Partnerships’ importance today

It was not that long ago when a company founder being put in charge of partnerships was seen as a snub. A largely undefined and unmeasurable role which signaled that the person was being put out to pasture and retained only a maskot importance to the organization. Today this is one of the most important roles both for marketing and product development.

In 2010 successful brands are sensitive to the fact that reputation can be one of the most powerful marketing tools. Effective partnerships create associations with an established brand and align outsiders’ interests to contribute. At a time when winners take most; these collaborations often build effective teams to collectively gobble up mind share (and ultimately the available market).

In the software world, publishing an API is done to solicit partners. To get successful adoption you have to offer something of value to the prospective partners: content, audience and/or functionality. When done right, the integrations (or mash-ups) can create great synergies. From a strategic standpoint, they serve to cement a market position and tie up the influencers in the space – if nothing else, to take away those opportunities from competitors.

This democratized approach has taken-off by necessity in the last few years. Scrappy, lean startups couldn’t afford to do everything on their own and instead teamed up with others to fill up the margins. Companies with viable stand-alone plays were able to partner with others to create more complete solutions.

A great example is the integration between MailChimp (email marketing) and Highrise (CRM). Where the two relatively small companies are giving users a great combination that helps trump the offering from ContantContact (email marketing marketing leader) and SalesForce (CRM market leader). There are a multitude of other factors that help besides this integration, but it all adds up.

Another example is Evernote’s (note-taking application) herculean partner effort. With large established hardware players, they gain an install base. With similar-sized software companies Evernote benefits from their evangelism and additional functionality while providing access to their 2.4M+ userbase.

Since “no one is as smart as all of us”, the outcomes are usually better executed and more efficient than any well-funded company could put out on its own. This also allows companies to focus on their core value proposition and rest assured that the incremental benefits of tangent features can still be reaped.