Although the roles that technology vendors play is critical to many businesses, the relationship between the two parties can often feel transactional.
It's easy for technology vendors to provide services that simply meet the needs of their clients and, in doing so, satisfy client expectations. In return, the client remains comfortable with the work, and both parties remain siloed in their respective roles.
Does that approach work? Sure. But does the disconnected relationship drive innovation and make a significant impact on the client's business? Not particularly.
Technology partnerships are meant to facilitate the integration of technological systems that ultimately help to move a business forward—closer to its goals. That is, partnership can play a vital role.
To create truly influential partnerships, technology vendors must begin to view themselves as strategic advisers who prioritize adding value through data-driven insights, transparency or connection, and—most important—education.
Transitioning from vendor to strategic partner takes a little TLC, but I have boiled it down to two major factors.
Building strong relationships and valuable strategic partnerships have three things in common: authenticity, transparency, and passion.
Establishing a connection with your clients and their business is imperative when seeking to position yourself as a strategic partner. That means taking the time to get to know clients and understand their needs and goals in full.
Incorporating a sense of trust into the relationship allows for more effective communication. It inspires ideas and opportunities, which are integral parts of being able to significantly improve a client's business.
Here are a few steps that can help solidify a strong partnership.
1. Meet in person
In our digital world, it is easy to rely on virtual communications and Zoom meetings. But as SVP of partnerships, I make it a priority to schedule in-person meetings if the client is open to it, ideally on a monthly basis. That creates an opportunity for us to connect on an even deeper level and establish a genuine human connection that goes beyond the surface—ultimately creating a sense of trust.
It is also the best time to dig into clients' biggest obstacles and brainstorm solutions in real-time, creating the kind of back-and-forth banter and conversation that lays the foundation for a friendship and union.
Meeting in person demonstrates your unique ability to provide value beyond the core service offering.
Offering a lunch-and-learn is a great way to structure an in-person meeting. Ask clients to choose a particular topic that they would like to better understand, and prepare to give them a deep dive into the topic. That can help them see the value in your work while also empowering them to offer their own insights and perspectives, which is a great outcome for both parties.
Again, doing so pushes the boundaries of the traditional tech vendor and client relationship into a realm full of possibility and innovation as you help one another become stronger and better together.
2. Embrace the art of query
Meeting in person can help you forge a more authentic partnership and dig into the relationship through thoughtful and direct questions. Making a real impact on the client can start with a simple, honest, and direct conversation.
Ask clients questions about how they are feeling, what they hope to get out of the relationship, and whether they have any concerns so you have a better sense of where the relationship is heading and how to ultimately satisfy and meet their needs in the long run.
Your queries will empower them to express their concerns and insights from a more honest perspective, allowing you to gain further insights into their business, goals, and challenges.
3. Advise with data-driven insights
Technology vendors are in the position to provide data-driven and educated insights—essential components of being a valuable and effective adviser that further strengthen the client relationship.
Taking the time to provide data-centric viewpoints and perspectives exemplifies your passion and desire to see your client succeed—something that will not go unnoticed.
Sharing your expertise with clients is an excellent way to help them understand the ins and outs of the industry so they can feel confident in making their own informed decisions as they begin to fully grasp the importance of your offerings.
Education: The Cornerstone of Success
Building collaborative and authentic relationships opens the door to being able to educate the client, which is the most important aspect of a strategic partnership.
Well-versed in the technical elements of the industry, tech partners can help clients break down complex concepts and understand the why behind the latest innovations—an essential component to creating a sense of loyalty and solidarity in the relationship. Understanding the value of your product offering helps unveil the full potential of the partnership while creating a sense of trust. That type of partnership, rooted in learning, helps to grow the relationship and allows the client to become devoted and true fans of the vendor's work.
Bridging gaps in knowledge between technical and people-oriented teams can inspire co-innovation and provide insight into how to best use the technology to benefit their business, and how to intuitively strategize.
So, what is the best way to facilitate that style of partnership centered on education?
Continue to educate yourself.
If you cannot explain a topic in layman's terms, you do not understand it; therefore, your client will not be able to understand, which this article has already established as an essential component to maintaining effective partnerships.
The industry and market are constantly evolving, and as technology vendors we must prioritize learning and growing with those changes so we can educate our clients and help them feel confident in their decision to maintain the relationship.
As in every facet of life, we must prioritize and put our best foot forward, championing constant learning and growing, and giving ourselves the chance to grow with our clients.
* * *
If you are a technology vendor, your product is, of course, your core offering to your client. But the product is just the preliminary part of the relationship. Driving success for your client ultimately depends on taking the time to nourish a strategic partnership centered on education.
The more time you take to build a relationship with your clients and educate them on your product and industry, the more they will value your offerings and the more they will want to maintain a long-term partnership.
Transactional relationships do not offer the attributes that make your clients want to continue working with you.
So take the extra time to really get to know your clients, advise them with your unique industry knowledge, and help educate them on what makes your product truly great.
More Resources on Strategic Partnerships
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