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Strategic partnerships are a key differentiating strategy for many companies. Sales through a channel other than a company’s direct sales team provide companies with the opportunity to increase revenue, expand into new markets, and capture new customers. Strategic partnerships can also help a company strengthen its brand and build market share. For all these reasons it is important to invest time and resources early in the relationship to structure a mutually beneficial partnership that will greatly increase the odds of creating a successful long-term relationship.

Strategic partnerships, sometimes referred to as a strategic alliance (legal teams often refrain from using the word “partnership”), should be approached with the same rigor as other sell-to, sell-with, or sell-through channel partners. If businesses take a passive approach to strategic partnerships, they do not realize the same results as other types of channel partnerships. Therefore establish a structure of accountability to ensure there is energy to create momentum toward making the partnership successful.

Common Mistakes

Vague agreements. A common mistake occurs when vague agreements are made, especially in situations when financial commitments are not clearly established.  If specific commitments and accountability are not defined in detail, this leads to false expectations.

No market enablement. Products don’t sell themselves. Be sure to define the marketing programs and marketing support each firm will provide.  Another common oversight is training. Both companies need to clearly understand the value proposition and how to sell and service customers. Outline the training requirements for the sales, operations, and customer service teams.

PR announcements lack substance. The first things many companies do is send out a press release. But since the partnership is new, there is little substance to the announcement.  Actions like sending out a press release to announce a partnership or putting partner logos on web sites do little to stimulate sales. A better approach is to describe benefits and results that customers have received as a result of the joint partnership. Get some traction then make announcements. Otherwise the announcement is not likely to get the attention of anyone, except your competitors.

Here is an example of how these three mistakes often play out.  During a client meeting the company’s business executives couldn’t wait to tell me about a new partnership they had just struck with another company. They explained how it was a killer deal that would allow them to extend their sales reach by more than 1,000 salespeople. The partnership would also add value to the company’s brand so they asked me to send out a PR announcement describing the strategic partnership. When I asked for details, the business leaders sat back in their chairs and began to question each other about the facts of the agreement. As they began to realize there was only a memorandum of understanding in place but nothing else, excitement turned to concern.

If you are serious about creating a significant new revenue stream with a strategic partner, follow the advice I gave to this company. The key points described below will help your company approach strategic alliances and partnerships with more structure, reduce risk, and increase the odds of success.

Strategic Partnerships—Checklist and Success Factors

Kick-Off Meeting with Key Stakeholders

  • When establishing a new strategic partnership, hold a strategic planning meeting between the key stakeholders of both firms. In this initial kick-off meeting it is very important to include a cross-functional team of people from product management, marketing, sales, finance, and the executive sponsors. This will get everyone’s goals, ideas, concerns, and expectations on the table.
  • Define and clearly write the value proposition.
  • Define the timeframe for major events and timelines.
  • Agree on the targeted revenue and benefits each organization will receive. Both parties need to have some “skin in the game” to create accountability and measurable results.

Sales and Marketing Enablement

  • Determine the marketing support needs for both companies. Create a partner marketing plan that outlines all the programs, costs, roles, and responsibilities. The marketing staff from each company can create a sub team to develop the plan and meet as often as necessary to refine it.
  • Determine how each company will support the sales teams when making sales calls to customers. If a product or service is technically complex, a joint sales team consisting of both a sales and technical expert should meet with customers. An added benefit to this approach is that it is a fast, efficient way for people to learn and improve. The team will learn key benefits of the joint solution, hear customer objections and learn how to overcome them. Over time this will help refine the value proposition. 
  • To establish early momentum, find a “sales evangelist” who is successfully selling the product or service and making significant commissions. Find out what he or she is doing and promote this to the larger sales teams so they can learn how to make more sales from the strategic alliance.


  • Evaluate the training needs for various functional teams (marketing, sales, technical, customer service, etc.), paying special attention to training for the sales force.
  • Create training programs specific to the roles of people.
  • Keep in mind that sales teams need ongoing training, not just a one-time training event.

Metrics and Reporting

  • Agree on the measures of success up front. What metrics will be tracked, measured, and reported to both companies to understand if the partnership is successful? How often will reports be created and by whom?
  • A simple one page document or brief executive summary can be a valuable communication tool for the cross-functional team. This report can also be sent to executive sponsors on both sides to keep everyone in the communication loop.
  • On a quarterly basis, the cross functional team meets to review results and adjust the game plan.

Final Word

Focus on creating “quick wins.” Don’t take on too much too fast; otherwise, the alliance will just be viewed as another “program of the month” that didn’t work. Start small and build momentum and success stories. Both teams should agree on what the early wins will be so there is focused energy toward realizing the goals.

The most successful strategic partnerships have structure, accountability, and encourage collaboration. Follow these guidelines to create strategic alliances that are set up to succeed and grow steadily over time.


Gamification has become a hot topic in the field of marketing and sales training.  Used properly, this technique can create an extremely productive workplace culture and foster innovation among your sales staff.  Used improperly, gamification can detract from the cohesion of your sales team and encourage undesired behaviors.   If you've decided to use gamification as part of your business strategy, then you should make absolutely sure that the objectives of the 'games' are truly in alignment with the objectives of your business plan.

When the ideal gamification plan is in place, an employee only wins when the company also wins.  When designing your plan, it may be helpful to remind yourself of the specific employee behaviors that result in a win for your company and the specific employee behaviors that result in a loss for the company.  No two companies will have the exact same list of behaviors; the culture of your office and the personalities that make up your sales team will determine which behaviors your gamification plan should encourage in your employees.  Encouraging the wrong behaviors can cause the plan to fail.

The culture of your office will also determine how much of a disparity there should be between an employee win and an employee loss.  Too small of a disparity will make your gamification meaningless and result in too small of a boost in productivity.  Too large of a disparity will result in the alienation of employees who do not win frequently.  If the risk of losing outweighs the reward of winning, your gamification plan can fail because employees have a greater incentive not to participate than to participate.  

Carefully aligning your gamification plan to your business strategy can help you avoid pitfalls and increase the productivity of your sales and marketing teams.  Evaluate your business plan and the employee behaviors that will help or hinder its progress.  Armed with this information, you will have what you need to get the most out of executing an innovative incentive plan.


It is almost universally accepted that marketing and business strategy go hand in hand. The best business strategy always entails understanding and meeting customer needs, which is precisely what marketing does.

But it wasn't always as so.

aligning strategy and marketingrecent Harvard Business Article highlights how business strategy and marketing started as two separate disciplines in the ‘60’s when marketing was defined as the 4 P’s and strategy as how a company is different from its competitors. Over time, the two areas have merged and today most of us think about strategy and marketing considering the customer AND the competition across all marketing disciplines.

I have always thought about, practiced and taught marketing and strategy in an integrated manner. But it made me realize that not everyone thinks of it in this way and I was grateful for Roger Martin for shedding historical insight on this fact. He explains how marketing and strategy eventually converged:

“Marketers figured out that the crux of the issue was product, price, promotion and place relative to competition and sometimes that meant completely changing every P in order to carve out a useful place relative to competitors with some set of customers. Strategists figured out that beating competition entailed having intimate knowledge of exactly what customers wanted so that the capabilities they invested in would actually meet a customer need in a way that would result in better performance than that of competitors.”

Imagine the internal strife for a company that divides its business strategy and marketing strategy. One unfortunate outcome would be messaging that describes the competitive advantage of a business over its competitors—when its customers are not even aware the competitors. Another outcome might be a complete focus on customer needs. This of course is not a bad thing at all—unless a business thinks it doesn’t have any competitors and it get completely blindsided by a competitor it didn’t even know existed. And still another potential result of treating strategy and marketing as separate is the internal silos it creates in a business by creating either a duplication of effort, or teams competing for attention and resources.

For all these reasons it's important to erase any division between marketing and strategy and focus on creating integrated strategies to meet customer needs, better than your competition. 


Does it sometimes seem as if your marketing and sales teams are trying to imitate the Hatfields and McCoys? Are you often paying them for time spent bickering and fighting? 

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s time to get these two crucial departments back on track and working together.Boxing Gloves

Marketing and sales are the two sides of one coin. Marketing brings the customers in, and Sales closes the deals. Both jobs are critical and you will get the best results when both teams work together. Marketing and sales alignment has always been a challenge and in today’s business climate the challenges are even greater. So just how do you bring these two teams together?  You can start with the two Ts — training and talking.


Your marketing and sales teams should be well versed in their respective disciplines, but how much do they know about the other? By making sure that each team knows and understands what the other does, you establish familiarity and set a foundation for collaboration.


The biggest disconnect in any business is usually communication. If you have trained your teams, now is the time to build on that by fostering opportunities for the two teams to communicate more regularly and more effectively.

Once you have your marketing and sales staff training and talking, you can push them to new heights by:

  • Championing experimentation
  • Encouraging joint efforts
  • Providing incentives for successful collaborative efforts

Take out a coin out and look at it. There are definitely two sides. The next thing you see is that they are distinct, but they are not separate. They are joined in perfect alignment. That is exactly how your marketing and sales team should be.

Marketing and sales have different roles to play, but their objectives and goals are the same — to create sales for your company. The sooner you have them working together in harmony, the better chance they will have to succeed.


As we enter the fourth week of the first month of the year, you may be thinking “why should I read another article on setting goals?” If you’ve already determined what your goals are for the year and you’re on track to hit them, great. But if you’re like me and have a love for learning new ways to approach an old, yet important topic, then read on. Hopefully you’ll discover at least one or two new ideas to help you set and achieve goals that are aligned with your individual style as well as personal and professional interests.

 1.       Goal Setting through Creative Processing Goal bow and arrow

This is a new process I’m trying this year. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I have several new business opportunities that have presented themselves during the last few months. A few of these ideas are game changers and others fall into the category of developing new products and new services. Since the areas require considerable thought to prioritize, select, or eliminate, I needed some time to process ideas, develop marketing strategies, and do some creative brainstorming around each one.  This process is not Here are the steps you can take if this approach sounds interesting to you.

  • On a large flip chart size of paper, write your goals down the right side of the chart.
  • Draw a line from each goal back to the left side of the page.
  • For each individual goal, write a word or two spaced along the line that describes any of the following:
    • The steps that would need to take place to reach the goal
    • The various types of products or services to create to reach the goal
    • The different types of clients or partners to work with to reach the goal
    • The various options for distribution channels to reach the goal
    • The different ideas you might have for creating content to reach a goal
    • …Or anything else that makes sense to you.
  • Here’s the important part. Leave the page hanging on a wall in your office or a place you’ll see it every day.  

What you will likely discover is that by having a visual picture right in front of you every day, you will begin to process and think about the goals on a daily basis. It might take a week or two, or perhaps a month, but your strategies will begin to gel and your priorities will become clear.

For me, this process is really working, and for several reasons:

  1. First, I don’t feel any self-imposed pressure to sit down and write out my goals on a particular day at the beginning of the year. I need time to process and think creatively about each one.
  2. Second, I love the visual reminder that is in front of me. Even if I’m not actively thinking about a goal, my subconscious is. There is something about a visual I walk past often that helps my subconscious process what is needed to achieve a certain goal.
  3. Third, I can easily see how several of the goals are related to each other. This allows me to see the leverage points around each goal, creating a natural selection process around which goals I should prioritize and tackle first, and those I should put on the list for next year.

 2.       Setting Goals to Create a Balanced Life

In my first book, Market Smarter Not Harder, I outlined goal setting in seven main categories to help readers think holistically about goal setting in every part of their life; not just one or two areas like their career or achieving a certain level of financial success. The seven areas are:

  • Business/Career
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Intellectual/Learning
  • Spiritual growth
  • Social/Cultural

Setting two or three goals in each of these areas helps people think holistically about their life and whether or not they are living life in balance or not.  Review this list and if you haven’t set goals in all of these areas of your life, consider if doing so would add to the quality of your life.

 3.       Goal Setting to Move You from “Stuck” to “Unstuck”

If you are the type of person who has a hard time deciding what your goals should be, then this next exercise, courtesy of Jack Canfield, should get you unstuck.

  • Working from a list of goal categories like the one above, create two columns under each goal. Title the first column “What I Don’t Want” and title the second column “What I Do Want.”
  •  In the first column, write down what you don’t want in each of the categories. For example, in the health area you might write “I don’t want to be overweight and feel sluggish.”
  • In the second column, look at what you wrote and rewrite the goal in a positive way that describes what you do want in this area of your life. For example, using the same subject above you might write, “I want to exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes so I can feel more energized in my work and with my friends and family.” Stating a goal like “I want to lose 10 pounds” will do absolutely nothing to motivate you.
  • Since you don’t want a reminder of what you don’t want, you can get rid of the first column and focus on only the items you do want in the right hand column.

 4.       Goal Setting to Prioritize an Overwhelming Amount of  Choices (Part I)

If you are feeling overwhelmed because you has so many choices and options (this happens to a lot of entrepreneurs) and don’t know what direction to take your life or career, try this exercise to narrow down your choices.

  • Create a mind map of all your options or categories. Start by writing “2013” in the middle of the paper and draw a circle around it.
  • Now draw lines from the middle goal circle to various places on the paper and write each of your goals or options in a word or two at the end of the line and draw another circle around each of these words.
  • Now brainstorm all the possibilities in each of the areas so you can think through all the steps you would need to take in order to realize this goal. Do this by drawing lines from the circle around each topic, and writing what the step would be on each line. Or you can simply summarize points under each goal. There are several ways to create a mind map so do what works for you.
  • When you are finished, you can stand back and effectively evaluate each goal and the effort –versus- reward for attaining each goal. Now you can make decisions and prioritize what you want to accomplish.
  • If you tend to think in a linear way, you can also do this exercise in a spreadsheet by putting each of the steps described above in a column on a spreadsheet. Label the columns:
    • o Goal
    • o Reward/Benefit
    • o Steps Required
    • o Resources Needed
    • o Budget/Cost
    • o Timing
    • o Priority

 5.       Goal Setting to Prioritize an Overwhelming Amount of  Choices (Part II)

If you suffer from having to choose from so many great options and don’t know which to pursue first (Barbara Sher likes to call these folks “Scanners”), here is another way to make choices.  This one is often referred to as the ‘ol Benjamin Franklin method. It’s been around for a long time because it’s simple and effective.

  • Create a mind map using steps #1 and #2 above.
  • For each of the items on the mind map, make a list of the “Pros” on one side and a list of the “Cons” on the other side.
  • Prioritize your list of goals based on those that provide you with the most positive benefits.
  • When in doubt, just choose one or two of the most important goals and focus on those first. The idea is to do something and get some momentum so you feel good about the progress you’re making. This will likely lead you to the next steps you should take.

I don’t think the process of setting and achieving goals is a once-a-year experience. It’s a process.  If goals are nothing more than a New Year’s resolution, chances are they’ll be all but forgotten by February. This is why I come back and give you new ideas and tips on this topic throughout the year. Stay tuned…and in the meantime, I would love to hear which of these methods work for you. If you use a different process, please share so we can all learn! 

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