10 Steps to Forming Long-Lasting Strategic Partnerships From small-company owners to enterprise executives, partnerships are a delicate yet necessary part of any successful business strategy.

By Michel Koopman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Growth Hacking, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.

From small-company owners to enterprise executives, partnerships are a delicate yet necessary part of any successful business strategy.

The most important thing to know about partnerships is that they are not easy, nor do they always work out. That is why it is critical to vet out the potential partner as much as possible during the discovery period as the overarching goal is to produce a mutually beneficial relationship, while fulfilling the objectives and missions of each organization involved.

During the initial talks with a potential partner, there must be three opportunities available: leverage, scalability and incremental revenue. First, the partner must have a strategic market presence, brand or product that you can leverage from. Next, the engagement must be repeatable and able to be rolled out across sales forces. Finally, an opportunity to increase revenue must be present. Without the presence of all three, simply move on.

If the above requirements are met, then the partnership can begin to develop.

Related: The Two Biggest Money Problems That Can Ruin a Business Partnership

Here are 10 guidelines that all successful alliances that drive meaningful revenue must meet over the course of the collaboration.

1. Business alignment

Define a strategic mutual vision of success for the parties involved. Once the partners agree on what success looks like for both sides and how each can leverage the strengths of the other then the foundation is established.

2. Agreement and contracts

It is important to document, often contractually, many of the details, such as the type of relationship, responsibilities, mutual risks, rewards, payments, service level agreements, branding guidelines, rules of engagement,and more. Of course the extent and kind of details depend on the type of partnership (e.g. joint marketing, product development, reseller, referral, etc.).

3. Business planning

Each party must collaborate to create a business plan. At set time intervals, make sure this strategy remains relevant and in line with the endgame. The business plan should clearly state missions, objectives and revenue goals.

4. Executive engagement

Senior executives are the main influencers, and it is imperative they are on board with the partnership vision. They must be well connected to their counterparts and regularly communicate the overall alliance goals.

Related: How Looking at Obstacles as Opportunities Improved My Partnership

5. Technical interoperability and/or integration

Both parties must ensure and communicate (in time) that both products and/or services work seamlessly together. Clients should feel confident about the commitment of both companies behind their joint solution.

6. Marketing

The world needs to know about the partnership, and strategic, consistent communications, internally and externally, need to be conveyed throughout the alliance. The partnership creates a joint-value proposition unique to customers, and it needs to be conveyed through marketing content and leads.

7. Field readiness

The sales teams -- whether direct, channel, agents or other -- of all partnered companies must be well-versed on the collaboration with a consistent message. Each salesperson should be equipped with the necessary tools to effectively verbalize and demonstrate the partnership.

8. Compensation

Will sales professionals, partner managers and executives be financially rewarded if the partnership is successful? Each party involved will need to determine who gets rewarded and how they get compensated.

9. Sales engagement

From field representatives to managers, make sure the sales teams are on the same page. Some questions to ask: Are they collaborating? Is there a target list actively being worked? If so, which party is working it? Is there a pipeline review?

10. Governance

You will have to decide how often the success of the partnership will be put under review. Will these reviews be a regular occurrence? If so, how will these review meetings take place? You can opt for weekly meetings or calls with partner managers, quarterly meetings with vice presidents and so on.

This is an ongoing, living process, and it does take time to reach full maturity, so do not expect all the pieces to fall into place on the first day. The best partnerships can take weeks, months or even years to cultivate into its maximum potential. Although it does take time, a truly great partnership is worth the effort. Remember, you are partnering for a reason, together you are better than alone. Leverage this, grow it and drive new business opportunities!

Related: 4 Partnership Secrets for Hypergrowth Businesses

Wavy Line
Michel Koopman

CEO at getAbstract

Michel Koopman is the chief executive officer at getAbstract Inc. where he manages the company's Americas business and emerging markets. GetAbstract is a leading online media company, with a mission to find, expertly compress and provide universal access to critical business knowledge, in a format that can be quickly and easily absorbed, allowing subscribers to stay current, competitive and to become leaders who can make better decisions. GetAbstract's solutions include a library of more than 10,000 summarized business knowledge assets, used by millions of subscribers, and over one-third of the Fortune 100 companies.

Editor's Pick

A Leader's Most Powerful Tool Is Executive Capital. Here's What It Is — and How to Earn It.
One Man's Casual Side Hustle Became an International Phenomenon — And It's on Track to See $15 Million in Revenue This Year
3 Reasons to Keep Posting on LinkedIn, Even If Nobody Is Engaging With You
Why a Strong Chief Financial Officer Is Crucial for Your Franchise — and What to Look for When Hiring One

Related Topics


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.

Growing a Business

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

All too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged. Here's how to run a meeting the right way.

Growing a Business

My Startup Scored a Multimillion-Dollar Contract With a Fortune 100 Client in Just 3 Years. Here's What We Learned.

There's no perfect litmus test to gauge if you're ready to go after big business or not — but if you don't take the risk, you'll never realize the reward.


5 Questions to Ask a PR Pro Before Hiring Them

You probably haven't considered asking these questions, but they're a great way to find the right PR firm for your business.

Growing a Business

The Inevitable Challenges You'll Face as Your Business Grows — and How to Handle Them

There's going to be some discomfort as your business expands, but it doesn't have to stop you from achieving massive success.


This Location-Based Marketing Technique Is the Key to Boosting Retail Sales

Let's take an in-depth look at geofencing marketing and how it's helping retail locations drive foot traffic and boost sales.