The topic of Big Brother Alliances quickly became the focus of the discussion in a session lead by Pete Luongo, Joe Morgan, and David Thomson. Big Brother Alliances are all about leveraging partnerships with big companies to accelerate your growth. The executives in the audience engaged in a lively discussion on the topic of Big Brother Alliances to answer two questions:
• How can big brother alliances help you drive growth in your organization?
• What are the challenges in developing and overcoming these alliances?
The executives brainstormed and came up with several ways that Big Brother Alliances can drive growth. The first is getting your internal executive team in alignment on where your core competencies are and how that fits into your business model so that you can identify where you have potential gaps that would add more value to your customers. If you have an Advisory Council in place today you may have this information. If you have a decision maker/executive Advisory Council, but have not gleaned their insight in this area then this would be a great opportunity for a session at the next Council meeting to flush this out.
Once you have a clear eyed view of the market from your Advisory Council and have internal alignment, you want to identify who the right potential alliance partners would be that would fill your gaps or strengthen your position. These could be supply chain partners or organizations in the same industry where there solutions help organizations solve different problems (i.e., you could provide a "bolt on" to their products or services) or it could be an organization where you may compete on some level.
Tom Baird, CEO of AppSmyth shared one of his keys to success has been focusing on the quality vs. the quantity of alliances.
Challenges & How to Overcome Challenges
When trying to establish Big Brother Alliances, these executives have faced many challenges. The executives brainstormed and then prioritized to come up with the top three. The executives then brainstormed on how to overcome these top three challenges.
They three top challenges were:
• Identifying the Right Partner
• How to Sell an Alliance
• How to Sustain an Alliance
Identifying the Right Partner
The executives felt that when trying to Identifying the right partner the first thing that needs to be done is identifying the potential alliances that fit into your core competencies and business model. Once you have completed the list, it's time to start initiating conversations with them. Second, in preparation for the meeting research needs to be done to uncover as much about their strategy as possible. (i.e., conducting a needs analysis to understand the gaps). Third is having the discipline to execute and follow-up.
How to Sell an Alliance
When trying to sell a Big Brother Alliance the executives' experience was that you needed to first focus on the challenges the potential partner had today and to identify if your organization could fill some of those gaps through the alliance. Second, component was to find and build sponsorship for the alliance with the potential partner as well as internally within your own organization.
Kurt Cummings, Vice President Business Development at VeriSign shared that "when selling an alliance, don't underestimate the amount of internal selling you will need to do for this partnership to be successful".
Once you sell the alliance with the potential partner and within your organization you need to structure it for success. The executives felt that focusing on the goals and objectives on both sides throughout the selling motion is important. Also a key element throughout this process is building relationships. The executives agreed that truly identifying the mutual value for both companies was the best roadmap for long term success.
How to Sustain
After the Alliance has been built, the hard work truly begins in sustaining the Big Brother Alliance. The first thing that you have to realize is that this Alliance represents change for both organizations. The executives felt that having the discipline to manage the people side of the change was a critical success criterion.
Second, is answering these questions: what resources will we need on both sides? How will we compensate the resources/sales force? How will you track/measure the success so that both sides will know what success looks like? These are a few of the critical questions that need answered before the deal is sold so that you are setting the alliance up for success.
Third, the executives felt that having periodic check points along the way is very important. As with any large initiative, celebrating milestones and finding quick wins are critical success factors in sustaining a program long term.
Laura Ramos, VP Industry Marketing at Xerox shared that "sustaining your big brother alliances is the most difficult part of the journey".
In summary, all the executives agreed that Big Brother Alliances are not easy, but essential to driving exponential growth. It takes proper executive alignment, structure, ability to executive and the ability to effectively manage the change that will be required on both sides to ensure success