April 27th, 2021

The importance of strong maritime partnerships

We’ve asked Mark Nailer, our Maritime Manager for EMEA, to tell us all about what’s involved in being a Midstream partner, why building partnerships in the maritime world matters, how we support each other, and what we look for in a partner.

What being a maritime partner selling Midstream means

Firstly, a partner for us is not a company that just sells lots of our products in a market. To be a Midstream partner involves actually being ‘us’ in that market. That’s key. They need to share the same values as us, have the same philosophy when it comes to selling solutions and not simply products, and place quality plus customer satisfaction at the centre of all they do. Sometimes that will mean missing out on the ‘fast sell’ to ‘win bigger’ in the long term. That’s what we’re always prepared to do. We expect our partners to share that approach too.

As with any true, successful relationship trust has to be front and foremost also – and run both ways. Without that trust, the chances of your partnership enduring are probably pretty slim. It almost certainly won’t be as productive as it could be.

The importance of these partnerships

Within the Midstream Maritime team, Rory McBride, our US Maritime Manager based in the US, and I (in the UK) are responsible for all our maritime customers around the world. However, the maritime industry is very much driven by relationships. These relationships on the whole are made easier to form – even despite the introduction of new ‘tech’ such as Zoom – by being in the same location. So, to effectively cover the globe we need partners who can, for example, be onsite within a few hours and not days.

Here’s an example of this power of ‘being there’ I like to use when talking to prospective partners. We’d submitted a tender to an African port but hadn’t had any feedback from it. Around the same time, we’d recently joined forces with a new partner in the same country and we mentioned this to them. As luck would have it, our principal contact there happened to live only 20 minutes from the port. He got in touch with the person leading the tender. A few conversations later, we’d discovered why we’d not heard anything back – which mainly due to not having a local presence. Not only that, we were allowed to address their concerns and submit a new tender.

This shows how much port and terminal companies value local support and representation. They know and trust that if there’s a Midstream partner in that country they’ll get the same level of service, care, and quality that they’d get from us. They’ll get it where it can matter the most too – at the port.

A lot of the big deals we’re making now have been unlocked by having a quality presence in a market that makes customers trust us more

That’s the power of the Partnership Programme. It’s about finding allies who already have, or can easily forge, those relationships. They can then add further value for their customers by introducing them to us and all we have to offer.

The role training and education has to play with partners

Training and education are absolutely essential to our Partner Programme, and we take it very seriously. So seriously in fact we make it a real commitment for partners to take on.

We don’t simply send them a half-hour ‘slide show’ and some brochures. Our initial training programme alone takes several days to complete.

We’re probably market-leaders in terms of the amount of time and resources we invest in upskilling and educating our partners. As I said, we don’t want them to go off and just blindly make easy sales. We want them to truly understand the lighting market. That’s why our training programme is so comprehensive and is followed up by post-training sessions and 1-to-1 support.

Over the course of our partner training we make sure they really understand:

  • Our entire range of products – their features and benefits.
  • The areas and environment these products work in – and why.
  • Who they’re selling to and what’s important to them – the key challenges they have and how our solutions solve them.
  • Why Midstream is about selling solutions and not just products – the Midstream Difference.

We’ve also produced, and continue to add to and update, a whole raft of educational and support materials for our partners. I’m not just talking about a quick PowerPoint deck. You have to give partners all the tools you can to go out and confidently create solutions that add real value. So, we provide our partners with:

  • Sales collateral – to help them sell.
  • Creative assets such as imagery and videos – to help them promote Midstream products.
  • Webinars – to share knowledge in their market.
  • Blogs – to build their profile.
  • Case Studies – to show the power of Midstream solutions.
  • Social collaboration opportunities – to back them up.
  • Event/tradeshow support and guidance – great places to begin new relationships.
  • Leads – if we get leads in their area, we work with them to turn those leads into business.

By giving this level of training and support we’re enabling partners to go out and have intelligent conversations with prospects. Because that’s what you need when you’re a solutions-based sales organization. They allow you to get a real understanding of the issues the client is experiencing and develop a perfect solution to meet them. Doing that not only turns these prospects into customers – it’ll turn them into advocates and ambassadors for the Midstream brand.

Why we’re not just a manufacturer. We do more. We support, we guide, we work together

We do manufacture our products. What we provide customers with though are solutions to their needs. The products we make are only one element in delivering those solutions. This is something we make very clear to our partners from the beginning. An example we use to demonstrate this is the care and attention we take when it comes to lighting simulations for a tender.

Some of our competitors will do a lighting simulation based on an empty container yard – which makes their tender look great and can win them the business. But In real life, where yards are never empty and have containers that block light stacked eight high, they’ll fail to deliver what they’ve promised. We do our lighting simulations and modelling based on a full yard with its containers in place and create a solution that truly delivers what’s needed. We call that the Midstream Difference. This helps partners understand the value proposition of Midstream – it’s not just the quality on the manufacturing side but also the design and thoroughness of our solutions that count.

We also encourage partners and give them the opportunity to share their real-life stories – why they won or lost against a competitor, etc. Our partners love to exchange these experiences as they can give insights on what they can and should be doing to grow their business. We also make sure to incorporate these true-life experiences in our training modules.

In addition to all the training and marketing materials, we provide partners with we actively support them when it comes to gaining new business. I’ve mentioned sharing leads, we’re happy to do more than that. For example, we’ll work with them on, and be at, pitch presentations too – either ‘virtually’ or in-person when international travel restrictions allow – if needed.

What we look for in a partner

A partner is one of your team. So, exactly like employing any member of it one of the key considerations you need to take into account is ‘fit’. As I’ve said, you must share the same values and approach to business and customers. There needs to be mutual respect and trust also.

Having a maritime background, client base, and market presence are obviously important. What’s also important is if they can offer us support and opportunities in more than just one port at a time and can help us service major accounts across their whole region.

Geographical location is understandably important too. For example, we already have a great partner that covers Saudi Arabia. To try to squeeze more business from that area by adding new partners there would be counterproductive and erode the trust we have with our current partner. To gain more business in Saudi Arabia our focus is, as it should be, on supporting our trusted partner there.

We’ve found that the size of a company isn’t necessarily a great indicator as to whether they’ll make a great partner. Big isn’t always the best. Mid to small-sized companies can often make better partners. Because if your business is important to them, they’ll focus more on it.

What really matters is finding credible partners to work with. Partners you can invest time and money in to give them the tools to truly represent you and your brand in their market. Partners who, ideally, have an existing client portfolio of companies you’d like to work with.

Want to know more?

If you’re interested in becoming a Midstream partner, we’d love to hear from you. Just click on the button below and leave us your details, and we’ll quickly get back to you for an initial chat.

Mark Nailer, Maritime Manager EMEA - Midstream Lighting

Mark Nailer, EMEA Maritime Manager at Midstream Lighting

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