From my experience, I have found five elements that are essential to creating successful partnerships:
Trust: This is the foundation for a long successful relationship. Basically, it is about integrity and meeting each other’s expectations. To set the stage for success, it is essential to have realistic expectations and common goals. It’s not unusual for each partner to have different agendas/motivations that are diving the partnership. However, it is essential to have both parties agree on the common goals/expectations. Having the foundation of the partnership documented in some way (whether it is in a contract, MOU, or email) will give both parties a baseline to review over the life of the partnership. As with any long term successful relationship, it my evolve over time and need to be re-evaluated and possible re-defined.
Communication: This may seem obvious, but I have seen this become the element that erodes a good partnership. One tool that I have found helpful is active listening. It is simply echoing back my understanding. It can be either in conversation or written in emails (or contracts) but help build a solid foundation to that we can both build on. The three rules that I use to evaluate the communication between partners: (1) ask for what you want, (2) monitor what you receive, and (3) celebrate “No”.
Joint use model: Working together to create a joint use model of how your customers will benefit from the partnership is an essential element on understanding the value of the partnership. From a product perspective, it helps to layout the process flow from start to finish on how a customer would use products from both companies and how the handoff is managed.
“One Voice” Messaging: When communicating the value of the partnership, it is helpful to have both parties build a unified message that gets communicated both internally and externally. This messaging will be the foundation on how customers will see the value of the new partnership.
Customer success(es): This is where the “rubber hit the road”. Joint customers must see the “promise” of why the partnership was created and achieve their own success results. Without a real customer success experience, the partnership is only a story that is not realized (or validated).
Each of these elements must be re-evaluated over time and when necessary, updated to reflect the dynamic changes in the partnership.