Name: Marry Me!
AKA: You and Me Against the World, Local Expert, Needy Ned
Description: One side wants a relationship more than any other deal point or variable. Unfortunately they may not have much else to offer.
If you have a strong brand, a protected technology, good marketing channels, or some other entrenched competitive advantage, you’ll find that there are plenty of potential partners who want to lock you into some form of strategic tie-up — even if the terms of the actual business aren’t particularly well defined. Don’t be fooled by the low-cost, low-maintenance terms of the deal. The moment you hint that a partnership isn’t completely out of the question, your new devotee is going to leverage this relationship within his or her own network. This is very common with counterparties who are significantly smaller or new to the market. Scrappy boot-strappers love this move – you might not.
Sample usage (Alvin and Bob):
Alvin: I met a guy at the Chicago conference from China. TJ Chen, head of Hangzhou Software. Sounds like he has great connections in China.
Bob: It always sounds like someone has great connections in China. What of it?
Alvin: He wants to talk about distribution and localization.
Bob: In China?
Alvin: Yeah. I know that wasn’t exactly on our map, but TJ seems to feel we’d be a great match. He has the government connections and marketing channels. All we’ll have to do is pay for localization of the product into Chinese – but his engineers are all bilingual. He’s talking about an exclusive relationship.
Bob: So we’re providing the IP, the product, AND we’re paying to translate it? All this guy is offering is to hold our hand and be a soft shoulder to cry on when and if things stall out. Meanwhile, he has EVERYTHING of ours.
Alvin: We need local partners if we want to expand internationally.
Bob: This guy isn’t a partner. He’s an opportunist. Don’t even take another meeting with him. Partners share risk and costs. This is just a showboat who wants to tell his home network that he has a big deal with a foreign designer.
Intent: Increase the value of the relationship.
Style: Looks Collaborative, but usually part of an Accommodative strategy. Can be Competitive if you want something specific from your unsuspecting counter-party.
Category: Relationship Manager
Counter: Make future agreements contingent on performance or objective benchmarks using Foundation tactics.
Note: Marry Me is an attempt to turn the relationship into a high-value variable. You’ll often encounter this one when a large company expands into a new territory or market, and they need to hire local consultants, salesmen, or representatives. The only leverage the service providers have is their local knowledge, and they try to use it to secure a profitable long-term relationship.
Marry Me is often part of an accommodation or concession. If you are using this one, then you may really want to be able to claim a partnership with a famous brand, or are after specific IP, knowledge, or methods. It’s possible that you don’t have much else to offer beyond specialist knowledge, connections, or networks.