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Small Company, Big Partners

What’s Your Problem?

Who

Edwin Miller, 30, cofounder and VP of sales and marketing, Conducent Inc.

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What’s Your Problem?

“As a developer of Internet-enabled advertising software, a vital part of our growth strategy is to partner with big players — software makers and portals, such as Lycos Inc. and go2net.com. These partnerships get you millions of eyeballs looking at your ads. But because most of our partners are managing deals with dozens of other companies, it’s easy for us to get lost.”

Tell Me about It

“As a startup that’s selling a new capability, gaining credibility and building a substantial user base are huge challenges. Marketing and distribution partnerships with Internet portals (as well as the software developers that use our products) help us reach customers that we otherwise couldn’t afford to reach.

“In principle, partnerships help both sides. But the reality is that we need our partners more than they need us. We have to make sure that the relationship gets the care it needs to flourish.”

What’s Your Solution?

“Let the little guy lead. We don’t expect our partners to make their relationship with us a priority. That’s our job. We take responsibility for the daily management that keeps things on track. We’ve made this a real discipline.

“After we sign a deal, we dispatch a full-time project manager to our partner’s office. Even though this person is our employee, his or her mandate is to act as a resource for the partner: handling day-to-day details of the partnership, such as setting up meetings and keeping people informed.

“Meanwhile, I try to act as an informal intelligence resource. I watch the industry, track developments, and alert the partner to emerging trends — often in areas unrelated to our partnership. The idea is to generate goodwill and to become as integrated into our partner’s business as possible.”

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Cathy Olofson (cathyo@channel1.com) is a writer and editor living in Belmont, Massachusetts. Contact Edwin Miller by email (millere@conducent.com), or visit Conducent on the Web (www.conducent.com).

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