Partnerships, affiliate agreements, or joint ventures – it doesn’t matter what you call them, they are all part of successful internet marketing. My company is a partnership and we have on-going partnerships with others that work very well for both sides.
In a recent article, I described how successful partnerships must build a bridge between intellectual and emotional understanding and value assumptions between all partners. Having all three of these aligned is a necessary common base upon which to build partnerships. But all too often partners rely on legal partnership contracts in an attempt to create this bridge by defining every term and laying out every action and expectation.
But even with these three key components in harmony, the real key to building a bridge that lasts and that works in all directions is what I call “The Value Proposition”.
Ultimately, partnerships are all about value – the anticipated value of the partnership results, the shared personal values (ethics), and the value each partner brings to the partnership. There are three distinctly different value components that create “The Value Proposition” of successful partnerships.
Let’s look at each one:
The anticipated value of the partnership results – this is the cornerstone of “The Value Proposition”. People don’t even consider entering into a partnership unless there is a relative worth, utility, or benefit to be gained.
It can be as simple as we both enjoy dancing so let’s have fun together and win a few contests or as complex as we both want to have a positive impact on eliminating world hunger so let’s join forces.
Anticipated value must feel equal to the partners. It’s an important distinction – anticipated value isn’t necessarily a 50/50 proposition, it’s more along the lines of relative benefit minus the cost (time, effort, money, etc.) of partner contributions.
For example, if you and I decide to create a product together, we must both believe that the money each of us will make from sales of the product will be a fair value for the work and/or capital we each will be contributing.
Or if you are a coach and I am a soccer player, we must both believe that working together we can have a winning team and that each of us will benefit from being part of that team.
Shared personal values – these are broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action. Things like ethics, morals, ideologies, personal beliefs of right and wrong, fairness, appropriate behaviors, the measure of quality, work ethic, etc.
Shared personal values always play a part in successful partnerships. The importance of personal values varies based on the purpose of the partnership.
If you and I are contemplating commitment as life partners, knowing what each of us thinks about right and wrong, religion/spirituality, what’s good, what’s important, etc., becomes extremely important because these things create the foundation for trust as well as believing in and supporting each other.
But if we are contemplating a business partnership what’s most important to us is a shared work ethic, honesty, the measure of quality, customer service criteria, etc.
When personal values are out-of-sync there’s an almost immediate disconnect within a partnership. Disappointment, hurt, feelings of being taken advantage of, all jump to the surface. It takes commitment, a lot of discussion, openness to listen and explain, and a willingness to forgive to repair breaks in personal values.
With personal partnerships, small disconnects do happen and most people start out with the intention to “clear the air” and re-sync. If this happens too often in the opinion of one of the partners, there’s an emotional withdrawal from the partnership and the partnership deteriorates.
Business partners tend to be less tolerant of out-of-sync personal values. When disconnect occurs, many times if it isn’t easily remedied, the partnership begins to dissolve.
The value each partner brings to the partnership – this is a fair equivalent in goods, services, or money. The emphasis here is on “fair equivalent”. In a business partnership perhaps I contribute time and effort in product creation and you contribute time and effort on marketing. In a personal relationship perhaps I cook and you do the cleanup.
The point is we must both believe that what the other person brings to the partnership is equal to what we bring, or our partnership starts out with a severe disadvantage. Feelings of inequality don’t go away, and sooner or later one partner starts to feel taken advantage of and conflict is inevitable.
“The Value Proposition” is the critical ingredient for any successful partnership. It’s not enough to have one or two of the value components. All three – anticipated value, personal values, and contribution value – must be present.
My business partner and I have explicitly described all three aspects of The Value Proposition for our business and make it a habit to go through the exercise of evaluating the value proposition for others with whom we are considering an alliance. We have done so because we have had success when we do, and when we don’t, not so much!
I invite you to look at all your current affiliate relationships, JVs, and formal partnerships and evaluate The Value Proposition in each one. You might discover just why some are working so well and others are not!
Do you have a question or comment on the topic? If so, leave your comment below.
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