In 2012, Twinkie fans taught us an important lesson about marketing: When it comes to company valuation, customer loyalty is king.
Partners in Success – Part 2 of 3
Finding the right match, without wasting time on an RFP
If your business is faced with a complex problem – growing market share, for example – it’s likely you’ll need some real expertise to help overcome your challenge. Since an RFP has so many shortcomings, here are 6 guidelines I employ when looking for top-tier partners:
- Due Diligence. The best solutions have one thing in common: they begin with research. Ask your peers and business mentors for names of business partners who’ve helped them realize real success. Review businesses in online communities like LinkedIn or Twitter. Read blogs. Leverage networks with other business owners like the Entrepreneurs Organization. Dig deep and look for “A” players who have helped top performing businesses.
- Delegate correctly. If you’re the leader of a successful business, you know that a key to growth is delegation. That said, for business-critical decisions, it’s important to delegate properly. Will the right partner grow your firm, increase revenue, and take you to the next level? If so, the last thing you want to do is assign research to the summer intern. They simply don’t know the right questions or possess deep, valuable business networks. You want proven partners – not a random list compiled from a Google search.
- Success breeds success. One of my favorite strategies for selecting a partner is to look for signs of visible success. Recently, for example, my team was tasked with finding a partner to help with rendering Clarum Home’s upcoming Passive Project in Palo Alto. Remembering a recent visit to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) website, we tracked down the author of one of their recent projects. His work was compelling, the price was competitive, and his values aligned perfectly with Kinesis. Because we saw evidence of repeated success with ASLA, there was a reasonably good chance that this partner would hold up to further scrutiny.
- One size fits…none. Many industries are built upon “best practices” concept. Accountants, for example, follow the same set of procedures and rules outlined by the profession and the IRS. This can be a good thing when it comes to filing taxes, but a very bad thing when it comes to marketing. Sadly, accountants are some of the worst marketers out there, relying on the same solution that their competitors use. If the solution sounds like an “out of the box” offering, run away, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, and look for a partner who can help you stand out in your field.
- Align on what matters (hint: it’s not money). Years ago, a prospect invited me to lunch. Referred from a client, he didn’t once ask for a proposal or how much we charged. Though we barely talked about the project, the prospect was engaging in a critical buying process: he used the lunch as a “neutral venue” see if we aligned on things that mattered (values, philosophy, and character). He paid the tab and picked the high-end venue to demonstrate his commitment to a win-win process. My client wanted (and got) a partner who would care about his problems as much or more than he did.
- Be Choosy. We all know the axiom “less is more.” When you get to the point of asking for a proposal or how the engagement might be structured, your list should be short: 1 or 2 at most. By the time you are talking about budgets and working together, your rigorous screening process should have whittled the field down to the best of the best.