When we first started we had a keen pioneer client and one other prospect - pretty damn good. Our marketing plan was basic:
1. Surely every big company has this problem (yes).
2. So let's get a list (easy but cost some $).
3. Then call them all (ah...).
After many calls it became clear that, even once we got through to the key decision maker and identified that they indeed had the problem, a presentation (let alone a sale) was not guaranteed.WHY?
Any senior manager in any business is not sitting around waiting for something to do. Our target market (managers in the finance area) have a never ending cycle of nightmares: budgets, audits, reporting and tax, tax and more bloody tax.
Every now and then they have a sweet spot where they can raise their head above the parapets to listen to a new idea. Miss it and it's gone. So we worked out where this audience would go when the pain threshold of our particular area got unbearable. In our case it was to the bank that supplied their corporate cards.
"You said that giving my employees corporate cards would make life easier, but none of the buggers are filling in the spreadsheet that says what they spend the money on! HELP!"
We approached ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac and Amex, and after some detective work we dug up the managers responsible for corporate card sales and customer service. I actually physically bumped into one as we were waiting to visit a mutual prospect. We were early into this field so while these managers were indeed aware of the complaints of their customers, they were also stuck because the banks didn't want the hassle of developing and supporting software to manage the problem. Ah but we had that!
These early alliances worked a treat. We often did joint presentations with the prospect's bank to offer a true end-to-end solution and with clear lines of demarcation for problem resolution (very important in every joint approach).
But life was not meant to be easy so these halcyon days did not last. One bank I had ignored for while got snaffled by a new competitor, so proper rules of engagement were needed. The key rule we decided on (and still kept to my last day) was that alliance management is like painting the harbour bridge. You are never finished. When you get to the end you start again at the beginning. Why?
Because your key contacts in an organisation like a bank have these characteristics:
1) They have multiple demands on their time, including from your competitors.
2) They have other responsibilities, not just in your area.
3) They get promoted, fired or they move on.
4) Because they are busy, any help you can give them is welcome.
These key champions of your product or service are worth serious attention, so call them, email them, pop by for a coffee, send them interesting stuff, ask about their problems and help them whenever you can. Meet their their new team members, show them your latest coolest stuff, ask for their opinions and pass on feedback (good or bad) from mutual clients or prospects. If they ask if you are free to do a joint call on a client, say YES!
Be respectful. Be honest. Be trustworthy. Be reliable. (Actually if those four aren't in your corporate DNA maybe rethink your future.)
For any B2B company this alliance management is non-negotiable. If you can't be bothered, don't worry - your competitors will thank you.
I hope that was worth the read. Drop Brad Deveson an email to brainstorm who your potential alliance partners might be.