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