Lean Biz Dev: Partner Development

Over the past few years, the teachings of the Lean Startup methodology have become common practice when developing a new product: talk to customers and validate your ideas before you invest too much time in them. Customer Development, as it’s called, is now standard operating procedure.

And yet when we think about pursuing partnerships, it’s easy for even the most ardent followers of Lean to lose sight of those guiding principles and rationalize an investment of time and energy without any data to back it up.

“Getting out of the building” to talk to prospective partners certainly isn’t as easy as going to your local coffee shop to talk with prospective customers, but the need to test your Value Hypothesis and determine for whom the value you can offer resonates is no less important in Partner Development as it is for Customer Development.

For starters, doing the due diligence to determine where there’s an alignment between what value you have to offer and what value another company is seeking can start on your laptop.

Press coverage of companies that indicate big new initiatives or a focus on an area – such as an interest in capturing a particular demographic that’s resident within your customer base, or overlaps in products they build with the capabilities you offer – can give a signal to which companies may see value in what you have to offer.

Company filings can give hints to where a company is placing their bets. Annual reports filed with the SEC can provide a breakdown of key business units and initiatives, and the bigger the revenue from a given department, the more likely that group is to have the clout, interest, and options to pursue opportunities that further their interests. Does the value you have to offer overlap with their potential needs?

And of course, your existing relationships provide an opportunity to explore the opportunities within the gates of another company. Current or former employees, other partners/vendors/service providers of companies, and other folks in your network within the industry of prospective partners can give you a sense of whether the priorities of a given company or division aligns with the opportunities you can present to them.

How do you validate your ideas for partnership before you set down the long road to business development?


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