I try to keep my radar tuned-in whilst trying to avoid too much of the noise. And for that reason there is still something essentially useful about a well structured book with quality content. My lecturing work at Tech Music School in Fulham and developing a paper on media industry collaboration for Henley Management School has seen me explore a number of interesting avenues from a range of great writers recently. From the latest thinking on strategic partnering and innovation to the lessons to be learnt from digital pioneers and brand & media franchising.
In the first of this two-part series I am reviewing; ‘Strategic Partnering’ by Luc Bardin, ‘Brandscaping’ by Andrew M Davis and ‘Media Franchising’ by Derek Johnson.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.” – Bruce Lee.
The development of focused relationships with partners, allies and networks is a greater driver of innovation than countless rounds of internal brainstorming and intranet posts asking for everyone to be a bit more creative. Yet often individuals and companies cannot get over that first collaborative relationship step and move towards acting, testing and building something new, that could be greater than the sum of their two parts. Bruce Lee, knew a thing or two about the need to act and not just think.
I am not a fan of brainstorming. But I am a fan of purposeful collaboration. And to some this may appear a contradiction. In an excellent article in a recent New York Times, Susan Cain explores the dangers of groupthink and the horrors of noisy, distracted offices. She points out that true genius needs solitude and time to think. Perhaps academia and ideas do. But innovation does not. As Matt Ridley pointed out, ‘ideas have sex’ – and economic and business history is littered with examples of pioneering that was only achieved by the accidental mixing, the casual alliance or the perfect partnership – at just the right time.
There have been some heated debates across the innovation forums and sites over the past few months concerning the role of talented people in the innovation process. ( see this post by HBR’s Art Markman for example). Is innovation about just getting the smartest people, the greatest brains, the most dynamic individuals and waiting for their ‘eureka’ moment? Or is it about being smarter with the talent you have, creating a culture that challenges how things are done and finding systematic gaps in the market? Or – is it about something else altogether?
In ‘As You Like It’, William Shakespeare described the world as a stage, upon which we as actors, will change the parts we play. In the world of marketing relationships its important to know who you are, the role you play – and where others fit into your world. There are different dynamics at play in different levels of business relationships –
Rosabeth Moss Kanter explained about the collaborative advantage in her seminal essay ‘The Art Of Alliances’ back in 1994 and in her latest blog piece published today she neatly summarises the three reasons ‘why everything goes better with partners’. Over the past month I’ve been involved in many discussions about the role of partners, how best to develop and manage them – and the role of nurturing the most valuable relationships through a systematic programme.
A very interesting article in HBR, Vicki Gardner highlights recent research from Nielsen showing that most of what is deemed marketing innovation actually just cannibalized existing products and market shares – and that genuine innovation should come from collaboration. As Gardner says; ” Regarding innovation, the numbers indicate that the vast majority of innovation also results in splitting the pie vs. growing the pie — and in some cases, innovation inadvertently shrinks the pie”.
Partnerships and alliances are good for business. Big business has always known this — from McDonald’s building global co-promotions with Coca-Cola and Walt Disney, to Nike building trainers that talk to your iPhone. But alliances can bring significant benefits for small firms too – something I discuss in this article within MarketingDonut. In the article I outline the four main partnership tactics that small businesses can use; (1) Revenue Partners (2) Supplier Partners, (3) Industry Alliances and (4) Promotional and PR. These are the kind of marketing programmes that are used by some of the world’s biggest brands – because they’re cost effective and work. So if they’re not already doing so, isn’t it time small businesses started to build these approaches into their plans too? For more information on partnership tips and advice see Benchstone.co.uk
As an advocate in partnership marketing it’s just as important for me to point out that not all partnership and collaborative offers are good ones – and that sometimes it is best solution is to walk away from the deal. As an old boss once wisely told me ‘do not fall in love with the deal’ – but keep a clear idea of what you really want from the relationship. In an interesting piece published in Business Insider in 2010, Venture Capitalist Don Rainey pointed out that small businesses need to just say no to certain partnership deals. I agree with Rainey up to a point but I think some of the ‘no-no’s’ he points out can be overcome with a sharper partnership approach too.
The term partnership can mean different things to different people and in many cases that makes sense but it should never just be about the purchase orders. This is a point that has been made very clear recently by Ben Gomes-Casseres. If the shared definition is not understood and agreed by the parties early on, it can frustrate and poison any chance of a long-term relationship – be it one based on sales, marketing collaboration or anything else.