Strategic partnerships in marketplace businesses. How to create partnership playbook

How marketplace businesses, such as Deliveroo and Uber, run strategic #partnerships? What their playbook looks like? Learn from our conversation with Yolanda Lee, frm Head of Partnerships APAC & ME at Deliveroo, who previously developed partnerships in Uber, Rocket Internet SE. Part 1/2

Hi Yolanda, you have an incredible experience, as you've worked in Uber, Rocket Internet and then Deliveroo in partnerships. All of these companies are platform companies, so they partner with riders and they partner with restaurants. But at the same time, they run B2B partnerships as well. And this is where you were involved. Can you explain how that part of the equation works?

All of the businesses I've worked in, marketplace models, as you mentioned, by nature, are partnership businesses in some form of another. They're connecting riders to drivers and like that. So we generally think about the partnerships within the core of the business which keep the business running. It may be partnering with restaurants, partnering with delivery riders, partnering with consumers as well. That is what sits in the core part of the business. And then you have what we call strategic partnerships. So, it's almost like a separation between your day-to-day running of the business and then the bigger picture, seeing the forest from the weeds. How are we going to partner with businesses that are going to take us to the next level? And that's really the separation I've seen in all of the marketplace businesses I've worked in.

Can you make an example?

In a food delivery platform, for instance, it's a three-sided marketplace. You partner with delivery riders, you partner with restaurants, and consumers are another part of that equation as well. There's thousands of restaurants on a platform. How that commercial relationship is structured is a form of a partnership, but a much more simpler partnership often, than something like a payment partner. So working with an Alipay or WeChat Pay, which is going to unlock a vast number of new customers and grow the business in a way that makes a step change. That's how we differentiate.

These big companies you mentioned, they are strategic partners, right?


You worked as head of commercials before, right? This means that you're all about KPIs. How do you make a case that a partnership actually makes sense?

That's a really good question. I think you start from who within my platform is this partnership serving and what do these players value? So, if it is a partnership that is looking to tap into a new market segment or something like that, then you would look at that segment and what are the sort of things that they value? Is it price, is it service? Is it a new selection of a product? And how are you better servicing that part, that customer in the end? You're always starting with the customer, but you layer that with you as a company, your own business objectives. And then I'd say the icing on top would be feasibility. I often would look at partnerships and evaluation of a partnership and return on effort as well. So looking at the amount of inputs that need to go into a partnership and what is the projected deliverable in terms of internal goals, in terms of externally, how it's serving customers as well.

Do you have a favourite example of a partnership?

Yeah, many, many examples of this. I would say probably the best example is, and I just talked about this, but something like working with, I've covered markets within Asia Pacific and the Middle East where financial inclusion can unlock whole vast segments of customers. And strategic partnerships with payment partners can really create a step change. I will use the example of, when I was working in Kenya and where you have something like 2% credit card penetration. Running a platform business in a market like that, onboarding payment partners can ultimately change the game. In building the case for it, we had to look at who our consumers are. What are the broad, high-level market dynamics there. And then, how will integrating with a player like M-Pesa, M-Pesa have something like 89% penetration in a market like Kenya. And so how does implementing with this partner open up our business to a vast number of customers that we didn't have access to before?

In our conversation you mentioned partnership playbook at some point. How you build this partnership playbook and how you create a process of creating partnerships, running them and engaging your partners?

What I've tended to do when building out partnerships teams is look at, trying to group together certain kinds of partners and create playbooks accordingly. Because there can be quite a variety in how deals are structured. And so our approach is really to take a sector approach. So take for instance, working with FMCG partners. How you evaluate, what value is defined for them as a partner, and how that layers with value for us as a platform. That is how we've taken that approach. So everything from opportunity mapping - so here's where we see opportunities and where we've learned where there can be opportunity and the pros and cons to different sorts of things. So it can be commercial opportunities, it can be brand opportunities, it can be growth opportunities with these partners and mapping out those opportunities. From there, we'll look at the negotiation and agreement. Sometimes we're working with global players, and it's important that we take this - because I've always worked in regional roles- is that we take a cohesive approach to the DOs and DON'Ts of how we structure deals with global partners. Then, from there, we'll look at execution which is often a very challenging part. So everything from templates for contracts, templates for NDAs, templates for post-campaign analyses and everything like that, that will go into a playbook and then we'll also look at re-negotiations as well. How to learn from your post-campaign analyses and build a better deal going forward.

Often companies shake hands on "let's launch a partnership tomorrow." And then, especially in big companies, there's some bureaucracies starting to creep in and partnerships never happen. What were your tricks to speed this up?

It's not always easy. I think it's, A, about identification. It's knowing who are the partners that really are going to deliver value for your business and finding, especially when dealing with big companies, you need to find your internal advocate. That's very important. You need to find the person that is personally or professionally invested in achieving this partnership. I think being very upfront and building that relationship of trust, initially. Being very clear what is feasible from a product standpoint. I think it's often that there's an over-promising and under delivering, and being very clear from both sides, what is feasible, is going to save everybody a lot of time and energy. And being able to know when to walk away as well. Sometimes you think a partner is on the surface a really great partner, but once you sit down with them and you understand their goals for the next three years or that they're actually going through a big compliance overhaul at the moment or something, is knowing that, okay, this is actually isn't the right time for us and that we should re-engage next quarter, next year, or something like that. That can also save a lot of time as well.

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