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Strength in numbers: the power of strategic partnerships

Strength in numbers: the power of strategic partnerships

Ahmad Itani on how collaborations can boost business

In 2014, technology behemoths and arch rivals Apple and IBM made the shock announcement that they had entered a strategic partnership.

Despite their fraught history, each of the partner companies has witnessed significant growth as a result of the collaboration, including the launch of 100 new enterprise apps and deals worth $1bn for IBM in 2015 alone.

This alliance mirrors other successful partnership stories including those of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, and Spotify and Uber. The growth these dynamic duos have achieved hand-in-hand confirms that the ‘two heads are better than one’ adage continues to be a truism in business.

This is very relevant for companies in the GCC, where relationships have played a significant historical and cultural role in doing business. This culture of mutual trust continues today and in the UAE collaboration underpins many government initiatives including the ‘Year of Giving 2017’ and ‘Dubai 10X’.

My own company – Cicero & Bernay Public Relations – has embraced this culture by establishing a broad, synergistic network of affiliates to better serve our clients across 14 markets. In my experience, the benefits offered by such partnerships, – including shared expertise and insights, enhanced client servicing, increased scope, and the power of a shared vision – can be significant catalysts for growth.

Shared expertise and insights

In our increasingly complex and globalised world, specialised expertise and regional insights are invaluable. In public relations the traditional model has grown beyond belief over the past 20 years, taking us global and expanding our team to include social media teams, brand outreach and influencer communication experts and trend interpretation specialists.

This expansion can be witnessed across all industries in this part of the world, where the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. To thrive in this environment, companies need new expertise and insights. Strategic partnerships provide this, which is particularly helpful when companies are unable to implement such transformation in-house.

Allies in a successful partnership should be communicating clearly and constantly to benefit from their pooled knowledge. For example, when C&B is developing campaigns to reach markets outside of the UAE, we consult our affiliates to gain the extra insights for our tailored campaigns. This capability offers clients significant added value.

Enhanced client servicing

Partnerships should above all enhance the company’s collective value proposition to clients. Spotify and Uber’s partnership is a clear example, as it has turned simple taxi rides into road trips by allowing customers to stream their own playlists – an inspired combination of two excellent services that has created a distinct offering.

This sort of collaboration drives growth by giving companies the competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. Some of the most successful partnerships have involved companies that deliver excellence in service areas, which are different but related – or better yet, service areas that can be related in an innovative way. Partners that innovate together grow together, and the way to leverage this opportunity is to approach affiliates with fresh ideas for presenting clients with new services that are unique in the market.

Increased scope

Partnerships can give you access to entirely new markets and customers. This is true of Apple and IBM’s partnership, which is partly based on strengthening Apple’s reputation in the corporate sector. It is also true of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, which drew on each other’s audiences to grow their customer bases.

C&B’s strategic affiliates have not only grown our regional presence, but also allowed us to embrace new areas of our industry. To grow in this way, companies must take a fresh approach to identifying untapped target audiences and searching for potential partners they can offer mutual growth opportunities.

A shared vision

No man is an island, and doing business alone in our highly connected world is a guaranteed way to miss exciting growth prospects. There is an innate value in fostering partnerships based on a shared vision, and diligently researching potential partners is essential for achieving this. An alignment between the culture and values of the partner companies is of equal importance to their shared business objectives and capabilities.

The UAE leadership encourages collaboration across all industries and borders and in this context, strategic partnerships create a halo effect, bettering the industries we operate in and thereby enhancing the nation’s economy and global reputation. The end goal is not just the creation of a synergetic network, but also the shaping of a whole new way of doing collaborative business.

Now is the time for a paradigm shift from ‘I am the best at what I do’, to ‘we are 10 times stronger if we do what we do together’.

Ahmad Itani is the COO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations

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