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Why partnerships
don't work

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Every week it’s the same story. We meet a CEO, marketer or sales professional who, after we explain what QTA does, responds: “Oh, we’ve done a few partnerships, but they didn’t really work out”.


In fact, in all the years we’ve been helping companies with their partnerships, I think I can count on one hand times where someone has actually told me about a partnership success story where they made money!


It seems that people have landed on the belief that that’s just the way it is, or it's just a brand building exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. 


Fix these 5 problems and you’ll be on your way to making partnerships a significant part of your business.

Tip #1: Get partnership ready.

Partnerships aren’t something that you just get up and do! You need to make sure you’ve got the teams and systems in order to execute properly. Most people assume the hardest thing about partnerships is getting through to the person on the other end. It couldn’t be further from the truth.


We run partnership readiness workshops for some of the most advanced startups. Even then it may take them 3-6 months to clear off all the items on the  readiness list we create. 


Think beyond handshakes and introductions and get serious on integration plans, billing synchronisation, sales readiness and training. 

Tip #2: Get partnership ready.



Partnerships that fail to include all the necessary stakeholders can feel like a foreign organism entering the body. 


Think about it - you’re adding a whole new company to the fabric of your existing one. You're messing with sales plans, development resources, management priorities…it’s critical that everybody feels involved! 


We typically see it go wrong in one of two ways:


  • The CEO or C-suite signs off a partnership and forces it onto everybody else to deliver, with or without their buy-in. 

  • An ambitious manager agrees a deal to shake things up in the company and fails to bring the leadership along on the journey.


Both are equally bad. Whatever route the partnership enters from, make sure to get ALL necessary stakeholders to buy into the vision and mobilise their efforts and resources. 


This will make everyone much more cooperative, but more importantly, widen your feedback circle, allowing you to predict and deal with issues that might tank the deal before they arise. 

Tip #3: Put proper management in place

A deal doesn’t end with a handshake, it begins with one. 

At the end of a partnership talk to the environment cohort, we received a question asking what the best way was to manage partnerships post-launch. 


The answer was short and simple. Actually have a management structure in place!


Managing projects internally is difficult enough, never mind when you need to coordinate effectively with another company! Ensure you have someone who is responsible for knitting it all together, clearly defined roles and a reporting structure that gives everyone the visibility to know where the partnership is vs the business plan. 


It’s too easy to pat yourself on the back on launch day and forget that real work is yet to begin. 

Tip #4: We’re called partnership ‘professionals’ for a reason


Professional of course being the operative word. Real partnerships people are rockstars and can be worth their weight in gold. 


To do top partnerships you need to be a marketing, sales and product expert! 


Each outing is effectively the beginning of a new company, only this time created with co-founders that don’t yet know each other intimately. 


The idea is the easy part. Selling it to someone else, who in turn needs to sell it to their whole company is an art. 


Once that’s cleared, you’ve got to lead the efforts in explaining to both sides exactly how you’re going to bring this to life. Often that demands an intricate knowledge of both tech stacks and the threads needed to tie everything together. From sign up to billing. Now that’s set, it's time to activate the marketing machine - taking the joint proposition to market in a way that gets your target audience salivating. 


To attempt this journey with someone who was reassigned from another division to ‘figure it out’ is nothing short of a wild gamble. 


Bring in experienced partnership managers and let them do their thing.  



Tip #5: Invest in training


Like we said earlier, it’s crazy how common it is to see how many companies don’t even have a post launch management plan, let alone a proper training process. This typically plays out one of two ways:


  1. People literally don’t bother to sell the product because they don’t know how.

  2. They try to sell, but get embarrassed because they haven’t been given clear instructions. 


Both are equally bad and unravel all the hard work you’ve just made getting to this stage. 


Do your team a solid and equip them adequately. That means having a strong set of FAQs, a ticketing process to handle issues, demos and walk through of both the partners products/services and your joint proposition.


None of this is rocket science, but it’s likely that most of you that have engaged in partnerships are sitting there thinking ‘oooh yeah, we didn’t do that’ to at least one of these points. 


Take the list seriously and you’ll have partners driving significant revenue for your business in no time.


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