Five steps to maximize your strategic partnerships

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Better together! There is a lot of talk about strategic partnerships and everyone seems to be on the bandwagon. For some it is a new flashy buzzword, while for others, they are looking to take it beyond traditional sponsorships. By now, most charities and nonprofit organizations have begun shifting away from or are working towards a move from focusing almost exclusively on traditional sponsorships to developing integrated strategic partnerships. So what does this mean and why is it so important!? Read on to learn about how you can leverage strategic partnerships for your organization.

Strategic partnerships defined

It is important to clearly understand what strategic partnerships are and how they differ from traditional sponsorships in order for them to deliver the greatest impact and return on investment for both partners. Strategic partnerships are much more deeply integrated partnerships between two organizations and can deliver value that goes well beyond traditional sponsorships. To that point however, it is important to keep a focus on these sponsorships as well, as they are an incredibly important tactical element of strategic partnerships. The move from a traditional sponsorship mindset to one of looking towards integrated strategic partnerships means that organizations are giving themselves permission to evaluate their organizations strengths and challenges holistically.

The five steps

#1: Authentic alignment. It’s new and it’s fresh. Do not let the excitement of a potential new partner distract from your long-term objectives. Like a great long-term relationship, take it slow. Establishing that there is genuine desire and authentic alignment ensures you are building a strategic partnership on a solid foundation for success. Forcing a fit is never a long-term solution. Either your respective organizations realize it and the partnership begins to deteriorate or even worse, your audience does and unfortunately in that case, it is your organization’s credibility and earned trust that deteriorates.

#2: Own your partnership value proposition. This is not about what you do for your cause. The great work, your results and your impact, which are your value proposition for your cause and for society, differ from the value proposition you offer a potential strategic partner. The value you can offer them is generally an internal strength and/or a committed and loyal audience or membership. For this one, you need to look internally and realistically evaluate your organization.

#3: Open & honest communication. I sometime like to combine #2 and #3 because knowing your value proposition is about identifying your strengths and your weaknesses, owning them and as the heading for Tip #3 suggests, openly and honestly communicating them with a potential strategic partner. Communication is a two way street and as such, being open and honest with them generally creates an environment where your potential strategic partner feels comfortable being vulnerable back and openly sharing their strengths and weaknesses. The greatest potential value of these types of partnerships can only be realized filling in each other’s gaps. That in effect, is the value proposition of the strategic partnership.

#4: Clear objective setting. What do both partners want to realize from the relationship? Is it feasible? Is it sustainable? Can each partner deliver against the other’s desired objectives? These are all extremely important items to identify and clearly define. It is also extremely important that the respective roles and responsibilities required by each of the strategic partners are clearly established and monitored on an ongoing basis.

#5: Objective measurement. I cannot say this one is the most important step because without the first four being well established, this one is most certainly not going to illustrate success. With that being said, this one ties the other four together and it holds them accountable. Going back to my days running an engineering firm, it is paramount that your key performance indicators (KPIs) and measures are objective and finite. Either you achieved a KPI measure or you did not. It is about creating yes or no “tests” within each KPI. KPIs can however measure subjective elements such as service, however the reporting for them must be based on an objective measure such as a 0-10 scale.

The Final Bell

This time around we take a different approach to the final bell and want you to hear from three tacticians. When asked about strategic partnerships:

“In today’s cluttered environment, creating meaningful customer relationships requires the delivery of real and tangible value. Strategic partnerships enable brands to connect with their target consumers by solving for a pain point or creating a moment of delight.”
Laura Richard, EVP & Partner, TACK10 Strategy

“Ensuring a strong foundation and frame-work exist as well as clearly identified objectives, responsibilities and key performance indicators ensures partnerships can have their greatest potential impact.”
Zana Petric, Manager, Strategy, TACK10 Strategy

“Strategic partnerships have the unique ability to deliver unprecedented results against a broad range of organizational objectives; from revenue generation to enhanced customer experience and beyond.”
James Chalmers, Group President & CEO, TACK10 Strategy

James Chalmers is the Group President and CEO at TACK10 Strategy. TACK10 is an award-winning professional consultancy focused on building and delivering products, tools, services and training in the areas of Growth Strategy, Performance Management and Partnership Portfolio Optimization. As a for-profit business, TACK10 believes it is our role to have a positive impact in the communities in which we operate. In 2017, TACK10 made the bold decision to become a Certified “B” Corporation. The ethos of this manifests through a commitment to: People, Purpose and Profit. 5% Pledge: Annually TACK10 invests 5% of the previous year’s total revenue in providing complimentary services to organizations who themselves are having a positive social, environmental and economic impact in the communities in which they operate.

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