My neighbour Andrew is a MAMIL* and loves cycling. Every Saturday afternoon he squeezes his gangly frame into a lycra suit covered with the names of sponsors he doesn’t have and relives the Tour de France around the bay in Melbourne. His favourite toy is his Strava GPS app, which monitors every centimetre of his journey and creates a neat little map to post on his Facebook page. I sometimes wonder if he couldn’t record his ride on Strava, whether he’d bother at all.
But that’s the point of measurement, after all. What gets measured matters, and what is measured can be improved. That can be weekend cycling rides or partnership success. Progress in corporate partnerships is a tricky thing to measure but needs careful attention. You can put in place simple measures to keep on track, improve your success rate and make progress more transparent to your leadership and colleagues.
Track your pipeline
Your pipeline, and your stages of progress through the pipeline are way more important that activity measures. Heads of Fundraising love activity measures because they work for face-to- face fundraising. Unfortunately, corporate partnerships don’t play by the same rules as they’re not formulaic, they’re relationship driven. We knew one health charity leader who gave the partnership manager a target of 50 new prospecting calls per week. The poor partnership manager was beside herself with frustration when she met us. Instead, you need to measure how you’re progressing in your pipeline from research and initial contact to nurturing the relationship to a yes. Look at where your prospects are clustered. Are you struggling to get traction after the initial contact? How many proposals are you converting to a yes? Understanding how you’re progressing through the pipeline will give you areas to focus on and a structure for improvement.
Learn from success and failure
Understanding why you were successful or not in securing a corporate partnership is an important step to making improvements. Always ask for feedback if you receive a no. Or read our recent blog to turn a no into an opportunity. If you take a hard look at your successes and failures, you’ll see patterns. Have you received a lot of rejections because you’ve been sending generic proposals? Are you pitching to the right person at the corporate, with decision making or budget authority? What made your last corporate partnership so successful? Was it the relationship that was carefully nurtured at the most senior levels? Or maybe your deep understanding of their business priorities. We recommend at least a semi-annual deep dive into your successes and failures to find ways to replicate success or identify the obstacles standing in your way.
Notice how you spend your time
That’s not the same as activity based KPIs. It’s taking a step back from your frantically busy week and understanding what is sucking up your time. You need to monitor whether you’re actively growing your best relationships or being reactive to a low value, energy sucking partner. We know you’re working hard to keep a lot of balls in the air at one time, but it’s easy to lose focus on the areas of biggest value. I recommend colour coding your diary for each partner. Then it’s easy to see at the end of the month where you’ve been spending your time. You can also colour code your internal meetings to see whether they’re the reason for your long days and late nights. Developing corporate partnerships takes time, so guard your time carefully and don’t let it get stolen by value destroying activities.
Be consistent across your team
Clarity and communication are important for teams working on partnerships or to keep your leadership updated. It’s essential for everyone to be using the same measures to stay coordinated, or things can turn chaotic pretty quickly. The Mars Climate Orbiter was a fantastic piece of technology launched in 1998 to study the Martian climate and pave the way for future projects. Unfortunately, it burned up in the Mars atmosphere. Why? Because NASA was calculating in metric and their propulsion engineers were working in imperial measures. Oops. Let’s hope they get it right before the manned missions to come. Using the same measures across your partnership team- and making them visible to your leadership will ensure a coordinated response rather than a crash and burn.
You don’t need a Strava app or a smart watch to tell you if you’re successful. Some simple measures will keep your partnerships progressing nicely and allow you to make continuous improvements. And there’s not a lycra suit in sight.
*a MAMIL is a Middle-Aged Man in Lycra, for those fortunate not to have seen the species up close.