The power of partnerships: inspiration from marketing leaders

Successful partnerships and being able to work with and through others is a core skill every leader, or for that matter every person needs, be it in business or in life. This is especially important for marketing leaders who will simply be unable to deliver the memorable customer experiences that matter, without doing this in partnership with stakeholders across the organisation. In Asia, strong relationships are arguably the only way to drive performance.

Speakers at the 2015 International Marketing Leadership Programme shared their advice for how to build partnerships well. Here are 3 of their most powerful ideas:

Make it Personal

In Asia people in business tend to be less in “transaction mode” than other parts of the world. While this might mean in business terms that it takes longer to cut to the chase, it also means that you need to spend the emotional energy required to cultivate the all-important business relationships. This was clearly articulated by Aw Kah Peng’s (General Manager, Ethylene Oxide & Glycols, Shell Chemicals) who believes that the key to building strong partnerships is to make them personal. In her view, this allows for the partnership to become a personal relationship which is not only more meaningful but also can be sustained for a longer period of time.

Keep it Flexible

Building and sustaining any partnerships, especially in fast-paced, high growth Asian markets needs a high degree of flexibility. Nihal Kaviratne (Chairman, AkzoNobel India) challenged leaders to choose whether to display “the strength of an oak or the strength of a willow” in the face of change. Akin to the Chinese proverb 'A tree that is unbending is easily broken', the message was clear that to work with people, especially in this region, stay strong while being flexible.

Stay Real

Paddy Rangappa, (Former Vice President, Brand Development, McDonalds Asia) shared a simple but interesting thought which while quite universal in its application, translates well into how we work with partners. His comment to the delegates was “If you don’t get what you like, like what you get”. As many of us have experienced, not all partnerships are smooth sailing. But being realistic about why the partnership is essential and how we need to build trust and common vision that helps move it to the next level is key.

For all leaders, these simple lessons are a great way to start forging better connections with your key stakeholders allowing you to build even more robust partnerships founded on a strong personal connection. For outstanding leaders, they apply not only to relationships with your individual network, but also with your customers.


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