This is a guest post by entrepreneur, Wendy Lea

Last month, as Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference took over downtown San Francisco, it was clear that company has mobilized its customers and partners into becoming an army of allies.

It’s easy to see that one critical element of the company’s cloud empire has been partnerships, whether it’s with heavy hitters like Deloitte and Accenture or smaller but essential niche tools like Docusign. However, for the aspirational startup and young companies watching, it’s the success that Salesforce had with those smaller tools in AppExchange that’s most intriguing.

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Many of these companies have identified app marketplace partnerships as the ticket to growth. What they don’t all realize is that while there’s an undeniable advantage to standing on the shoulder of a giant, it takes more than an icon to make a partnership truly successful.

Of course, partnerships and marketplace visibility helps raise awareness, but that alone will not drive growth. Having a clear strategy and tactics is where many companies fall short.

Don’t just ask, “how fast can we get to the app store?” 

With this singular thought, they rush around, scheduling a flurry of meetings, getting permission to use a logo on a website, putting out joint press releases — all things that count toward partnership metrics but don’t really lead to any substantial benefit for the customers.

To get the results that matter, you have to ask yourself some initial questions upfront, before you even start the search for the right partners.

If you can answer these questions honestly, you’ll be on track to form a marketplace partnership that actually increases your revenue by opening up new markets, adds necessary depth to your product. Once in the app marketplace a persistent effort to cultivate reviews, update content, and enhance the product offering is required to sustain momentum and grow the partnership as well as achieve results with existing and new customers.

What’s your mission?

Are you investing in an app marketplace strategy in order to acquire new customers or sell to the ones you already have? It is possible to do both but having clarity of purpose is necessary in order to invest your resources for maximum impact.

Do you have the right Biz Dev people?

Business development is quite often a dumping ground for smart people who don’t fit in other parts of the organization, however just having smart people with a title does not make for a successful business function.

Relationships are hard and good relationships make for good business so when you are staffing a business development function you must ask yourself if you are hiring people that you would sit across the table from, people who carry with them the professional gravitas of being able to get something done.

Have you listened to your customers to understand the limitations of your product?

There are core product features and there are nice to haves that in the eyes of customers are must have. Both are important but quite often the latter can be accomplished through complimentary product offerings that do not require diverting core engineering resources from strategic product roadmap and maintenance requirements.

Can you each bring value?

In every business development discussion with a partner there should be a frank and open conversation about the product gaps that each company can fill. If a business relationship is based entirely on the limitations of one side’s product offering the result will be a relationship that is exclusively transactional in nature.

How will you collaborate?

Location and time matter, if a prospective partner is not aligned with how you company views “market time” then the result will be frustration. If your partner is remote you will have to have a strategy for how best to work around joint project and campaign work, including a cadence for status and check-in to surface issues and support each other’s work.

Are you prepared to divest control?

Trust is a key ingredient in any partnership and the central element in trust is a belief that each party will do what they say to support the relationship. Trust in your partner means letting go of the reflex for command and control, it also means accepting that there are things that your partner is good at which you are not, otherwise you would not be working with them in the first place.

Wendy Lea is the CEO of Get Satisfaction, a social business platform that helps companies engage their customers through open and transparent conversations that increase customer satisfaction, product insight and enhance customer loyalty.

Wendy founded The Chatham Group, where she currently serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor, and board member for a long list of start-up companies.

Follow her on Twitter at @WendySLea

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