Log on to just about any technology company's Web site and the odds are you will find a link somewhere near the top labeled "Partners." Follow that link and it will take you to a page filled with logos.
It's too bad there isn't one more click-through that lets you see what the company has actually done with that partnership. What you'd likely find is a note that says "Under Construction."
The sad truth is organizations expend a lot of time and energy seeking out, negotiating and finalizing the details of partnership agreements, but few really do much with them once the ink on the agreement is dry. Instead, they sit back and wait for the value to come. And wait. And wait.
That "strategy" is the equivalent of purchasing a fishing license, putting it in a frame on the wall, and waiting for the fish to show up at your doorstep. Here's how you too can start getting more than a logo out of your partnership agreements:
- Scrutinize the agreement
Start by going through the agreement line-by-line, and making a list of everything offered. Then scour the company's Web site to see what else is there. Dig deeper into the organization as well. Sometimes the opportunities, such as the Microsoft Vista launch, aren't found in the "partners" group but instead within individual business units of the organization. The more you become an expert in the partner's products and services, the better chance you have of finding more unique opportunities. You may even wind up knowing more than your liaisons at the partner company.
- Use a little chutzpah
Just because something isn't in the agreement doesn't mean it can't be had. If you find something in the scrutiny phase you would like, ask for it. Build your case for value for both parties.
- Couple it with foresight
When you're looking for opportunities, don't just think about what's happening today. Do your best to understand the partner company's long-term strategy and see how you might fit in it down the road. As their plans come to fruition yours will be uniquely positioned to take advantage of it.
- Don't forget diplomacy
Your primary goal, of course, will be to see how much value you can derive out of the partnership. But one-way relationships rarely deliver much value for very long. As Dale Carnegie said: "Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest."
Lastly, in this technology-centric world, don't underestimate the value of meeting with partners face-to-face—especially when the other company has a sea of partners.
Jim O'Gara is VP-business development at FrontRange Solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.