By Pieter Geyser, Head: Digital & Marketing, Irvine Partners
Digital partnerships aren’t a new concept but they are essential if you want to scale your business. No company holds all the data, resources, or skills. Because of this, there will always be blanks that need to be filled in: enter digital partnerships.
While the global business landscape has been unpredictable over the past few months, there is a massive opportunity for companies looking to be innovative and embrace new opportunities. As more and more industries evolve and digital transformation becomes a necessity rather than a “nice-to-have” option; organisations are realising how digital partnerships can help them gain greater market share, streamline their operations, provide meaningful services, and achieve insights into their customers that were previously unattainable.
Digital Services Partnerships
Many companies still don’t have the necessary skills in-house that are needed to drive digital transformation. This is true for agencies and corporates alike. Strategic partnerships with digital service providers or digital experience platforms can be a great way to understand a solution before investing in it.
Irvine Partners is a professional PR and digital marketing agency and while we’ve been in business for 10 years, we only truly began to invest in our digital department a few months ago after understanding what the needs of our clients truly were. To understand these needs, we partnered with a dedicated digital agency – they needed help with PR and we needed help with digital. This gave us some breathing room to understand what the market for these services looked like, what our client’s needs were for these services, and where we needed to be investing in order to offer these services to our clients in-house.
While we could in many ways be considered competitors, we still have a strong professional and digital partnership with Hoorah Digital that proves to be productive and profitable for both agencies. The reality is that we live in an extremely competitive industry where clients’ needs are ever-evolving along with data, capabilities, and digital skills. Active partnerships like this provide collaborative opportunities to combine digital assets and capitalise on new and innovative opportunities.
Accessing the skills and knowledge your company needs to grow doesn’t have to be complicated. Knowing exactly what your business needs from a partnership perspective is a brilliant place to start. It may be as simple as outsourcing your online advertising until you see a need to bring those skills in-house, or even finding a cloud services provider, or just a case of passing your data through a CRM.
Digital Experience Partnerships
Global organisations often have teams of people that do just about everything in-house. They have the money and resources available to recruit and purchase just about anything they need to drive growth. However, more and more corporates are looking for cost-effective ways to scale their businesses and enhance their service offerings through digital partnerships.
Digital transformation is essential but it also takes time and resources to get it done right. Companies looking to undergo a digital transformation journey could benefit from partnering with a tech company that has its own digital experience platform (DXP)
Discovery Vitality is the perfect example of a company that had the necessary skills but understood that to build everything themselves would take too much of their most valuable resource – time. The Vitality program was originally built on a legacy system, but once Vitality’s business needs evolved, it became clear that they needed a more innovative solution.
“The turnaround time in making changes to the system became a problem. Time to market was an issue,” says Byron Munday, Chief Enterprise Architect at Vitality.
Vitality partnered with Liferay DXP to roll out its Vitality One project to more than 20-million users in thirteen countries. While Vitality has the resources and skills available within its organisation to have made the needed changes to the existing system and upgrade its processes, it saw the value of bringing in a technology partner that already had exactly what they needed. Liferay is an open-source platform which means that their software can be modified and shared because it’s publicly accessible.
Large enterprises, small businesses, and entrepreneurs should all consider partnering with digital experience platforms to offer complementary services and innovative products. Without the risk of fully funding a digital experience platform or CRM up front, these companies can benefit greatly from an adaptive, scalable, plug-and-play solution that gives them access to new distribution channels and opens new market opportunities.
Digital Data Partnerships
It’s true that no one company holds all the data. The largest tech companies in the world are taking advantage of unique capabilities being offered by strategic partnerships, even a company like Google, which is entirely driven by the amount of data it holds, doesn’t have access to all the data in the world- well not yet. On 9 January 2021, there was a subway control system in Mexico City that caught fire and had to be shut down, it brought down half of their train lines and left some two million commuters in need of an alternate form of transport. It took days to get some of the trains back online but the entire transportation network was only fully operational in February.
This fire, while devastating to the public train network, opened an incredible opportunity for collaboration. Google wanted to assist, but other than being able to show people how to get to work on the roads, it didn’t have enough data to actually assist people with a solution. It needed data and it needed data fast.
WhereIsMyTransport is a UK-founded technology and mobility start-up that focuses on the data collection and mapping of formal and informal public transportation networks globally. Google Maps partnered with WhereIsMyTransport and, for the first time, updated its Google Maps application with the data from their newfound partners to include informal transport options through their maps app. The Google Maps update closed an essential information gap in the data that they had available when people needed it most. By integrating their data the two companies were able to provide people with a full scope of alternatives available to them.
The partnership between Google Maps and WhereIsMyTransport is an unusual one and it may be hard to see how this could have any relevance to a normal business but data sharing isn’t a new concept and it certainly isn’t exclusive to Google or any of the other tech giants.
Whether you’re trying to discover better ways of analysing your customer data, trying to improve the customer experience across multiple devices and channels, or trying to find a way to get people to work after the trains stop working, there is an abundance of potential strategic digital partners that specialise in these areas.
Executing Digital Partnerships
Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards solving said problem. This counts for something when it comes to understanding the needs of your business. Understanding that you have gaps in your business or simply understanding that there are out-of-the-box opportunities for your business is the first step towards understanding what type of solutions you require.
Strategic and digital partnerships can certainly assist with the accelerated growth of your business and most start-ups and small enterprises would love the opportunity to work with big brands to solve shared problems and create innovative solutions. The execution of said partnerships is challenging.
It’s important to incorporate partnership into the very DNA of your business from product development to improving the customer experience as this no longer just reflects your business but your partner’s business as well and vice versa.
When you form strategic and digital partnerships, it’s important to make the process as streamlined as possible and reduce wherever possible any friction. The ideal way to go about this and to ensure that the partnership is healthy right from the start is to seek out companies that have a shared vision for the future and hold the same values and morals as your business. This will make it easier to integrate your workforces, products and services, and bring your business goals into alignment.
You should constantly be on the lookout for potential partners that share your vision and understand not only your business but your customers as well. These partners can assist in areas where you are limited by skills, resources, data or distribution, and technology. It is crucial more now than ever to find partners that will enable your business to scale and advance. If a digital or strategic partner is right for your business then you need to be willing to throw caution to the wind and go all-in as anything less than that will result in failure.