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Unite and conquer

01 Oct 09

Smart organisations have been collaborating for centuries. Eleventh century Japanese feudal warlords formed alliances, the Romans formed political unions called triumvirates and the Venetian merchant families formed long-term mercantile relationships with other trading families. But collaboration is changing.

Collaborative relationships, whether with vendors, resellers, joint sales ventures, alliances or influencers, are becoming  more strategic and transformational than in the past. Web 2.0 tools like wikis, blogs and cloud computing are making  sharing and contributing the norm. And best practices are emerging to facilitate successful alliances.

Access to new markets and customers is rated one of the top benefits of collaboration today, according to  BusinessWeek Research Services. Businesses plan to expand their reliance on an ecosystem of partners by more than  a third, by 2011. In fact, collaborative alliances are rapidly overtaking acquisitions as a primary growth strategy.

The small things
These days, SMBs are also beginning to see collaboration as a pathway to growth. According to Peter Pekar,  co-author of Smart Alliances, the return on investment of such partnerships is at least 50% higher than the average for a  company’s business.

Furthermore, you will reap the following payoffs:

Gain the critical customer or vendor relationships and reach that you need.

Supplement any direct sales, in a down- or upturn.

Reduce fixed overheads and the day-to-day costs of prospecting efforts.

Big opportunity
Cost reduction used to be the top reason for entering into a collaborative partnership. But most of the so-called  low-hanging fruit has already been plucked these days. The big opportunity now in collaboration is aid in finding new  customers and access to new vendor products, ideas and skills, which in turn lead to new markets. 

Recall how MYOB marketed itself via networks of accountants? Other companies are embarking on joint sales  ventures with complementary firms, or aligning themselves with consultants and advisors. If you’ve saturated your local  market, emerging marketssuch as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other developing countries beckon –  perfect for collaborative sales ventures.

Novel networks
Consider the effort you’d put in to finding new distribution partners or vendors. Instead you could create new networks  that combine sales, marketing, technical development or other functions, in novel ways. For example, EMC has expanded its view of its outsourcing partners and credits its collaborations for helping to boost services from 10%  of revenue to 16%.

Even Procter & Gamble, previously known for doing things in-house, states the “world has changed”. Its success in  new markets now comes from a new skill at uncovering potential partners.

From art to science
Now collaboration has to become part of your internal systems, and the conversation needs to beheld at senior  management levels. Ensure collaboration becomes part of your strategic bedrock. For best success, construct a  strategy that benefits all partners. Collaborating may also require unexpected diplomacy. Even smallstylistic differences  can become deal-breakers. This is where an independent outsourced channel agency can help.

Now is the time
Collaboration doesn’t happen by chance, but, under pressure to grow new sources of revenues, CEOs worldwide are  making it atop priority. 

Embark on, or redefine, a strategy of collaborative partnering. Drop-kick loose couplings with partners, vendors and  customers in favour of purposeful, strategic and creative ways of work, that draw on all parties’ resources and grow  top-line revenues for all.

The message? Like Dell, it’s never too soon to collaborate the right way, whatever your size. Transformyour business  network into a surprisingly co-operative place. It’ll pay enormous dividends, in the months and years to come.  Remember: you can’t do it alone. Unite and conquer Smart organisations have been collaborating for centuries.  Eleventh century Japanese feudal warlords formed alliances, the Romans formed political unions called triumvirates and  the Venetian merchant families formed long-term mercantile relationships with other trading families. But collaboration is changing.

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