Partnering is well-entrenched in our industry and on the verge of becoming a meaningless term based on its overuse as many companies seem to have lost sight of the strategic nature that should drive these relationships. The overarching strategy in any supplier partnership should be to provide a compelling solution to customers.
We should never lose sight of the fact that the customer is king, and they have the most to lose from an ineffective strategic partnership. Plus, customer satisfaction is the key element to make any technology or sales-driven partnership successful.
Let’s look at some of the critical ways to maximize the value of strategic partnerships and the benefits they need to deliver. First off, here are three factors that can contribute to a more successful strategic partnership:
Complementary technologies — The two technologies in any strategic supplier partnership should fit together seamlessly to provide a total solution greater than its individual parts. The partners should each provide a valuable piece of the puzzle based on their core expertise and power zones that add value to the overall solution. There should be no gaps in functionality, implementation issues or after-sale support. The customer expects a total solution, not one that is poorly conceived or partially integrated. The solution needs to be holistic and solve a problem or issue for the customer.
Leveraging the sales channel — Successful strategic partnerships need to maximize the resources of both partners’ sales channels. The presence of two related companies will likely overlap in the market, but each partner also brings unique strengths, whether it’s stronger distribution, more presence in a certain vertical market or a larger base of knowledgeable dealers. Leveraging the full range of benefits from both sales channels, without creating any channel conflicts or “political” issues, ensures success of a strategic partnership.
Lower cost marketing — In addition to leveraging the combined channel resources of the two partners, strategic partnerships also provide more efficient marketing for both companies. Each partner can continue to market to their strengths, especially if those markets are complementary. Ideally, in the course of marketing, one supplier partner will open new opportunities for the other supplier partner, and vice versa. Reaching new markets without making additional investments is a huge advantage of entering into any strategic partnership.
As for the benefits of a good strategic partnership, here are a few to consider:
Integrated technologies yield higher efficiencies — Combining two technologies into a single solution provides a lot of value for customers. The process of integrating and testing the two technologies used together ensures customers will have the benefit of a tried-and-true solution. The fact that the unified solution is being embraced among the customer base of two different suppliers, both of whose reputations are on the line, is further assurance solutions provided by strategic partners perform as expected. In addition to delivering a value-added technology solution, integrated solutions save customers time and money.
Combining resources — The systems integrator selected to implement a partnered solution plays a critical role in building and retaining customer satisfaction. The integrator should be the first level of recourse if there is a problem with the partnered solution. Supporting the integrator are the full technical and logistical resources of the partnered companies, and more resources ensure the best outcome for the integrator and the end user. The more complex the system, the higher the likelihood there will be issues during implementation. Having partners’ support teams fully acclimated to the integrated solution provides twice the brainpower to solve problems if they arise.
Greater peace of mind — With the reputation of both strategic partners at stake, all involved parties have a bottom-line interest in the outcome. Customers know this too! And knowing the partners behind their solution are trustworthy and accountable builds customer confidence and peace of mind.
Strategic partnerships come in many different configurations, and happen not only among supplier companies but among integrators and end users as well. Although these partnerships may not be formalized on paper, they are just as real and important. Creating closer working relationships involving suppliers, integrators and end users can boost customer confidence and eliminate risk when choosing a technology solution. It’s just important to remember that achieving customer satisfaction is the best strategy of all.
Frank DeFina is Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Samsung Techwin America.