The term Business Development is difficult to define as companies tend to modify the scope of work of that role based on their unique needs. In some companies, business development means sales, but more often, business development means a bunch of activities to generate leads to fill the pipeline for the salespeople. Among those bunch of activities, partnership development is one of the best ways for a business development person to generate enough leads to impact that pipeline. Sometimes it takes time to develop partnership but the time invested in developing the partnership pays off in spades over time.
Business partnership is important for all companies but it is really important for those companies who has launched new products in the market or really need to increase the efficiency in the processes like in operations or growth. Through partnerships with companies that have the tools and audience to help you grow, you can create much more impact in a shorter period of time. These organizations have spent years building their reputation. Aligning with them in a smart way will enable you to tap into that reputation and give you the tools you need to thrive in a new market or operates more efficiently in new market.
I worked as a Head of Business Development at JITA Social Business (a micro-distribution company, which developed a network of sales ladies in last mile) from 2013 to 2015. During that time, we have developed a partnership with SHISEIDO, a premium japanese cosmetics company developed a partnership to test and launch one of their product in the rural Bangladesh, Les Divas. It was the first products line that has developed by SHISEIDO for the BOP market. As JITA has already presence in the last mile and have an established distribution in hard to reach areas, it was beneficial for SHISEIDO to use that network rather than built their own. Through this partnership, SHISEIDO is not only expand its product distribution to last mile, but also with the help of brand value that JITA has, it has created a lasting impact in consumers mind. And on the other hand, JITA has also introduced a new quality skin care product line in its distribution network which has increased the value of its product baskets and Aparajitas (Sales Ladies of JITA) were also able to generate a moderate income from this.
In Jeeon, recently we have launched an e-learning platform for Informal Healthcare Providers like village doctor, chemist, community paramedics, Community Health Workers and others. This app can play a catalytic role in this integration. It can be used to upskill village doctors at scale through interactive educational and knowledge content and long term testing of learning and retention. It can also be used to connect village doctors and their patients to qualified physicians, through telemedicine, for diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of medical issues that are common in rural Bangladesh. Finally, it can play a transformative role in tracking and managing the referral network, minimizing patient exploitation and inconvenience, and formalizing the chain of escalation. Finally, it can play a transformative role in tracking and managing the referral network, minimizing patient exploitation and inconvenience, and formalizing the chain of escalation.
One of the challenges we have faced during launching the product was identifying the right segments of our products. Initially we have tried this with our own workforce and it was good. However the cost of identifying a right users was very high, around BDT 300 and cost of engaged users was around BDT 900/-, which means in every 3 users, 1 was converted to engaged users. And if we go like this then to reach 1000 engaged users, we have to expend around BDT 100K which was not operationally viable. Along with the digital marketing we have also developed some partnership. Initially we have a partnership with ASTHA, a project of Swiss Contact.
ASTHA (January 2015 – December 2018) has been designed to facilitate the development and integration of Community Paramedic services in rural Bangladesh, particularly in Nilphamari, Patuakhali and Sunamganj districts. Its focus is to improve access to healthcare service in rural areas, with special attention to Maternal and Child Health, Family Planning and basic primary healthcare services. Under this projects they have around 800+ CP who got the CP training and now working as a healthcare providers in different institution or their native village. Jeeon has developed the partnership with ASTHA to disseminate its app to these CP so that they can also increase their skills and knowledge and can involved in the platform to provide other types of services. It will not only enhance their knowledge base but also will create new income sources by providing different types services in his/her community. There is around 100 CPs who are engaged with the app on weekly basis and the cost of per engaged users is only around BDT 54/-. We have reached them through digitally. Eventually we are going to approach all the 800+ CPs by end of this quarter.
Jeeon signed a MoU with DMF Platform, a platform of DMF medical professionals of Bangladesh. The objective of the MoU is to ensure the free access to all DMF medical professionals in Projotno E-Learning App where they can improve their medical knowledge by reading different contents and also solving different types of medical cases.
I have read a wonderful article on How to Grow Your Business With Partnerships where the author nicely describe the critical first steps to develop a new partnership.
Clarify Your Goals: Before your partner can help you grow, they need to know what type of growth you’d like to see. Without clarifying your goals, you make it difficult for your partner to help you. Make it clear what you’re trying to accomplish. This will guide your partner to know how and when to talk about your business. Clarify your goals and show your partner how they fit in. The better you can do this, the better help they’ll be to your overall growth.
Make Your Partner’s Job Easy: Your partner has their own business to grow. They cannot focus on growing yours in addition to their own. Although they’re happy to help and look forward to positioning their company with yours, you must make it as easy as possible for them to help you. Give your partner marketing materials they can use to promote your products. Offer demos to their customers to make it easier to close the sale. No matter what you do, make the job of your partner as easy and straightforward as possible. Doing this will ensure you get the maximum exposure.
Make it Worthwhile: In the end, every partnership should benefit both parties. Focus on how your business will help your partner’s growth too. The more you can show your business partner that you’re watching out for their success, the stronger your relationship will be.
From my last 5 years of experience in business development, the team should on strategic partnership like a plant seeds, that requires some time and intensive care in initial period so that it can give you fruits for years to come. And treat your partners with the mutual respect (whether it’s a big corporation or a small business) and that you would bring to any healthy relationship to boost your lead generation efforts and your bottom line.
Currently in Jeeon, we are looking forward for new partnership opportunities which will help us to grow our users base and create access to different types of referral services in the last mile. On the other hand, through these partnerships, our partner can also develop a distribution of their services in the last mile and also can create a sustainable learning methods for its beneficiaries/users/employees.