How to develop B2B partnerships that grow your business

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

I understand what it takes to build a successful B2B partnership. My company’s rollout to B2B was a planned business development move accelerated by Russian military aggression in Ukraine, which is home to our largest research and development center – and where Parimatch, my company, was born in 1994.

To enter B2B, we analyzed the market and competitors, highlighted the strengths of our products, identified the pain points of potential partners, rebuilt the business, decentralized the marketing department and identified a B2B department.

Here are some notes that guided us in our successful B2B implementation.

What are the main features of B2B partnerships?

A limited contact pool: In B2B, the number of possible partners is often limited, and the more complex your niche, the fewer potential partnerships you will find. For this reason, you need to learn how to work particularly well with those who already communicate with you or who are present in the marketplace.

• Stamina: Companies look for long-term, stable partners, especially in specific industries, so searches are thoroughly addressed. If you provide a quality product, your partner will not be interested in third-party offers and you will likely develop side by side for years to come.

A potential partner can be the expert in your industry: In B2B, collaboration is not based on personal preferences or hasty decisions. You will have to prove the value of your product or service step by step. For example, my company has partners who know their markets and industry trends well, but still need a high-quality online platform to operate – or vice versa. Your potential partner could have ready-made operations and technologies, but without a smart, well-developed brand.

The decision-making process takes longer: It can be months before you start collaborating, during which time you need to remind a partner of your product and the value a partnership will bring.

The need for delegation of powers and tasks: You need in-house experts who understand the industry, your product, potential partners’ business models, and the challenges you may face in the future.

Strategy: Every B2B partnership should have a plan to track the results of the partnership.

Related: Business development: 4 ways to avoid the formula trap

How to find B2B partnerships

Search channels for partners are highly dependent on the industry. These include LinkedIn pages, thematic forums and business platforms, etc. It can also result from the implementation of digital and content marketing tools. You can add conferences, symposia and events organized by industry media to this list. In any case, the primary goal of these activities is to find decision makers.

In B2C, customers are often driven by emotions and make impulsive decisions because there is no problem spending money if it is not critical. However, in B2B, the price can reach millions, and further business development depends on partnerships, so decisions are made with caution. The number of decision makers is also increasing, so be prepared to showcase your product’s strengths from different angles depending on the expertise of whoever you’re targeting.

The virtue of research

Before commencing communication activities, create a portrait of a partner that best fits the business objectives. The next step is to study the sample of potential customers and filter it based on the necessary criteria. The goal is to come up with a list of the top 10 or 50, depending on the niche of the company and the number of potential partners. Working with a small segmented list will deliver more value than a broad unfiltered audience.

This approach also fits super complex niches: we analyze all potential customers and assess whether they fit the portrait of our ideal partner. Based on the results, we compile a top Х with a short description of the most important points for attention.

The next step is to add every possible partner to the database, collect company and revenue data, and search for all available information. This removes unpromising options, leaving only the target audience. Another advantage of this approach is that you learn a lot of detail about potential partners in the process, which will help identify decision makers, make contacts and develop a collaboration strategy.

Related: Market research: what it is and how to conduct it

The importance of face-to-face meetings

We live in an online world. Hundreds of employees in my company work productively from different parts of the world and only meet through online conversations. But to build long-lasting B2B relationships, it is essential to meet partners in person, especially in a semi-formal setting, because one face-to-face meeting works better than five perfect commercial proposals, which the manager sends to your partners by mail.

Know your partner’s end customers

It is a big mistake if a B2B company does not know the end customers of its partners: those who directly use the product or service that results from your collaboration. And if your offering has problems or is underdeveloped, you’ll hear from them.

Our expertise in product development is based on nearly 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry. We know the end customers of our services because the teams regularly interview them: we know what they like, what interests them and what they value about our products. To increase demand, we are developing new product features, for which we are developing the functionality of the platform at the same time.

Knowledge of end customers and experience interacting with them gives you an additional competitive advantage.

Related: 5 ways PR wins at generating B2B sales

Why you need a B2B department

The primary functions of a dedicated B2B department are communicating with partners, presenting product and development strategies, and building collaboration with internal departments, and it engages in activities ranging from strategy to lead generation. The main activity of this team is communication… a lot of of communication.

To close one particular deal, a B2B manager must work with representatives from different departments and different decision makers. Sometimes companies hire external B2B teams because their marketing department doesn’t have enough time, resources, or experience to skillfully build B2B interactions with partners. These teams create the strategy, draw up a detailed step-by-step plan and are sometimes involved in its implementation.

Related: This is what really builds customer loyalty in the B2B industry

What a B2B manager should do

One of the many critical tasks of this leadership role is to address the specifics of several products and projects simultaneously, including:

  • Looking for those business functions that potential partners cannot maintain themselves.
  • Insight into the specific characteristics of the industry and the wishes of end customers.
  • Build communication with partners and between company departments.
  • Create a transparent offer (including a collaboration strategy) and present it to decision makers.

What can you consider a ready-made strategy?

The turnkey strategy is a step-by-step guide to action for the long-term partnership. Your strategy might consider delegating some points to your partner, to be implemented together or by your company alone.

  • Collected studies: Conducted for partnership strategy, which may include market analysis, partner company performance indicators and your offerings.
  • A full presentation: This could be a 200-slide “mother presentation” from which the B2B department managers choose the most important slides relevant to each decision maker. (You’re probably using the entire presentation for internal use only.)
  • A project roadmap: A detailed development plan detailing all critical milestones.
  • Price: This should also be included in your project roadmap — the partner should understand exactly what steps are involved and how much it will cost.

The strategy should not be just any ordinary document, but should consist of streamlined processes, budget reviews, presentations and accompanying documents.

Last words

Stepping into B2B, there’s still a possibility you’ll spend millions building your brand and not get the results you expected. One problem here can be the difference between B2B and B2C: companies don’t make deals based on subjective preferences or emotions, as could be the case in B2C.

B2B customers must be offered something that they cannot produce themselves. It is crucial to initially find out the true goals of the customer and to ensure maximum transparency of your offer.

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