Everything is better with a partner. Business is no different. At Sprout Social, we’ve completed two acquisitions, facilitated dozens of integrations and collaborated on countless co-marketing opportunities with our partners. I—and the rest of the Sprout Social team—am always on the lookout for businesses that complement our product suite.
We’re freshly on the heels of our second acquisition, a sentiment analysis and natural language processing company called Repustate. As we welcome the Repustate team and product under our umbrella, I’ve been reflecting on partnerships and what makes them work—and what doesn’t. When done right, partnerships make your business stronger, add value for your customers and open up a new world of opportunities.
Approach partnerships with purpose
Everyone is facing economic headwinds right now. When it comes to the tech industry, that’s compounded by the fact that the era of the single-point solution is over. As companies tighten their belts and tech stacks, their expectations for your products are rising. We all know that one company can’t provide everything for everyone, so how can you ensure your solution is business critical?
Enter partnerships. Combined efforts will always be stronger than singular approaches when your potential partners are looking to achieve the same goals you are. You can get more done when you work together, even if that means working outside of your company walls.
For smaller companies, joining forces with a larger firm can give you more resources and financial solvency. Companies can hit product roadmap milestones faster with integrations and acquisitions. Marketers looking to find new audiences in their ideal customer profile can pursue co-marketing efforts with like-minded partners to widen their funnel.
At Sprout, partnerships are just the way we do business. Whether we’re working with LinkedIn to host a webinar or launching a new network integration like TikTok, our business couldn’t thrive without our rich portfolio of partners.
Corporate compatibility tests
We’ve forged enough partnerships to be able to quickly evaluate which will work and which aren’t the right fit. There are three things we look for in a potential partner.
If you’re a customer-centric company, you always start with how any decision will impact the customer. That couldn’t be more true with partnerships. From marketing to product, the partnership has to create additional value for the end user. Asking yourself what a potential partnership will add to your customer experience or how it will address their pain points should be the first step in evaluating any partnership.
For example, we found that most of our current (and ideal future) customers were leveraging Salesforce solutions like Service Cloud and Tableau. We partnered with Salesforce to provide greater social media control and empower our customers with a 360 view of customer interactions and data–all in the tools they know and love. In the age of the product suite, partnerships are a cheat code to level up your business value.
You’re likely not going to partner with your direct competitors. But no matter what you’re selling, there’s a product or service someone else offers that’ll make yours even better. Think about your current and ideal customers. Figure out what else they need. Find the businesses that are meeting those needs and explore ways you can help each other.
Another thing to consider is complementary markets. There may be another business that solves your customers’ needs, but if they’re going after a completely different segment than you are, it won’t work out. If your business is aimed toward enterprise manufacturing companies and a potential partner is pursuing mid-sized restaurant chains, it’s not going to be a good fit—no matter how symbiotic your products seem.
It should go without saying that both partners should stand to benefit from your efforts. It’s likely that one partner may be more invested or have more to gain from your partnership, but everyone needs to get something out of the deal. An uneven partnership is destined to fail.
Doing the partnership do-si-do
So you’ve picked your partner. What comes next? Navigating partnerships can be tricky but with a solid foundation, you can set yourself up for success.
Assemble your team
Every person on your team won’t be involved in orchestrating your partnership. There is such a thing as too many cooks. But at the same time, you need to loop in the right folks from the beginning. You might have to make adjustments as your plans progress, but evaluating who needs to be involved at the start will ensure a smoother transition.
If you’re pursuing an integration or a product-based acquisition, your product team needs to be involved from day one. When we evaluated Repustate, our internal product team was invaluable in helping us determine how much upside the deal presented. They know the product inside and out. They know where you’re planning to go on your roadmap. Lean on that internal knowledge.
Get to know each other
If you’ve decided to partner with another organization, you already know their product and audience are a good fit. But what about your goals and values?
Early on in your partnership, it’s imperative to sit down and find out what you have in common. How do your cultures align? Where do your roadmaps sync? What values do you both hold? The answers to these questions will be your north star throughout the process.
On day one, you and your partner have to be honest with each other about what you want to gain. Maybe you’re hoping to increase your customer base. Maybe you want to offer new functionality for your customers. Maybe this project is a trial run to see if you should form a longer-term relationship down the road. Whatever the case may be, you have to lay your cards on the table at the beginning.
Having an open line of communication is key to a healthy and successful partnership. You need to be honest with each other about what’s going well and what needs improvement. You need a clear understanding of which team is responsible for what and what your expectations are on cadence and speed. Transparency is what turns good partner match-ups into great relationships.
Partnerships are one of the most effective ways to grow your business, especially in uncertain economic times. Working together increases your efficiency, provides more value to your customers and creates a more robust product. Sometimes two is better than one.
Want to see partnerships in action? Learn more about the power of social media management integrations.
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