What Partnership Managers Do
Professionals in partnership management, also referred to as strategic partnership management, strategical alliance, and similar terms, help their companies grow by cultivating mutually-beneficial partnerships with other organizations. They utilize marketing, public relations, sales, account management, negotiation, and business development skills to position their company as an entity others want to be associated with, and then draw upon their partner’s clients or customers to increase their own revenue. For example, a strategic partnership manager for a health club may approach local employers and offer a discount or special perks to their employees if they sign up. The health club gains press and likely new members, while the employer may increase employee satisfaction by portraying the partnership as a benefit or perk of employment with their company.
Partnership managers work for large corporations, startups, nonprofit agencies, and educational institutions, offering a wealth of career options and industries to choose from when seeking employment. Sometimes, the partnership manager is the sole person creating and managing relationships with partners, while other times larger companies may have an entire division devoted to the job, ranging from account managers all the way through directorship roles. It’s also worth noting that smaller companies with one partnership management professional may give the individual other duties related to public relations and marketing, making it a career option with many possible duties and opportunities for growth.
Who would enjoy a career in Partnerships?
Partnership management is a career path which requires a diverse set of skills. People who enjoy sales and negotiation do well, as much of the job entails convincing organizations to sign on as partners. Those who like marketing and public relations will also do well, as partnership managers create marketing materials for their target partners, spread the word about partnership opportunities, and communicate regularly with their partners to keep the relationship strong. Familiarity with multiple types of software and applications in order to maintain records and conduct campaigns is necessary, as are time-management, organizational, and analytical skills. The ability to work well in teams is essential too, as individuals in this career work with many other departments, from product management to sales, marketing, execs, and more. Most people who enjoy partnership management are also naturally good with people and seek work/ life balance.
Who mightn't like the career?
As with any sales-type job, partnership managers get told “no” a lot. Those who aren’t resilient may have trouble bouncing back from rejection. In addition to this, companies may also set goals for their partnership managers, such as a minimum number of partners to sign on in a month or quarter, so those who don’t like the pressure of a sales-type environment might not stay happy in their jobs. Furthermore, there is a major marketing component of the career. Individuals must be able to think outside the box and come up with unique strategies to attract new partners. People who lack this kind of creativity may become bored in the role due to repetitive work or fail to meet goals. Lastly, there may sometimes be a need to put in extra hours outside normal business hours in order to connect with specific partners, a time crunch to reach goals, or even travel to meet with prospective and current partners. So, although the career will offer balance and standard working hours most of the time, those who aren’t prepared to work odd hours or travel from time to time may become disenchanted with the profession.
While there are no degrees required to get into partnership management, most people who get into the competitive positions offered by large companies have a degree related to marketing, public relations, communication, sales, or business. Companies may have unique requirements in addition to this. For example, one major tech firm expects its partnership managers to have coding experience, while an international telecommunications company expects candidates to have tech-related degrees and speak a specific foreign language. For this reason, partnership management may be suited to almost any background, though having additional niche-specific skills can make one a more competitive candidate. Some companies also look for candidates who are part of a professional organization, such as the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing
- Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations
- Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration
- Bachelor’s Degree in Communications
- Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
- Master’s Degree in Marketing
- Master’s Degree in Public Relations
- Master’s Degree in Business Administration
- Master’s Degree in Communications
- Master’s Degree in Psychology
Those who have worked in partnership management before will be asked to talk about success stories. Questions related to planning, goal-setting, and overcoming challenges are also routinely asked of all candidates. It can be helpful to work in a support role in sales, PR, or marketing before applying for a partnership management position as well. Lastly, it’s important to research a company before interviewing, as each one will have a unique audience, ideal partner, and culture.
Moving into Partnerships from another career
Although there are no steadfast requirements to get into partnership management, most people do transition into the career after work in a related area, such as marketing, sales, and PR. Those with careers in growth, business development, and related areas may also transition with relative ease. Equally, some companies specifically hire those who have worked in roles their target partner does. For example, a company trying to partner with nonprofit organizations may hire someone with a nonprofit leadership or board background because they’ll have an easier time connecting and converting nonprofits into partners. Someone who worked in a counselling or administrative capacity at a high school may help a university form partnerships with schools. The possibilities are endless.
- Digital Marketing
- Business Development
- Public Relations
- Event Planner
- Communications Specialist
- Product Manager
- Sales (New)
- Sales (Customer Management)
Partner Management Associate/ Partnership Manager/ Strategic Partnership Manager
Role: As a partnership management associate or partnership manager, individuals are expected to carry out all major job functions independently, though some companies will differentiate seniority with junior and senior levels. Partnership managers are tasked with performing research to identify ideal partners and follow up on leads. They may create marketing materials for prospective partners, meet with them and do presentations, or communicate via phone, email, and other means. Once partnership managers have partners on board, they are also expected to nurture those relationships in order to ensure the partner stays on and continues funneling new business to the company.
Director of Partnerships/ Strategic Partnerships Director
Role: Those who are on the executive track, have an MBA, and at least a decade of experience, may be considered for director or vice president positions. Directors create partnership programs. Using their strategic vision and business acumen, they devise programs that are appealing to partners and beneficial to both organizations. They are ultimately responsible for the primary marketing message that partnership managers convey, and are generally involved in the creation of training materials for employees as well as marketing materials for partners. They set goals and create campaigns, perform research to identify new partnership sources, and oversee the partnerships division as a whole.
Some travel is required for this career, though the amount will vary greatly depending on the nature of the business and where its ideal partners are. In many cases, travel will be local or regional, though some companies develop partnerships across the globe.
Partnership Manager: According to PayScale, marketing specialists earn an average of USD$70,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average is £41,000, whereas salaries are CAD$61,000 and AU$87,000 in Canada and Australia, respectively.
Entry-Level (0-5 years): USD$62,000, £43,000, CAD$49,000, AU$71,280.
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$79,000, £46,000, CAD$67,000, AU$102,000.
Experienced (10-20 years): USD $100,000, £68,000, CAD$100,000, AU$119,000.
Late Career (20+ years): USD $123,000, £70,000. (CA and AU salaries not available at this level.)
Director: USD $123,000, £80,000, CAD$135,000. (AU salary not available at this level.)
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions may apply with some companies, though the amount can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
Why Partnership Managers move on
Arguably, one of the best things about a career in partnership management is that it encompasses many skills, which a professional will develop and enhance over time, resulting in a well-rounded resume and creating a bounty of options outside partnership management. For those who become disenchanted with the travel or sales-nature of the role, it can often be easy to move into a related field within the same company, be it marketing, business development, or sales (to avoid travel).