We recently led an alliance team through an alliance business planning session.  Through that process we captured a number of best practices that lead to better business planning and ultimately better performing alliances.  Here is what we learned:

  1.  Develop the business plan with your partner.  Successful alliances are win/win/win . Your partners’ strategic objectives, resources, commitment and creative insight are critical to the process and to a successful outcome for you, your partner, and your joint customers.
  2. Use the templates and checklists as stimuli for thought not a rigid formula.  Your alliance is unique. The value creation thought process and business plan should reflect that.
  3. Build from the specific to the general.   You may find that over several initiatives you have 80% commonality, but it is that 20% differential that makes for a successful joint offer. Specifics make an impact – generalizations put you to sleep.
  4. Articulate the differentiation in the solution clearly, unambiguously. Contrast with the competition…50% more scalable than .
  5. Individual value propositions should include specific descriptions of how value is created, so that a reader not in the alliance understands it. You will be describing the value of this alliance to executive management and other stakeholders.
  6. Include customer value and metrics.Hard metrics on customer value ie. “reduces deployment costs by 7%”, gives you a compelling reason to get in the door with customer decision makers and energizes the sales teams to engage collaboratively.  Value props that impact customer business model are especially compelling i.e. increased competitive advantage for your customer. Focusing on your customer maintains common vision between partners.
  7. Keep focus on specifics: – “saving millions per drill head” is a more powerful vision than ‘saving costs’; “ saving up to $5M per well” even better! Same for alliance objectives, again, the best have very clear, numerically stated objectives for both partners and customer.
  8. For each metric establish a baseline “where you are today” and a goal “where you want to be in 6 mo, 1 yr”
  9. Identify risks and obstacles to success and include risk mitigation and contingency plans
  10. Evaluate your sales and marketing value props from the sales perspective.  Are they strong enough to compel you sales teams to want to sell with a partner?
  11. Bonus Best Practice: Relationship strength is critical in an alliance.  Measure it regularly via partner health checks and proactively manage the relationship.