Philie Group Blog

Strategic Alliances: Options for Recovery and Growth
By Mike Philie

Whether you were in the top 20% or the bottom 20% of the rankings, you know that the balance of 2020 will be a year of transformation. Both ends of the spectrum will work hard to get back to some sense of normal. While a recovery will undoubtedly appear, not all participants will benefit equally. What does that mean for your business? What will you do to end up on the right side of the divide and reach your goals?

Position Yourself For Growth

How you get to the right side of the recovery will depend on where you are starting from. There are those organizations who have everything they need under one roof: the vision, people, technology, resources and the right clients. For those, it becomes a matter of execution, looking for that next new opportunity, and never being satisfied with the status quo. 


But, what about those organizations that don’t have the resources at their immediate disposal, what options do they have available? Whether you are small, medium, or large; a printer, a mailer, a marketing services provider, or somewhere in between, if you don’t have the internal resources it can be a daunting exercise to capture additional business from your existing clients. And remember, your intent is to introduce the next layer of diversified services that complement your core offerings and expand your client involvement.

Is A Strategic Alliance Right For You?

During your strategic planning process or your key client reviews, you may have identified gaps in the products and services you provide to your core clients. Forming a strategic alliance could be an option in filling those gaps. There are many forms of strategic alliances and major corporations have relied on these for years. This can begin with a simple agreement without the trading or sharing of equity. Both companies would maintain their independence and a new company wouldn’t be formed.


This is simply an alternative to gaining access to the resources, technology, or staffing that you currently don’t possess and that would be valued by your core clients. Think of it as a step up from just outsourcing the work. Combined with your internal efforts, these organization(s) can help you capture business that neither of you could have won on your own. Depending on your area of focus, you may already have a supplier that you work with whose relationship could be elevated to more of a collaborative one. Or perhaps it could be someone that a current client works with directly and can make the introduction to you. 

How It Could Work

An alliance can be fully transparent or can be operated behind the curtain depending upon the nature of the service and the level of collaboration required with the client. There should be an agreement in place that details the rules of engagement, the vision behind the effort, how revenue will be divided and a mechanism for how to end the alliance. 

Depending on your starting point, areas that could be considered include marketing services, campaign management, data analytics, fulfillment, fundraising strategies, or design services. If you’re a printer-mailer perhaps you can align with a data analytics organization to help make sure your clients are mailing to the right people. 


Think about the opportunities that you see within your core group of clients that you currently cannot capture and that the learning curve would be long and steep. Or it could be that the capital investment is too risky right now, your internal resources are already stretched too thin, or you wouldn’t be perceived as credible without a third party expert at your side. Those could be good areas to pursue.

Make It A Win

What does it take to make a strategic alliance successful? The list is comprehensive but here are a few key areas that should be addressed. They look like any success factors for a good business relationship.

  • Aligned with your company’s vision, goals and objectives 
  • Focused on the client deliverables
  • Key management buy-in and involvement. It starts at the top.
  • Demonstrated core competency – everyone can play their position
  • Mutual trust 
  • Integrity

OK, sounds good so far right? Here’s the catch – most alliances fail to meet their objectives and are dissolved! Why, what happened? Usually it’s due to a few of these conditions. As they say, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

  • There wasn’t enough commitment from either or both sides
  • Not enough planning went into forming the relationship in the beginning
  • One party couldn’t deliver
  • The objectives weren’t clear nor shared

Next Steps

The pace of change in our industry, the economy and with our clients will continue without hesitation and it will become increasingly difficult to keep up. Companies will continue to invest in technology so that they can expand their deliverables to their core clients. The execution gap though, is typically in the people. The companies may have the technology, but lack the internal skills that did not already exist, nor were necessary in the past. One option is you can go out and hire the right people and build that department, or perhaps look into a strategic alliance to get you started. 


If you have any comments or thoughts as to how you’ve approached these issues, please send me a note or include them below.


Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at, LinkedIn or email at


The blog originally published in Printing Impressions


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