But partnerships also come down to numbers. Whether it's a small partnership of a large regional one like the BellSouth/Protection One deal, you're going to have to step up the plate. For Protection One, the deal meant a great deal of expenditures, a challenge for a company that was already facing issues of attrition and financial difficulties, and recently announced a new majority owner and debt restructuring. The number may surprise you once you add up the costs of rebranding your entire region - marking the vans, entirely new marketing materials, staff to manage the communications between partners, and a big increase in the sales force. In Protection One's case, the sales force tripled in a "ramp-up" period between 18 and 24 months.
And of course there were the naysayers who wondered what brand a smaller company would have when working with a corporate giant like BellSouth. Some worried that the Protection One brand would be lost within the BellSouth brand.
But four years into the partnership, the deal is working out well, and Ginsburg said that objections like the branding issue or the growth, while tough at the time, have smoothed out and have been all-in-all helpful to the company. And now, the relationship has expanded, with BellSouth Security Systems from Protection One moving into the more lucrative small business market in a nine-state southeastern region.
The move made sense - BellSouth was already offering a package that it called its "Answers" bundle, where small business owners could lock in high-speed Internet access, local and long distance telephone services, and even cellular systems. So it made sense to add another product into the services BellSouth could offer to its clients. And it made sense for the business owners, who could then combine bills and services from multiple vendors into one provider.
The partnerships may sometimes mean discounts on security thanks to bundling in this case, but Protection One gets equity in the peace of mind that a BellSouth product provides to business owners and homeowners and the leads from BellSouth, so the situation becomes a win-win for both parties. While Protection One wasn't able to disclose the financials for the partnership, Ginsburg did say that the partnership had been deemed a success and that the true measure was that four years into the partnership, the companies had made the decision to expand the partnership to BellSouth's small business customers.
- Tips on partnering for alarm systems sales:
- Don't expect success overnight. This particular partnership required a large financial burden and was expanded over a period of years.
- Be aware of each partners' needs. From how to display your partners' logo to knowing how to field customer confusion, create a plan for the partnership's success.
- Start small. Protection One and BellSouth didn't start marketing to all potential clients at once. They tested the alliance on the residential market, proved it could work, and then expanded to the commercial side.
- Train your staff. Misinformation and confusion about a partnership might lead to questions about ownership of the company, or improper sales or follow-through; get your staff accustomed to your partner's culture, too.