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Partnering for e-success . . . the same model?

Partnering for e-success . . . the same model?

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Carol Johnson ~ marketing clinic

Partnering for e-success . . . the same model?

While good partnerships are still very much a necessity for conducting successful e-business, this does not necessarily entail realigning your whole business modelTo say that the electronic business marketplace provides a huge growth opportunity to VARs and integrators is an understatement. To say that you must still engage in strategic partnerships to leverage these opportunities is unnecessary. And to say that success in the e-business space calls for a complete redesign of your partnering strategies is . . . untrue.

For the past 24 months, we've been focused on practical observation of clients already operating in - or planning to enter - the e-business market space. Through these observations, conversations with industry thought leaders, and validation through other pundits including Forrester Research, GartnerGroup, IDG, Mainspring Communications and Action Systems, we've come to an illuminating conclusion: when establishing and maintaining `e-alliances', some of the fundamentals and rules are the same, and some are strikingly different.

What's the same?

You still need to engage in detailed market and partner analyses to ensure the most profitable fit between market need and jointly delivered solutions. As with `traditional' alliances, a virtual team strategy must be employed.

Teaming agreements are still a necessity. Executive support is critical for success. Expectations must be clarified up-front, and managed throughout the lifetime of the partnership. Metrics for tracking and measuring the success of the partnership must be agreed upon.

And knowledge of partnering best practices in traditional markets - gained in previous positions - should be applied.

What's different? Let's take these point by point:

First mover's advantage is much more important than in traditional markets and alliances. In the e-business market space, partnerships must move at Internet speed to stake their claim. There's no time to sit back, do a lengthy partner and market analysis, develop and then implement a highly-detailed `go to market' plan. In the e-business world, it's `launch and learn' or be left in the dirt.

Early `design-in' partnering is a must due to customer anxiety. Because the end customer's ability to survive in the Internet economy is dependent on its electronic business capabilities and initiatives, it wants all providers of its e-business solution directly and actively engaged from the get-go.

Teaming agreements between you and your manufacturers must be based on a greater sharing of risk and reward. Considerable risk and the possibility of massive reward are inherent in the e-business marketplace.

`Opportunism' is no longer a four-letter word. Forget about the concept of `repeatable solutions'; get out there, and get out there fast.

Sales models are much more complex, and there is a multitude of options. Because no proven sales models yet exist, it's critical that the partnership has at least one super innovative `forward thinker' that can view all opportunities with a completely open mind.

Marketing and positioning value to partners and customers must be much more aggressive.

The `guerilla' may no longer be the mega-manufacturer. It might be a startup `killer app' developer, or it might be you.

ROI must still be measured, but not by traditional means. Rather than revenue generated by the investment in the partnership, you'll have to measure it by other metrics like image development, market recognition and opportunities targeted.

Planning cycles are significantly reduced. More than one year? Forget about it. In the Internet economy, you have to do your planning in a three-month timeframe.

So what do you need to do to establish and maintain the most profitable e-alliances with your manufacturers?

Do your due diligence by analysing possible partners and markets you can enter with them. Understand their e-business strategies and match your capabilities to these in the form of a value proposition. Leverage first mover's advantage among your selected partners by getting to them fast and early.

Demonstrate your knowledge of the differences between partnering in a traditional market and the e-business space.

And, finally, because there aren't any models yet to follow in the electronic business market, show them how nimble and creative you can be.

At this point in the market's infancy, the only mistakes you can make are not being proactive and not being fast.

Carol Johnson is principal consultant for channels and alliance practice Pelorus International. Reach them at http://www.pelorusintl.com.au


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