When deciding what to chat about this week on Hustle Harder we landed on the topic of partnerships. We wanted to dive into some of the partnerships that we’ve had in the past and some of the mistakes/lessons we’ve learned.
Let’s dive in.
Steph: We have created several strategic partnerships for 2020. I think that we really laid the foundation in 2019. And that was a big part of our strategy was creating relationships with people who were already embedded in the potential clientele that we wanted to get, create those relationships and then allow them to become either channel partners, referral partners, or creative partners.
Ali: I think an issue that we had in the past with partners is that we had a lot of people coming to us saying, hey, let's be partners, and let's work together. And we would just say yes to everyone to the point where we had so many partners that they began to overlap when projects came in. We didn’t know how to make sure we didn't step on any toes. From that, I think we learned that we needed to let go of some partnerships or shape in a different way to make sure that it's fair and we're not creating a bunch of weak partnerships.
Britt: When we're spreading ourselves too thin with all these partnerships and all these companies, where do these people fit in?
Steph: Not all partnerships are created equally because you're going to be getting different projects in the door. And some projects are going to be a great fit for some partners, and some are going to be a great fit for others. It was very true, we had so many different people that wanted to work with us. And it's not that we didn't want to work with them. The issue with us is that we love other people and so we want to say yes to everything. But the reality of it is, is that you can't work with all of these different partners and be able to provide them with equal amounts of value.
And you also have to look at what those partners are bringing to you as well. Is this a one-sided relationship? Are you providing more than what they're providing in return because if that's the case, then it's probably time to axe that partnership.
Ali: Something to quickly note is (especially if a partner is a referral partner) if they're bringing in projects, be cautious to not rely on them as a company and have that be your only source of leads or of clients coming in. Because if you're so dependent on that partnership, and then something happens with them and it breaks… you're screwed. So what are you supposed to do now?
Steph: The goal with partnerships is that they should be adding value to your company. And that's the biggest thing that I'm probably going to say throughout this entire podcast is, if they're bringing in clients, that's great, but make sure it's an addition or a supplement to what you're already doing. Partners should not be part of your core value proposition because you as a company should be okay without partners. They can work out great, but they can also not work out so great. You have to be able to stand on your own two feet.
Britt: It's like being in a relationship with your significant other. Your significant other isn't your entire world and your only source of happiness, or in this case, your sales, revenue and stuff like that. You have to be self-sufficient as your own person. And that's the only way to really make yourself grow and your company grow. If you can't stand on your own two feet without someone else then there's something wrong.
Steph: What I really appreciate about the partners that we work with is that all of us are generally working towards a similar goal or we have similar values. And overall, we're trying to elevate the categories that we're working in as a whole. So we're all trying to help each other out and build each other up because at the end of the day, and I heard this analogy from the SAAS NORTH series we’re producing from the Head of Marketing at Vidyard where he essentially said, a rising tide is going to get you where you want to go, rather than you trying to do it all yourself and try and get everyone out of the way.
Britt: I think relationships are all about quality versus quantity. If you look at it on a friendship level, a lot of people would rather have three really close friends than ten friends that you’re acquaintances with. And that's the same with partnerships. And I think we have a couple solid partnerships that we have created with other creative agencies that we really built a strong relationship with.
Steph: Another thing to note is vetting your partnerships. So I think in the beginning, the reason we had so many people that were kind of in our pool of partners that we could work with, was that we didn't vet them properly. And some of those partnerships, they didn't crash and burn, we still have good relationships, but they didn't work out simply because we didn't vet them first. And when I say that, I mean, we didn't actively try and figure out what their values were, what were they trying to accomplish? That was pretty detrimental to what we were trying to do together.
Ali: Usually, you're partnering with someone that's not in the exact same field as you but you’re maybe looking at the same clients or you know the same people. So if you’re in a space where you do end up making those mistakes, and ruining that partnership because you aren't on the same page, then you have to think about… who are they talking to? Is it going to ruin your reputation with potential clients or other potential partners? So make sure you do have that sit down first to figure out what everyone wants from this and what can everyone put in and then move forward from there.
Steph: One partnership that I've really thought has helped us is the way that we interact with conferences. SAAS NORTH is a perfect example of this where we created a podcast for their conference free of charge. Ali, do you want to talk about that?
Ali: How I go about it is, first I’ll create a list of conferences that have attendees or speakers that we'd want to talk to. And then I’ll reach out and work with them to figure out a way for us to create a podcast for their conference, whether it be us plugging into the main stage and recording keynotes or if its interviews with some of the key speakers, which we did with SAAS NORTH a couple of weeks ago. And then from there, we’ll price out how much that series would cost for them and then we get the sponsorship level that matches that. We get access to key people at the conference and immediate credibility, people trust us because the conference trusts us.
Britt: Currently, we’re partnered with one main creative agency that specializes in design and branding. It’s a great addition to our services such as podcasting. We’ll create the production side of things and they’ll create the branding side of the podcast.
We work with a lot of freelancers as well. The importance of working with freelancers and outsourcing work is also creating a relationship with them. Because it's great to have a roster of thousands of freelancers but are they going to remember you and are you giving them consistent work? Because when a freelancer gets consistent work from a company, they would strive to make it better.
Ali: I think a key lesson that I’ve learned is really that quality over quantity. Make sure you have partners that are providing value for you and you are actually providing value for them or else it gets to be too much and too messy. And that's how you can burn relationships too.
Britt: I think an important one is vet your partnerships as well to see if they're giving you value and you’re giving them value as well. Because in a relationship, you would feel bad if they're giving you their all and you're not giving them anything and vice versa as well.
Steph: My biggest takeaway is that vetting is really big, making sure that your values are aligned with the partnerships that you're creating. Also, don't be afraid to let partners go as well. I think that sometimes it can be a hard process because you don't want to disappoint people. But at the end of the day, you have to do what's best for your business. Make sure that it’s a two-sided relationship right from the get-go. And if it's not working out, cool. You tried it out, there'll be other partnerships down the road, let them go.
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