Posted to Volacci's blog on November 16th, 2010

5 Tips for Building Successful Partner Relationships

As you’ve probably already noticed we’ve changed things up a bit with the Volacci blog by posting content from team members on topics other than SEO. Today it’s my turn to share some wisdom and helpful tips with our audience about successful partnering practices. You’re probably asking, “Who is this anyway?” My name is Josh Ward and I’m the Partner Program Manager at Volacci. My job over the last few years has been to build mutually beneficial relationships with web developers and designers in the Drupal community. If done properly, and given the right tender loving care, a partner program can keep multiple businesses well fed and healthy. In this post I’ll share 5 tips I’ve learned about successful partnering.

1. It’s not always a good fit. You might think that as an SEO company Volacci could partner with anyone, anywhere, anytime in the Drupal Community. How many other Drupal SEO companies are out there? Although we have a good niche carved out, it’ unreasonable and short sighted of us to think that every Drupal shop has good partner potential. You need to explore a partner relationship just like you would a client or employee relationship. When two companies compliment each other like peanut butter and jelly great things can happen.

2. Talk about expectations early and often. Having expectations that don’t match up is the quickest way to destroy trust and cause problems in any relationship. If you’re running a partner program make sure you have a set of well thought out guidelines and/or principles to share with incoming partners. Don’t be shy to talk about what you expect from them and what you’re willing to give. Things like billing, how referrals will be handled, who the best point of contact is, and what flavor ice cream you like are all important discussion topics before you jump into a partner relationship.

3. Understand the cultures of both parties. Just like every person is unique so too are corporate cultures. Partner programs that are inflexible and don’t take into account the wide variety of ways that people conduct business are doomed to failure. Understanding and adjusting to how different companies work with their clients, how they want to be rewarded, and what type of communication mediums they prefer is a key to success.

4. Start small. There’s nothing worse than bringing a new partner into a project that took you months to close the deal on only to have the partner botch the job and cost you money and trust. The easy way to avoid this, and still take advantage of the upside to partnering, is to start with small projects. Small projects allow you some trial and error with only a small amount of risk involved. Most of our initial partner interactions are on small consulting projects or minimal ongoing monthly campaigns. This allows us some “practice” time with our partners before we take on the bigger challenges.

5. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communication is critical before, during, and after projects. In our modern world there is no excuse not to stay in touch with your partners. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, cell phones, email, snail mail, and carrier pigeon are all ways we stay in touch with our partners. Well, maybe not the last one but you get the picture. If you have partners you never communicate with and a referral falls in the woods does it help anyone?

Thanks for reading and I look forward to exercising my writing muscles again soon. I’d love to get some examples of epic wins and failures to use as examples in my next post. Got any good stories I could use?