Ask the expert: how can I improve my success rate creating partnerships?
Greg Watts is our resident expert. He is CEO of Findr, the AI matching platform for fintechs and their partners, and also the founder of Demand Creation Partners, a London-based growth consultancy that helps fintechs and paytechs to scale. A visiting lecturer at the American University in Paris and regular industry speaker, he was previously head of market acceleration at Visa Europe.
QUESTION: I’m struggling to reach the right decision-makers. How can I improve my success rate creating partnerships?
Alongside raising investment, generating leads and securing meetings with relevant decision-makers are the most important activities a fintech can do. Commercial agreements and partnerships are, after all, essential for growth. And with up to 90% of start-ups failing in the first year, you need to have a pitch that stands out.
But why do many fintechs struggle to create leads, reach the right decision-makers, close deals and create valuable partnerships? Here are some reasons:
- You haven’t identified the right target businesses.
- Your approach is too generic.
- You haven’t spent sufficient time identifying key stakeholders.
- Your offering and content doesn’t resonate with target partners.
- You haven’t spent sufficient time or resource in the right places generating awareness of your business.
In this column, we’ll explore why some fintechs struggle to generate leads, then provide tools and tips to enhance your approach to accelerate your partnership efforts.
- Re-evaluate your targets
In theory, lead generation is a straightforward process. However, many businesses fail at the first hurdle – which is to have a razor-sharp focus on targets.
For example, many fintechs decide to create partnerships with “all” retailers or banks in a particular market, then expect their sales teams to hit the phones and secure meetings. However, with finite resources, that’s often an inefficient and ineffective approach.
Fintechs need a clear set of criteria. The start point should be, what pain or benefit does your proposition fix or provide to your target partner? Will you save customers money, make them more efficient or bring them more business? The criteria for each fintech will vary, but some questions to consider include:
- Which verticals, sectors or categories do you want to focus on?
- What are the characteristics of your target partners? For example, are they high frequency retailers such as coffee chains or do they boast high transaction values, such as luxury brands?
- How easily can you partner with them? For example, a Tier 1 retailer such as Tesco or Boots is likely to take more time to partner with than a smaller coffee chain. Given how important time to market is – it can take months, if not years, to create partnerships with larger businesses. Targeting smaller partners to create compelling case studies – which demonstrate the benefits of your business to new potential partners and investors – might be a more efficient strategy.
Once you’ve evaluated your targets, you should assign weightings to help you prioritise where to spend your time and resources.
- Refine your approach to lead generation
We’ve previously written about lead generation (you can read it here), and it’s critical to underscore the importance of getting it right.
Once you’ve identified your target partners, the next step is to ensure all your resources and activities are focused around generating awareness of your business to help you secure meetings with target stakeholders and decision-makers – and ultimately – create and close commercial deals.
The next step is to identify buyer personas within your target companies. The reason for this is to create content that makes them want to engage with you.
As you create the buyer personas, some points to consider are:
- What problems do you fix?
- What benefits do you offer? How do these compare to other players or competitors?
- Why should they engage with you?
- What channels do they engage with? How can you reach them?
- Which events or forums do they attend?
- Who – if anyone – do they currently partner with?
As a guide, a business should have between four to six buyer personas for each industry. Categorise them as budget owner, influencer, key decision-maker, executive sponsor and detractor (this last one is particularly important so you can pre-empt potential obstacles or reasons to not buy). Cluster them to create segments with common challenges and issues you can solve. Ultimately, you need to articulate why they should engage with you.
Once the personas have been created, you can focus on your content plan, encompassing your website, social media feeds, thought leadership and other marketing efforts.
Finally, allocate weightings and corresponding triggers within your marketing automation system for interactions with your business – these are known as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). For example, if a prospect comes to your website and downloads a thought leadership article, that might be classed as sufficient to be passed to the sales team for follow-up. Assigning weightings means the sales team will already know the prospect and have an interest in their business. Effectively, these are now warm leads who will be receptive to an introductory call or meeting.
- Make it a team effort
Too frequently, lead generation is viewed as the sales team’s responsibility. Yes, the role of a salesperson is to sell – however, he or she must have the full support of the business behind them when it comes to generating leads. Without that, the business will struggle to make an impact.
One way to instil this mindset and a create a high-performing culture is to display sales targets throughout the organisation and provide regular updates on performance. Another way is to hold a 15-minute all-hands meeting focused on: How many leads have we generated today? What can we do to be more effective? It’s amazing how many great ideas will be generated by employees outside of the sales organisation.
Bringing it all together
Generating leads often sounds easy. However, without the right planning and focus, the results may be disappointing.
Being ruthlessly clear on who you’re targeting and why they should engage with you – and then creating content that resonates – will make for a more effective approach when it comes to creating long term, valuable partnerships.