Monday, October 8, 2012

A Press Release Isn't a Partnership

Let’s get one thing clear: Supporting partners and clients via participation in case studies, white papers, events, press, and social media is just good business.

But what really matters happens outside of the trade press and punditry spotlight. It’s the legwork conducted over countless emails, IM’s, calls and working lunches between the actual “doers” on both sides of the deal. Because, unlike a sales contract or service order, when a business development deal is closed, revenue doesn’t automatically start flowing in. In fact, it’s only post-deal that the real work begins in earnest.

The path to revenue from a concept like technical integration, is often long, winding, and fraught with peril. Internal channel conflict, product and development roadmap and resourcing, legal and financial obligations, and operational complexities are only a few of the many obstacles that can trip up a biz dev pro on her way to the revenue goal line.

Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way that might help you clear some of the most common hurdles faced in the ad tech biz dev game.

Treat a signed agreement like a qualified lead.

Biz dev is a lot like venture capital investing. In my experience, if you sign ten deals, five will fail outright, three will contribute de minimus returns but add strategic value, and two will pop and become true revenue contributors. That means you need to treat each deal signing as a qualifying stage and keep the pressure on post deal. A signed agreement is 50%. Live integration is 70%. Revenue event is 90%. Revenue over whatever line you designate meaningful ($10K, $100K, $1M, $10M) – that’s when the deal is a success.

Make sure you have the right sponsor – on both sides.

You may have closed the deal with your biz dev counterpart, but is there buy-in at the highest level of the company? Deal-signing authority counts less than the ability to put budget and resources behind post-deal initiatives. Be wary of the “churn-and-burn” dealmaker who is incentivized by metrics that don’t equal success for his partners. Conversely, if you know a deal requires development resources on your own side, be sure you’ve briefed the proper execs internally and secured buy-in and commitments up front.

Meet in person and develop relationships.

We hear time and again how much relationships matter in sales. But for all that, sales contracts generally yield measurable returns for the buyer on day one. Sure, sales relationships help garner repeat business, and mitigate trouble in tougher times, but in business development partnerships, the relationship is beyond critical. The person across the table from you can make or break your success well after the deal is done. You need an advocate who will spend political capital on your cause internally. And unless you’re giving away the farm, this won’t happen without a personal stake. You don’t need to wine and dine, but a simple coffee, lunch, or shared experience goes miles – especially if your competition is too busy raising capital or worrying about their TechCrunch status to travel to nurture partners.

Don’t over-commit.

Biz dev unto others as you would have them biz dev unto you: If a certain initiative anticipated within the terms of a partnership is likely to meet with significant internal resistance, be clear about this up front, work to resolve it prior to the deal, and if you cannot, consider passing on the deal entirely. Your credibility is paramount in this small world, and if you gain a reputation as a person who can talk the talk but can’t make the revenue rubber meet the client road, you’ll see more of the same in return.

Reward your most committed, proactive partners.

There’s a tendency to want to use perks and spiffs to gain new business and climb the food chain. But if you’re moderating a panel, or putting together a dinner, don’t just shoot for the biggest names you can. Think of the people who have followed the guidelines above and helped you succeed. Give them first shot at the reward. They won’t forget it and you won’t regret it.

Even if it means one less name for the press release.