Earlier I wrote about the partner program. A tool which helps establishing solid partner relationships. In this post I will discuss various forms of partnerships. This posting is part of a series on Partner Management.
In general there are five ways of partnering with other organizations: by affiliation, sponsoring, chains and channels, complementary products and joint ventures. Although the partnership via chains and channels is the most common type, I will discuss all types briefly.
Partnership by affiliation is a very loose partnership. Partnerships are formed on a small aspect of the work that is done and on an ad-hoc basis. There typically is no partner program; the partnership is very much opportunity driven. Sponsoring is a form of partnership where your partners are associated with you for a limited time or for only a special event. The partner program is in this sense a sponsor program. Beside the difference in naming most principles that apply to the partner program also apply to the sponsor program.
It is doubtful whether the organizations that form your sales channel should be called partners. The relation that you have towards your distributors and reseller could be characterized as hierarchical. At least there will be strong negotiations. However, ultimately you and your channel partners have the same goal: bring a good product to the end-client. This is where channel partners definitely work together as real partners.
Partnerships which are formed because two different organizations market two products that should be sold together are the purest form of partnership. A good example is a product vendor and a service provider teaming up. The parties categorically work as equals. Both organizations could decide to market their respective products and service alone and are therefore independent.
Joint ventures are found all the way on the other end of the spectrum. They require both parties to make a significant investment, in time and money. Most companies only have one or two joint ventures, if they have any at all. Only large companies will have many and then still it is questionable whether implementing a partner program is appropriate.