Strategic alliances can be tricky. Partnerships foster mutual benefits, but the alliances exist only as long as they are advantageous to both parties. Even so, the concept of gaining a marketplace advantage by teaming up with another company whose products or services fit well with your own is not only seductive, it’s also critical for an increasing number of businesses.
Identify the Need: Conduct a strategic analysis of your market sectors and target audiences to determine which areas are the most profitable or have the greatest potential. Understand clearly where you are so that you can find the partners that best complement you. You need to understand how the alliance fits into your business plan, so be clear with yourself why you're entering into it and what you expect to gain.
Establish Joint Objective and Goals: Developing key objectives and goals that reflect what both parties expect to gain is critical. Be sure that expectations are realistic in light of the resources both parties are willing to put forth, and make adjustments as needed. Nothing sours an alliance faster than the notion that one party is giving everything while the other is getting a free ride. Strategic alliances have to foster an environment in which both parties gain something; otherwise, they're not partnerships.
Define Roles and Responsibilities: Assess each company's strengths, and define responsibilities accordingly – especially in the area of management. Many alliances fail because of poor management relationships, so document clearly what's expected. Be specific: decide how many people will be involved in the alliance from each company and what their specific roles will be. Each party has to dedicate resources to the relationship, and both parties need someone within their organization who will champion the cause.
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