Strategic Alliances and Marketing: Like Doubles Luge

Give me a minute to explain how doubles luge relates to strategic alliances and marketing. Take a look at the recent results in doubles luge from the Sanki Sliding Center.   Do you see any interesting patterns in the medal winners?  

If  you follow the sport, you know that this doubles win gives Germany its third luge gold medal of the Sochi games.  (Actually, by now they have all four!)  Coached by five time Olympian Georg Hackl, Germany has now added doubles and the relay to its golds in men’s and women’s singles.

While that is true, I’m talking about the names of the competitors in the top three slots.

Brothers in Arms, and Legs

3 brothersAlthough the German sliders are both named Tobias, it is even more interesting that siblings have won both silver and bronze medals.  Andreas and Wolfgang Linger from Austria were trying for their third straight gold, but had to settle for silver.  And Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics dropped down a notch from their Vancouver silver medal for the bronze.

It’s no surprise that brothers would do well in a competition that requires such close coordination.  Even more than the Bryan brothers in tennis, or ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani, siblings competing in doubles luge are literally joined at the hip.  Kind of like strategic alliances and marketing.

What Strategic Alliances and Marketing Share with Doubles Luge

Like the competitors in doubles luge, strategic alliances and marketing share many common attributes.   Here are just a few:

Close working relationship.  Goals, objectives, and tactics are common across strategic alliances and marketing.

Aligned efforts.  Strategic alliances and marketing make almost every move together.

Tightly coupled.  The measures of success for strategic alliances and marketing are often shared.  Just like the lugers getting to the bottom of the hill.

High levels of trust.  To achieve their goals, strategic alliances and marketing staff must implicitly trust one another to make and fulfill appropriate partner commitments.

Marketing Skills are Fundamental to Determining Strategic Alliances

The relationship between strategic alliances and marketing goes beyond common attributes.  Marketing plays a key role in each of the five factors in determining a strategic alliance, as discussed by the Ivey Business Journal.

Critical to success of a core business goal.   Many strategic alliances are formed to generate revenue through joint go to market efforts.  In order to do so, the marketing teams from both partners must align on target customers, pain points, joint value proposition, demand generation, and awareness programs.

Critical to a core competency or competitive advantage.  These are the domains of product marketing, who owns product differentiation, messaging, and positioning.

The potential to block a competitive threat.  Similar to the previous area, product marketers often own the competitive analysis, and help drive future road map and partnership strategies.

Creates or maintains strategic choices for the business.  The decision to buy, build, or partner drives the need for alliances.   Product marketing is a key contributor to building the landscape of potential targets for merger, acquisition, and technology partnerships.

Mitigates a significant risk for the business.  Whether this applies to product or market risks, marketing plays a key role in this area.

Building Strategic Alliances Requires Strong Marketing

Strategic alliances and marketing are often combined in the early days of a small company, and for good reason.    Many of the critical steps required to form and grow a strategic alliance require strong marketing skills.  According to Bain & Company, to form a strategic alliance, companies should:

Define the business vision and strategy, to determine how the alliance helps meet objectives.   As I wrote in a previous post, marketing can often improve the strategic planning approach, by reversing the traditional SWOT analysis.SWOT, TOWS

Choose partners based on synergy and ability to work together.  For revenue generating partnerships, synergy relates to common markets, buyers, and go to market tactics.  Coordination of sales teams and marketing campaigns are some of the trickiest areas of alliances.

Recognize mutual opportunities between the business and the partner.  These mutual opportunities often relate to road map alignment, go to market strategies, competitive threats or market opportunities.   Areas that fall right into marketing’s purview.

Implement a formal agreement including systems to monitor performance of mutual goals.  For revenue generating relationships,  marketing’s experience in goal setting plays a key role.  The systems to share information on demand generation, pipeline, and closed business are the same systems that marketing uses to report progress within the company.

Your Team’s Strategic Alliances and Marketing:  Smooth Sliding, or Bumps on the Track?

Are strategic alliances and marketing closely aligned within your organization?  How do you ensure you’re tightly coupled and moving fast down the track?  When you hit the big curves, are you facing the g forces together, or are you risking a nasty spill?

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biathlon ski-79564_640

The Biathlon CMO: Creative and Analytical

I have to admit it.  I just cannot get enough of biathlon!   How can you NOT love a mash-up of endurance sport and shooting?  As I watched Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina repeat as Olympic gold medal winner in the 7.5km sprint last weekend, I was amazed at the combination of skills the sport requires.    The competitors are absolutely full throttle anaerobic while skiing the course.  Then they glide into the shooting station, and must immediately calm their heart rate in order to hit the targets at 50m and avoid a time penalty.    Two completely opposite disciplines are necessary for success.    Just like today’s CMO, who must be a master of both creative and analytical skills.   The biathlon CMO.

Content -the Engine of the Biathlon CMO’s Creative Side

In today’s inbound marketing world, content is the key to a compelling, creative demand generation program.   An effective program requires knowing the buyer persona, identifying the latent pain, and building content to address those pains with your unique approach.

Effective B2B marketers then use a variety of avenues to distribute that content to their target audience.   A well crafted program can re-purpose the same basic information through a variety of channels, including social media, ebooks, case studies, blogs, white papers, surveys, webcasts, videos, as well as in-person events.

Content creation is a big job, but it can be made easier by getting a broader team involved.  Functional groups outside of marketing have great insight that can be built into compelling content.

Metrics Show Whether the Biathlon CMO Hits Her Targets

Big data and analytics have made their way into the B2B marketer’s world.  As a result of this, CMOs now have the data they need to communicate results and show value to the rest of the business.  As has been written in StoryMETRIX and Branding Strategy Insider, this allows the CMO to better align with their CFO colleagues.

The metrics exist.  The business can be instrumented to show value.  A key question is which metrics to use for which audience.  That is a subject for another post.

Are you a biathlon CMO?  Or, are you strong in one area but not the other?  Do you take too many penalty laps because you’re not hitting your targets?  Or, are you running out of gas in the last part of the race because you’re short on content?  Let me know what you think!



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