One of the tempting habits of a new organization is to form “handshake alliances” with as many non-competing organizations as they can find; specifically those organizations that have a complimenting product or service. While it is important to form alliances and partnerships, these agreements should be solid and chosen carefully. A partnership exists for one reason; a mutual benefit between two parties, with a synergistic need for the two parties to be united. Partnering in hopes of a referral (as mentioned before) can be hazardous to your organization’s health. A good partnership comes from an established relationship, not a staged one based on opportunity.
Customer relationship types:
- Client – A client holds no obligation to affect your bottom line; in fact, the only obligation a client would have is to pay you for services rendered. It is up to you to secure their loyalty.
- Advocate – An advocate is a great relationship to have with a client; having performed an outstanding service to them, they now have enough faith and trust in you to pass on warm referrals and will passively or actively be a resource to you. Advocates come with time and an investment in their overall satisfaction. Not all clients can be made into advocates, no matter how much effort you put into the relationship.
- Partner – A partner is obligated to help fulfill a missing need or service to your organization and you are obligated to reciprocate a fulfillment of needs. This is a true partnership and should often be as balanced as possible. Partners require time and maintenance, so it is important to choose partners carefully.
- Burned-bridge – A burned-bridge is a client or former advocate/partner who is under-satisfied with the services you have provided. This can be directly your fault or the fault of poor communications; regardless, it can and will hurt your company through negative word of mouth and possible negative press. A burned-bridge is usually the result of a failure to immediately rectify a wrong in the former client’s eyes and now should be expected to disregard you for recommendation to future opportunities. There are many negative impacts here; it is best to attempt to repair and rectify issues with this burned bridge as soon as possible to eliminate the possibility of generating bad PR.
To summarize, a partnership means developing a working relationship, organizations should have a healthy balance of clients, advocates and partners, and work towards re-building burned bridge relationships; as they can only have a negative impact later as your business grows. Credibility is a necessary business trait.