Guest blogger: Simon Arch, Alliances Director, JDA Software ANZ
It’s no secret that most successful businesses around the world have customers at the centre of everything they do. In fact research by Deloitte and Touche discovered customer-centric businesses were 60 percent more profitable compared to companies that weren’t focused on the customer.But how can companies create genuine partnerships with other businesses which put the customer at the centre of everything and why is this critical for business growth?
In my role, I am responsible for developing an ecosystem of partners that together provide the best value and best possible customer outcome. Together with a carefully selected group of partners, we develop aligned go-to-market strategies to present to prospective customers to help their businesses succeed.
It sounds easy, right? Wrong! It’s a constant juggle of individual personalities, goals and emotions. I often describe my role as part marriage broker and part marriage counsellor (!) as I get caught up in working with egos, changing business priorities, shifting budget expectations and quality of delivery.
The ongoing challenge I face on a daily basis is educating prospective partners and customers that no single business can provide all that’s required to deliver a successful outcome. There is no ‘one size fits all’ anymore. The problems we face are getting more complex and the end customer’s expectations are increasing all the time.
Our goal is to help our clients to understand they will get better value by bringing together each and every supplier. We find that’s a significant challenge, to set the customer’s expectations that there’ll be multiple stakeholders involved from day one. This is often a big cultural shift – customers have always dealt with just one supplier, why would they need to work with three or four? Once they see the value of working with a combined team of specialist suppliers though, the fears disappear.
Other challenges we face are to find the appropriate partners for the specific customer we’re working with and having enough partners with the right skills. We invest significant time in finding the partners, developing and training them on our software and keeping up with the demand as we grow our business. We’re always scanning the market and keeping our ear to the ground to find new partners.
We recognise that if we can combine in-depth industry and consulting knowledge with the technical knowledge from us about our software, then we’ll have a partnership made in heaven where we are able to expedite the solution and the deployment for the customer.
We also have an ongoing assessment of all our business partners, we often discover partners which may have been great years ago, may have changed industries or capabilities and may not be the right fit anymore.
The main things to consider before partnering with another business are to determine what or who is a useful partner? Is it one that has industry knowledge, technical capability or customer base? Alignment with your company is critical. A hunger to win business and a passion for the industry are key things I look for, but they are difficult things to discover without exploring the partnership first. Another point to consider is commitment – commitment to work with you and vice versa. We’re ultimately looking for a match of skills, passion and culture.
My top four tips for businesses who are looking to expand their alliance network and create a successful customer-centric partnership approach are:
- Carefully understand your requirements. Consider is it a gap in your own skills or is it a gap in your existing partner network? Analyse this carefully at the beginning.
- Work out what their capability is like. Do they have enough capacity to grow with you? Don’t forget technical delivery capacity.
- When you do find partners, prioritise, make sure you engage on every different level in their business from executive level engagement to the sales team and the technical delivery teams.
- Pick and choose who you are going to approach (potential customers) very carefully as partners like to see successes. When partners see that the partnership is working they are much more likely to want to do more repeat business with you.
Remember, action and patience are key when it comes to business partnerships. At some point there will be issues – even from your own team – so you’ll need to counsel the stakeholders and above all be very patient. But when customer-centric alliances work well they can mean the difference between a thriving growing business and one which is going nowhere fast.