I’ve dedicated my career to the art of business partnerships. From the hard lessons to the winning relationships, I’ve been through it all and I’ve uncovered a tried-and-tested strategy to help alleviate some of the pain. The results speak for themselves – Hokodo has recently announced exciting partnerships with a series of major institutions including BNP Paribas, Citi and MangoPay.
Here's my hard-earned five-step guide to securing the best partnerships.
1. Define your goals
It’s critical to know your goals. This will probably mean carving out some time with the C-Suite.
At Hokodo, for example, our goal is to help B2B firms improve their cash flow and supplier relationships with cutting-edge BNPL technology. We want to offer businesses the same embedded lending experiences that consumers enjoy. To do this, we must partner with banks, payment providers, commerce sites and merchants. We need to be a critical cog in the B2B ecosystem.
For other companies, the goals will be different. Perhaps you are looking to expand to a new region or develop a new product, for example. According to research, 77% of companies partner to grow revenue, 74% to acquire customers in new markets and segments, and for 72%, it’s to boost customer retention.
2. Identify strategic gaps
Map out your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the unique things you have to offer? And what’s holding you back – internally and externally – from achieving your goals?
Once you’ve pinpointed your weaknesses and threats, you can look for potential partners to fill the gaps. If you’re not sure how to go about this, I’d start with the customers themselves. Where could you improve? What’s missing from your service?
At Hokodo, we’ve researched our Ideal Customer Profiles. I could quickly see that we were struggling to connect with enterprise-type merchants. And so, I began to search for established banking partners who could bring larger clients on board.
3. Search for partners to plug the gaps
When you know exactly what you’re looking for in a partner, the search begins. It sounds obvious, but you need to be where they are.
Attending events can help you make connections. For fintech and SaaS platforms, conventions like Fintech Week London, Money20/20 and SIBOS are usually good networking hubs. Building a social media presence on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter can be helpful too.
Likewise, make sure you’re visible to potential partners. We’ve invested in Ecosystem Operations to figure out exactly where we sit in the B2B universe. We want to track how we sit alongside competitors, where our potential clients are, and everything in between.
4. Show the best players what you can offer them
Knowing your strengths is just as important for partnerships as your weaknesses and threats. This is how you can recruit your ideal partner.
For example, we were looking to partner with reputable banks to boost our connection to entrepreneurs. But what would the bank get from us? That’s where our strengths and opportunities research came in. We know that our seamless B2B BNPL technology is missing from banks’ offerings. Incumbents generally rely on legacy technology, and because of this, they stand to miss out on up to $75 billion of B2B embedded lending payments over the next three years. This was a key part of our pitch.
A good partnership is a balanced relationship that all parties can benefit from. It’s critical to bring value to your partners so they are engaged and keen on executing a shared Go-To-Market strategy.
5. Never stop engaging
Securing a strategic partnership is only the beginning. It can take months or even years before you truly start to generate revenue. During this time, it’s so important to stay connected and engaged. Just like client lifecycle management, actively working to retain partnerships is the key to success. One study found that firms with the most mature partnerships have double the revenue growth of those without. In real figures, that equates to $162 million extra each year, per partnership.
Keep developing your ecosystem operations, so that you continue to stay ahead of the curve. And work with your partner to identify future opportunities. During the COVID-19 crisis, interesting research emerged around business ecosystems. The small and most vulnerable firms were able to survive when they collaborated through hardship and worked together. The term “B2B Open Innovation” was even coined to explain the movement.
Ultimately, being an active member of the ecosystem helps both you and your partners to survive in the hard times and thrive during the good ones.
The golden rule: Stick to the strategy
There’s no point forcing a partnership that won’t work. You can spend hours pulling your hair out trying to find potential synergies. But the best thing – in my experience – is to sweep aside all the irrelevant conversations and focus on what matters. It’s not about partners for partners’ sake. Every partnership must be about helping you reach the goals of your business and its partners; they must be strategic.
At Hokodo, we’re continuing to invest in our partnerships every day so we can become an even more important part of the lively B2B ecosystem. Want to learn more? Get in touch with our partnerships team using the form below.