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ClickZ Email Marketing Conference: Strategic Partnerships

Aug 17, 2007
We've all seen examples of how successful strategic partnerships work, leveraging the contacts and resources of every partner, for the benefit of all by generating business and defeating competitors that would have been impossible alone.

A successful strategic partnership is the best illustration of the expression, "all boats rise together on a rising tide" - so what's the problem? What do you have to lose when considering s strategic partnership?

I met the owners of five small printing companies recently. Each had known the others for years, they are part of the same metropolitan area business community, yet when they began considering a strategic partnership - they took months to iron out the details. Why?

Because they envisioned using email to each other's house lists (loyal customers and qualified prospects) as the process to jump start the process and they wanted to be absolutely sure how they were being represented before doing so.

They had seen strategic partnerships created to undertake a joint email marketing campaign. They had been on the receiving end of jointly sponsored mailings. What one such group found out too late - when you hit the "send" key, everything you have ever worked for is in play. You are instantly identified with the other partners. Your reputation, your brand it instantly at stake.

The elements of an email marketing strategy are many. Each element is a matter for discussion with your strategic partners. You want the look/feel, the message, everything - to represent your brand. You want the piece to be representative of you and your company.

But those are just the details. Unless the people you are partnering with are people you trust with your hard won customers, unless you're convinced they'll represent themselves and the strategic partnership in a way that you will be proud of - you're better off, much better off going it alone.

Your brand is critical to your continued success. Email is immediate - what you've spent a lifetime creating can be jeopardized in seconds, literally.

I know that many of you have been involved in strategic partnerships, selling 'short-line' products and services that support you core offerings. You've been developing your business with them. You are already mailing your lists offering their products.

In the context of an email marketing strategic partnership - you're putting that program on steroids. Who will manage the list and the mailing? Will your valued customers receive your email, as well as emails from each partner - bombarding them and confusing them instead of exciting them with the opportunity?

There are lots of issues, message design, content creation, the opt-in process, list segmentation, etc.

There are few business opportunities more potentially profitable for everyone than successful strategic partnerships. When you add email to the equation those benefits can be measured instantly and with proper list management and post mailing follow up - a successful strategic partnership will keep on giving for a very long time.

Remember those printing companies? Each owner was between 55 and 63. Each was facing the decisions around succession or exit, or growth by adding to their physical plant and their debt and the corresponding increase in fixed overhead, or see their profitability eroded by their aggressive and larger competitors.

Each of the five firms were well respected in a different area of printing. One had invested a lot of money in wide format printers and was very well known for its digital printing. Another offered custom services for consumers - wedding invitations etc. And so forth.

Once the idea occurred to them, each saw that as a group their combined services would allow them to compete successfully against anybody. Each had spent decades becoming well known and well respected in their niche. If they could package all five of their specialities together they'd be bigger and better than anyone in their marketing areas.

So, they created a new name, business cards and stationary (that was easy) and collectively began the process of cross training their respective sales people. Now they each have five times as many sales people - at no additional fixed cost!

Now, when anyone is bidding a job they are bidding it for the group. If it's something their company does, they do it. If it's for one of the others they collaborate on the elements so the process from proposal to delivery is seamless.

They spent months putting it all together. When it came time to do their email marking they already trusted each other, they knew how they would handle the leads and the ownership of their current and the resulting merged email list.

The work they had done to insure their success was evident when the launched their email marketing campaign. 100% of the costs of setting up the partnership were recouped in 24 hours following their first emailing.

The number one comment people made was, "We didn't know you did that too" Careful planning and positioning made all the difference.

That's why it's so critical that you get it right.
About the Author
Wayne Messick reports on how Main St. businesses can integrate technology to succeed in the 21st Century on http://www.ibizresources.com/blog/ and his commentary for business coaches and advisors at http://www.wdm.net/blog
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