At FullStory, we live by four watchwords: Empathy, Clarity, Bionics, and Trust. These four principles guide our decision-making, our work, and our relationships.
In a previous blog post about our newest watchword, trust, authored by my colleagues, we shared some details around what trust means to us, why it’s become a new watchword for FullStory, and how it's applicable to our customers, FullStorians, and our customers’ users.
As a watchword, trust also has a strong resonance with my views on what makes meaningful, successful partnerships. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of leading partnership teams and ecosystems, and am often asked what makes for a great partnership, be it one off, or a full ecosystem of thriving partnerships. And often, we talk a lot about a ‘better together story,’ 1+1=3, mutually aligned objectives, or large joint opportunities. But no matter the value or the opportunity, the ultimate success (or failure) is more often than not, based on the trust built in the relationship.
Here, I’ll explore the steps we take here at FullStory to ensure every partnership is built on a foundation of mutual trust.
Why trust can be a challenge for partnerships
One common definition of trust is choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions. In partnerships, as in any relationship, risking something you value isn’t taken lightly.
And what do partnerships risk for our organizations? First and foremost, partnerships risk our most valuable relationships: our clients. And by extension, this risk then extends to the careers, livelihoods, and even individual professional successes for those involved in go to market activities. So allowing outside actions of a partner to impact those client relationships, held closely by sales, marketing, and our customer success functions, is the key challenge in sustaining meaningful, trusted partnerships.
Building trust in partnerships
But building trust between organizations requires more than desire. More than watchwords. It requires actions, commitment, time, and mutual effort. It requires ongoing interactions and agreement in five key ways:
1. Setting boundaries
Boundaries give each party the guideposts to work within, and a discussion point for when those expectations aren’t met. Setting clear boundaries is a way of ensuring each partner knows what’s expected, provides unbiased evaluation of success against mutual goals, and allows rapid course correcting on both sides. All of this ultimately allows transparency of the relationship for a wider group of stakeholders to engage.
The first step in setting boundaries is having a clear and consistent partner approach that outlines how parties engage. A clearly defined, designed, and documented partnership program is the cornerstone of a strong ecosystem.
Not having a defined program in place might work fine in the beginning, but can lead to headaches down the road. For instance, there may be a desire to overly simplify agreements in order to expedite a relationship (think of a one page referral arrangement). This arrangement seems simple enough, but eventually, when future business activities ensue, the people who defined the initial relationship may have left the organization, and others are left trying to unravel the expectations without all the context.
Bespoke arrangements, on the other hand, can also make it difficult to ensure consistent follow-through. Think of having different parenting rules for different children, and the difficulties and potential claims of unfairness that would arise. Now imagine having different agreements for hundreds or thousands of partners. Things get hairy. A clearly written and understood ‘boundary’ document, or Partner Program and Program Guide, is the basis for successfully communicating mutual partner obligations and expectations across a wide and diverse set of partner relationships.
2. Maintaining accountability
The best partner organizations have a strong partner relationship model. In a recent conversation with a partner, my counterpart said, "I just want my partner to be available to pick up the phone to help."
Being accountable means saying what you’ll do (or won’t do), doing what you say, owning your mistakes (which inevitably happen), and doing the best you can to correct quickly. No one is perfect, but having someone who is accountable to the relationship allows the bumps in the road to engender stronger partnerships, rather than hinder the relationship. And this accountability starts and ends with having the right people in place. There is no shortcut for having a team of experienced partnership professionals as a key component of a successful partner relationship approach.
3. Respecting shared information
Partnerships can be amazingly open and transparent, and sharing ecosystem insights is one of the benefits of extending relationships outside the four walls of an organization. But trusted partnerships are committed to not sharing information that shouldn’t be shared.
This principle extends beyond information that’s formally deemed confidential. Insights and learnings between partners can be hugely beneficial, and knowing when these insights should remain private can be difficult. Information gleaned from a partner may seem like standard industry knowledge, but could quickly undermine the ability to work openly together on meaningful activities for clients. The best partnering organizations err on the side of caution and refrain from sharing information that isn’t theirs to share.
4. Acting with integrity
Integrity is critical to how we work with our product, our employees, and our customers. And the same is true with partners. Choosing what’s right over what’s easy, pausing on principle when needed, and not taking shortcuts are actions that define the character of an organization. Cutting corners—to please the partner or get a quick win in a particular situation—undermines long-term success.
5. Assuming positive intent
One of the cornerstones of building trust is being generous in interpreting others’ intentions. This isn’t always easy, especially in ecosystem relationships that can be a mix of both competition and cooperation. Think of the service agency that needs to remain agnostic in their technology recommendations, working with you but also your competitors. But by starting with the assumption that both parties are working in the best interest of the client, we can more easily see the positive intentions in others’ words and actions. The more both parties ‘seek first to understand’ in conversations, the healthier the partnership becomes.
It’s more than a partner strategy
FullStory is a place where constantly improving the trustworthiness of our product, our brand, and our relationships—both internal and external—is a priority.
When it comes to operating with partners, we commit to:
Do the right thing for joint customers, so they to trust us to deliver the Digital Experience Intelligence data they need.
Do the right thing for our joint customers’ users, who trust us with their data.
Do the right thing for FullStorians, so they trust us with their careers.
Do the right thing in our partnerships, so that we build trust with each and every partner, extending our trust to the wider ecosystem.
We know trust cannot be granted immediately through a large gesture, or single blog post 😉. But instead, it is earned through regular, frequent partner engagements that add up over time. So consider this simply one brick in the foundation of trust in partnerships.
Bring more perfect digital experiences to your clients. Learn about the FullStory Partner Program here.