The College Road Trip

August 14, 2014

You may not know that I am the father of 17-year-old identical twins. As my girls enter their senior year, we are deep into the college search (two concurrent college tuition bills, yeah us!) and I’ve learned that the process today is quite a bit different than when I went to school. As I recall, I applied to, visited and was accepted at just two schools, and from them chose my favorite. In the girls’ case, they each have a list of 15 liberal arts schools (with limited overlap) and are trying to visit most of them before they start the application process. To wit, we have just returned from our first rapid-fire college road trip – 800 miles and seven colleges in three-and-a-half days. Whew!

 

As I listened to seven consecutive college recruitment pitches, I was struck by how similar they all sounded. Sure, each school was a bit different; however, the selling points that stuck in my head were pretty much all the same (and I’m sure very different from those of my girls):

 

  • We have a ton of resources focused on helping students get internships and jobs (yeah!)

  • Our writing center will ensure you can write coherently (for those who didn't learn in high school.)

  • We have an incomparable sense of community and spirit (hmmm...party school?)

 

And now, just a few days after the trip, those individual colleges are fading into a bit of a blur, which tells me that their value propositions – or the “why to buy” – simply weren’t differentiated enough. 

 

I’m a stickler for clearly-positioned customer value from my years in the hyper-competitive technology channel. But equally important – if you’re trying to scale your business using indirect channels – is that your partners understand and can easily quantify the value they get from representing your products or services. For purposes of attracting and engaging partners, that message is delivered through your partner business proposition.  A compelling partner business proposition is made up of three distinct components – the 3 R’s – each in balance with the other:

 

Relevance

The degree to which your product or service fits the partner’s offering and addresses

their customers’ requirements, as compared to alternatives.

 

Reputation

The extent to which your company’s reputation and name buys awareness and validates the partner’s solution within their target audience.

 

Return on Investment (ROI)

The financial benefit a partner can expect from an investment in your product or service, as compared to an investment in your competitor. Keep in mind that while the focus is foremost on revenue and profit, you also need to consider the market opportunity, the competitive environment, and revenue or focus lost from other opportunities the partner might forgo.

 

A high-impact business proposition requires core strength in at least two of the three R’s to engage and motivate loyal business partners. Not all companies can tout an acclaimed brand, while others may compensate for a weaker product by standing on their reputation or beefing up their ROI. It’s a delicate balance, and unique to your company.

 

The success or failure of your company’s partner business proposition hinges on a clear understanding of how your partners – or desired partners – perceive and respond to it.  At Thoughtwav, we’ve developed a clear and concise method for developing, testing and refining partner business propositions based on the three Rs, and have helped a number of companies improve how their business propositions engage and motivate their partners.  If you’d like to learn more, I’d welcome a conversation.

 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy what remains of your summer.  As for me, it’s back in the car with a dozen schools to go!

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