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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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