By Aleece Hobson

A strategic partner is a valuable asset to any business development initiative. Most professional service firms work with fellow advisors across industries or establish partnerships with area associations to reach more prospects and build their pipeline. At times, it can be hard to identify whether or not time is well spent investing in these relationships. When prospects call for the first time, inquiring about service offerings and requesting a proposal, it’s easy to forget the question “how did you hear about us?“

So, how do you get the most value from a strategic partnership? Try these 5 tips.

  1. Don’t assume. Often times, it comes down to one very simple truth: strategic partners don’t REALLY know what you do. Take time to deepen the relationships and explain your core services, ideal client, and strategies for growth. Help them understand your business, so when they do decide to refer the business, leads are prequalified. You can’t assume that just because they are a friend or business acquaintance that they know what makes a good client, you must clearly articulate your focus.

  2. Just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask how your partnership can be improved. There may be opportunities you’re missing out on such as co-hosting special events, sponsorships, social media contributions, or by-line articles. Before setting aside time for this conversation, think about what you can bring to the table to not only increase your return, but elevate your reputation as an expert. They will expect you to have considered the options and won’t be happy if you expect them to have the ideas. And frankly, they may not have even considered certain options, so JUST ASK.

  3. It’s mutual. Tip one and two really focus on what you’ll get out of the relationship, but remember IT’S MUTUAL. Strategic partners will be much more inclined to help you if you’re also helping them. Sometimes they’ll expect this in the form of referrals, but in many situations you can add value to the relationship by contributing excellent content, making presentations, or inviting them to attend industry events as your guest.

  4. Take action. Now that you’ve identified how to optimize the value of your strategic partnership, put it into action. Work with your partner to identify the best place to start, whether it’s identifying 3-5 industry events that you’ll attend together or developing topics for their blog. Let the newly revived relationship take shape. Over the course of six months, pay special attention to new business and be sure to attribute leads to the partnership. If you’re seeing results, keep heading in that direction. If you’re not, consider tip 5.

  5. Reevaluate. This can go both ways. After six months of implementing the new strategy, set aside some time to discuss and evaluate the value each of you has seen. In some cases, it will be necessary to reevaluate the viability of the relationship. This isn’t a bad thing and in most cases, you can part ways as friends, but if it’s not working, it’s not working.

From an organizational perspective, the management team should evaluate the value of strategic partners annually. It’s important to get objective input from others because everyone perceives value differently. The bottom line is that building an effective strategic partnership takes time and should result in mutual value. Are you taking time to get the most out of yours?