I've made or witnessed a fair few mistakes over the last 20 years of building businesses based on partnerships. I'm sure I've still got a few more to make, but here's some of what I've learned so far.
Over the last 15 or so years I’ve set up hundreds, if not thousands, of collaborations, typically focussing on lead generation but not surprisingly with that number they’ve covered the full range of reasons to partner (I’ve done other pieces on this so I’m not going to pad and list them all here!).
During that time, through various businesses, I reckon I’ve reached over 1 million business owners, working in partnership with global brands and small businesses alike. So I’ve tasted a measure of success.
However, I’ve made (or witnessed) many, many, mistakes along the way. And I think it’s fair to say that I’ve learned much more from those then I have the wins. In fact I don’t think the level of success would have come without the mistakes.
The funny thing is these mistakes typically fall into a few similar areas, and so I’m on a mission to help other people avoid them. There’s not much worse than the feeling of regret from a missed or wasted opportunity.
With that in mind, here’s my top 5 reasons why partnerships either fail, or never reach their full potential and fizzle out.
1./ Values aren’t aligned.
The audience can be right. The products or services can be right. The commercials can be right. But if your ethics, and the way you ultimately treat a customer because of that, isn’t a match then there’ll be problems.
Depending in the level of miss-match it’s not doomed to failure – but it won’t deliver like a true partnership should, and it certainly won’t be an enjoyable one. And life’s too short to not enjoy it, right?
Gut feel can play a part here, when something doesn’t feel right it often isn’t, and could be your cue to dig a little deeper.
2./ The reasons aren’t aligned.
So often we presume why someone else would want to partner with us without taking the time to find out why.
Is it really just the healthy commission package you're promising, or is it something more?
It could be increased profile, an enhanced level of service to their customers, or maybe your service helps their customers in a way that leads to increased sales of their own product or service.
Put yourself in their shoes, take the time to find out, and you might be surprised at the real reason.
3./ Expectations aren’t set
This is probably the No.1 reason and the most damaging long term.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a potential partnership that the fundamentals of what’s expected of each party get left by the way side.
The partnerships launched with huge expectations from all concerned but then the results don’t happen as expected, and resentment builds.
The collaboration is ends up in the scrap yard and a nasty taste is left in the mouth of all concerned that can taint the view of partnerships moving forwards.
Take the time to set out expectations early and it will give you the framework to get on with the fun of collaborating.
4./ Behind the scenes isn’t ready.
This can be a real issue when either a business needs to scale up rapidly due to an influx of demand, or, when a business moves into a different sector that needs to be served differently than its usual customer base.
Be it lead handling, tone of voice, provision of services, or just an ability to respond in a timely manor.
Get this wrong and it’s the customers who ultimately suffer, which builds an immediate trust issue between the partners that’s often irretrievable.
5./ Hard work, knowing when to stop, and when to play the long game
Even if all of the above is perfect sometimes they don’t click. They’re not a golden ticket. They need work. Things change.
Be prepared to work at them. And review appropriately.
It’s then knowing when to stop, or at least pause proactive effort, if it’s just not working as it should.
But, that said, if you have a perfect partner, then stick with it. Wait for the perfect opportunity to really add value instead of giving up or pushing too hard at outset.
So that’s the end of our list. It’s not exhaustive and you’ll find other content and training on the site that both expands on these points and may even raise other issues as well.
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