, a well-know consultant who helps business executives and entrepreneurs create and maintain partnerships and strategic alliances. We covered a fair amount of ground in the 30-minute discussion so I thought I’d touch on a few of the highlights here.
Peter was quite interested in exploring how social media has changed alliance marketing since I first got into it in the year 2000. I think it’s made our lives easier by essentially easing the rules in partnerships.
If you think about an alliance between two large companies, you can imagine the processes you have to follow to do practically anything, from issuing a press release to coming up with an advertisement. You’ve got multiple layers of approvals on both sides and legal considerations that, taken together, can turn it into a lengthy process.
Social media has in many ways changed that dynamic because it’s a lot more about personal opinion and happens in or near real-time. Compared to the traditional components of our marketing plans, there are far fewer approvals. While we still have to be sensitive to the corporate culture of our partners, and whether each partner is likely to be OK with whatever social media efforts we’re undertaking, in many cases it enables us to communicate a lot more quickly and with more frequency about our alliances.
That’s a good thing because we have a lot to talk about. The benefits our partners receive are considerable, including technical validation of their products in Schneider Electric labs – which spares end customers from having to do a lot of integration work and validation testing on their own.
Partners also get lots of marketing benefits, including public relations exposure, webcasts, and direct mail to Schneider Electric customers. Likewise, they get access to Schneider Electric technical experts and recognition on our web site and in other marketing documents.
Our alliance program is best in class and was a finalist for the 2014 Association of Strategic Alliances Professionals (ASAP) Alliance Excellence Award in the Category of Program Excellence.
At Schneider Electric we’ve got members of the alliance team sprinkled throughout our various business units. As I mentioned to Peter, we’re hoping that helps encourage an “alliance DNA” in the company.
I also shared with him some of the most important things I’ve learned about alliances over the years, including these:
- Make sure you have people on your alliance teams who can make decisions. Lots of times your partner will think they have the right people on the team but when it comes time to getting approval for plans you’ve come up with, they have to bring in other folks. That can really set you back and slow things down.
- Executive sponsorship of your alliance is also critical on both sides. And by that I mean not just an executive sponsor in name only, but someone you can escalate issues to who is empowered to make decisions and will work quickly with you to resolve any conflicts.
- Learn to prioritize. Have a clear governance process on how you plan to work together and what you will prioritize. Everything cannot be a priority. We have some alliances where we have 10 work streams going on in parallel and they’re not all equally important. Pick the three or so things that you want to get accomplished; the smaller items will happen largely on their own, without so much focus.
- Under-promise and over-deliver, whether on timelines or what your company is capable of.
Check out the podcast for more tips and stories about my 14 years in alliances. As I told Peter, I don’t think you ever stop learning in alliances.