Just like any relationship, a strategic alliance needs regular communication if there’s going to be a happy union.
Surely a strategic alliance partner will give me work anyway, without all that stuff?
Assuming that a strategic alliance partner will continue to give you work forever more, with little or no effort on your part, is a dangerous assumption to make. There are always competitors lurking in the wings – especially when lucrative deals and contracts are at stake.
What things can you do to keep the competitors at bay?
To keep your competitors at bay, you need to formulate a marketing plan that’s specific to your strategic alliance partners. This marketing plan is all about keeping in touch and communicating.
Step 1 to communicating with your strategic alliance partners
The very first step is that you need to identify who your strategic alliance partners are. Chances are you’ve got that information in your head, but you need a more systemised approach if you’re going to be marketing to them.
How you identify them will depend on your business: it might be a matter of flagging them on your database as such, or it could be as simple as writing out a list of who they are, and pinning this list above your desk as a reminder.
Now that you know who your strategic alliance partners are, you can formulate a marketing plan for them.
Step 2: formulating a marketing plan for your strategic alliance partners
Here’s a checklist of some of the common techniques you can use to marketing to your strategic alliance partners:
Newsletters: ensure that you have consent from your strategic alliance partners to send them your newsletters. This is the easiest way to keep them in the loop with what’s happening in your business. And regular newsletters help to ensure that out of sight doesn’t become out of mind.
Personal emails: don’t rely on your newsletters to do all your communicating – be sure to send all your strategic alliance partners a personal email from time-to-time as well. This personal touch is very important in making them feel valued and appreciated.
Phone calls: picking up the phone to have a catch-up with your strategic alliance partners is even more personal than an email.
Meetings: many organisations ensure that key clients receive regular courtesy calls, but it’s just as important to meet with your strategic alliance partners. It’s a great way of ensuring that you’re both still on the same page, and working towards the same goals.
Entertaining: face-to-face time with your most important strategic alliance partners doesn’t just have to be about work. Spending some social time is a good way to grow rapport. This could be as simple as meeting for a coffee or lunch, or more elaborate entertaining, such as taking them to a sports match or theatre. Just check that your strategic alliance partner’s company allows this kind of entertaining; some corporations do not permit this.
Thank you cards: a hand-written thank you card may be old-fashioned, but it’s very classy, and something that few people bother to do these days. Writing a short note to say thanks for a referral is simple, quick and cost-effective – and it gets you noticed.
Birthday cards and seasonal cards: again, this is just another opportunity to get your name in front of your strategic alliance partners in a soft-but-noticeable way.
Gifts: thoughtful gifts for birthdays or seasonal events are a nice gesture, but again, you could make sure that this is permitted by the recipient’s organisation. You don’t want to risk your thoughtful gift being considered a “bribe”!
Now that you’ve worked out what you can be doing in terms of strategic alliance marketing tactics, you need to consider how often you do these things.
Step 3: formalising the timings
When you’re thinking about the timing, there are two things you should be aware of:
1. More is more: the more touches you make (using as many different means and media as possible), the better.
2. Consistency is vital: whatever you start doing, needs to be maintained. Not just for the rest of this year, but next year, and the year after that. So it might be best to start off with a small commitment and ramp it up, rather than take on too much and fail because you’re overwhelmed.
Bearing these two points in mind, be sure to diarise and systemise your strategic alliance marketing. It’s vital that it runs like clockwork.