In B2B situations what do you clients mean when they ask to partner with you?


We have had a range of clients ask something like the following, we are looking for someone to partner with ...

How do you see this being different from a straight Client/Supplier style relationship? Or is it just nice fluffy wording that makes people free warm and fuzzy?

More over what should be covered off in a contractual sense?

Contract Partnerships Client

asked Apr 4 '11 at 09:33
Robin Vessey
8,394 points
  • Why don't you just ask them what they mean? – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago
  • I did they are a marketing centric company and it sounded understandable at the time ... the next day I couldn't actually explain to someone else (my normal acid test) what they said. – Robin Vessey 13 years ago

3 Answers


Partner is often the meaningless term to used when you want to do more than have a simple transactional relationship but you are avoiding any of the specific terms -- like joint venture -- that carry legal connotation.

Of course, partner in a legal sense among and betweren individuals clearly has significant legal connotations -- but even then there is lots of room for -- well, alternative interpretations. If I introduce you to my "partner" is it the person I am sharing a life with? or a business? Back to the question -- so partner can mean whenever they and you want it to be: An outsourced accounting firm -- our accounting partner. Our lawyer -- our legal partner. A value-added reseller-- our sales partner. A really good marketing firm -- our marketing partner.

In my mind the partner is someone who takes a degree of responsibly for a specific area of oyur business -- not just responding to your requests but proactively seeking to make your business successful.

answered Apr 4 '11 at 15:07
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • Ah, thankyou, the last bit rings true, taking responsiblity for an area of their business ... which we always do anyway as par for the course in our line of work. Developement and support are the background roles, really its my advice on where they should be spending their development money (portals, integrating downstream, automating accounts etc) that is the real value we bring ... well the times they actually listen to us at least :) – Robin Vessey 13 years ago
  • +1 for this comment "the times they actually listen to us" -- isn't that the kicker! – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago


When I say "partner with" I generally mean I will let you sell your wares to my customers if you let me sell mine to yours. It might mean an affiliate arrangement, a co-marketing arrangement, or bundling of products/services in some fashion.

It is possible what they mean is that they want some kind of special treatment: customization, discounts, priority service, etc. In that case they need to get specific so you can assess the cost and determine if it is worth it to you. Or they may be looking for a long term relationship with discounts to match.

answered Apr 4 '11 at 13:00
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points
  • We usually aim for long term relationships with all our clients ... so maybe its just a terminology thing ... or they are trying to justify greater discounts. – Robin Vessey 13 years ago


Partner typically means subcontract or outsource (in other words, a relationship).

answered Apr 5 '11 at 02:44
249 points

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