Why I Much Prefer the Business Partnership Model

grittychris As part of what I’m doing for Owner magazine, I’m working on partnership offerings for businesses who want to work with us. This is in place of what some people would call “ads” and what others know to be interruptions on one end, and less useful on the other end. I intend to help partners find more customers/buyers, and I intend to serve the community at Owner. Why don’t more businesses think this way?

When we don’t understand a new model, it’s hard to fund it. I was talking with smart man Derek Halpern about my ideas for partnership with Owner. He was very encouraging, but he also pointed out a truth: based on what I’m selling (a mix of speaking, online events, consulting, link ads, banner ads, and performance selling, to name most of them), it’s hard to know which budget to take these from. People understand how to pay for banner ads. They understand how to pay for an event speaker. They don’t understand how to “split the bill” to work with me appropriately.

New models rarely have immediate proof points to justify them. Part of my offering is to build leads for my partner organization. Cost-per-lead is a fairly standard metric, and thus, that’s how I intend to price most of my projects, based on the lead delivery for them. But most magazines work via cost-per-thousand (CPM) methods, so people that are used to being told circulation numbers (usually a bit exaggerated) might find themselves wondering how these new things will work. (Essentially, instead of saying how many oodles of people “might” have seen their ad, I hand over direct actions and responses. And yet, some people are paid on “how many people might have seen their ad,” so there’s that.)

Sometimes, people really only want incidental exposure. I was recently told that I shouldn’t have created a review for a product, but instead, essentially the people just wanted some “placement” without any real comment. I did it wrong, as it pertains to their request. I wasn’t paying enough attention. But the reason I didn’t pay attention was because I think that placement is a game that only works well with MILLIONS of people seeing it, and further, I’m all about disclosures, so that’s not going to fly well within my media empire. That said, sometimes, my idea of having a partnership model won’t work.

What Does “Business Partnership” Even Mean?

I’ve worked in the past with Citrix (and hope to do so more in the future), and it was as far back as then that Justin Levy and I called every one of our clients a “partner.” I pushed hard for our conversations to always be “we” conversations (never “you”). We worked with all pages open, with no fighting, and with the goal of always satisfying our partners’ goals. We weren’t a regular agency. We didn’t care about awards. We just wanted to make neat things happen.

Business partnership, in my lingo, means a relationship where both entities work alongside each other to satisfy the goals of the organization. If I were a “typical” magazine, I would be accepting advertising for whoever would pay my magazine, with maybe a little bit of vetting, but with the goal (mostly) of making loot. That doesn’t work for a project like Owner. With Owner, we’re building a community of value. We’re working on helping owners improve their worth by growing their capabilities and connections. It’s at the core of what we do. My primary question before working with a business partner is this: will this product or service improve an owner’s worth? If the answer is no, then I have to refer that person elsewhere.

Build the Inside

The people participating and reading and sharing at Owner are already used to how I do things, and they’re coming to know and enjoy the new voices there like Jonathan Littman and Marsha Collier and Jeff Goins and the like. The process of working with business partners is very much the same as my process with working with the people I’ll hopefully introduce to those partners. It’s all about finding value and improving worth.

Maybe I miss out on a lot of money. But money comes and goes. Relationships? Well, that’s the owner’s game, isn’t it?

(Oh, and if you’d like to work with me on partnership for Owner magazine, drop me an email: chris at hbway. com )

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