I was in a board meeting last week, and as we reviewed the results one item quickly jumped off the page - the company did a great job signing up a couple of Tier 1 partners but a less than stellar job driving results. This was not surprising as what happens more often than not is that we can get caught up in the thrill of the chase, signing a big deal for example, but forget that the real work begins after the deal is inked and the press release hits the wire. Signing a deal in and of itself does not bring on any new customers and the more successful startups understand that. The teams that can drive successful relationships keep pushing its larger partner, putting together a plan with expected goals, driving implementation, creating product literature for the new partnership, offering new ideas, asking for marketing dollars, and coming up with new innovative campaigns to drive adoption. They just make things happen and are just as relentless after the deal as they were before the deal was signed. The less successful teams will let the big partner move at its own pace, dictate the terms, and wait for them to take the next step.
This brings up another interesting point. Even if you follow the steps above, this does not guarantee success. Big companies move slowly and often change their minds. A relationship with a big company will surely take time and cost you money whether in upfront dollars or expenditures on resources. And while we would all love to build our business off the back's of other brands and distribution, at the end of the day, in order to create a big winner, it is imperative for startups to control their own destiny. This means that your business has to be able to grow organically and not have its fate fully dependent on its partners. What this means is that first and foremost you have to have a killer product, one that people love, can't live without, and share with others. In this new world of mashups, open APIs, and widgets, startups can easily get distribution. Getting customers and revenue is a different story altogether. Remember, distribution doesn't matter if people don't use your product or service so start with the basics and figure out how to make your product a must have that someone will pay for.