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Dynamic Duos

This blog post was first published in the July issue of Gulf Business.

In 2014, tech behemoths and arch-rivals Apple and IBM made the shock announcement that they had entered a strategic partnership. Despite their famously 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 $1 billion for IBM in 2015 alone.

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

This is very relevant for the GCC and MENA region, 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 fourteen markets.

This is because, in our increasingly complex and globalised world, specialised expertise and regional insights are invaluable. In public relations, where the traditional model has grown beyond belief over the past twenty years, this has taken us global and expanded our team to include social media teams, brand outreach, 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 firms 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, so when C&B is developing campaigns to reach markets outside the UAE, we consult our affiliates to gain the extra insights that inform our sensitively tailored campaigns. This capability offers clients significant added value, and is the first major benefit of strategic partnerships.

The benefits don’t stop there. On top of shared expertise, strategic partnerships can offer a host of other advantages, including enhanced client servicing, increased scope, and the power of a shared vision – all of which are significant catalysts for growth.

There is so much more that strategic partnerships can bring to businesses, including enhanced client servicing, increased scope, and the power of a shared vision. These benefits are worth exploring in greater depth for the dramatic impact that they can have on your future business success.

Enhanced client servicing

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and partnerships should above all enhance the companies’ 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 the competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. Some of the most successful partnerships have involved companies who deliver excellence in service areas that are different but related, or better yet, service areas that can be related in an innovative way. Partners who 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, whose partnership is partly based on strengthening Apple’s reputation in the corporate sector. It is also true of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, who drew on each other’s audiences to grow their customer bases and create an entirely new trend – enjoying coffee in book shops.

C&B’s strategic affiliates have not only grown our regional presence, but also allowed us to embrace new areas of our industry, including media planning and buying, new age digital tactics, and strategic media placement. To grow in this way, companies must take a fresh approach to identifying untapped target audiences and searching for potential partners to whom 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. Returning to the relationship-based culture that distinguishes this part of the world, I believe that there is an innate value in fostering partnerships based on a shared vision. Diligently researching potential partners is essential for achieving this, as 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 within and thereby enhancing the nation’s economy and global reputation. This is certainly a shared vision that I can get behind. The end goal is not just the creation of a synergetic network, but 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 10X stronger if we do what we do – together’.

Ahmad Itani is the COO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |