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It doesn’t always make sense to pay a fortune to give your customers access to something your business doesn’t specialise in, so why not partner with a business that does specialise in it?

This episode on the Payments Podcast is examining how partnerships with other organisations not only can help your organisation grow but innovates your business, and creates a customer experience worthy of retention.

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Podcast Transcript 

Rich Williams: There was a time when organisations were wary of working together for fear of sharing trade secrets or, indeed, any resulting revenue. Thankfully, those days are long behind us now, but organisations failing to adapt to this new fast-paced digital and collaborative age will almost certainly be left behind.

eBay, for example, utilised PayPal’s significant expertise to create a slick, smooth customer experience. This set them apart from their competitors and, indeed, helped to build the foundations of their almost $11bn company today.

Hello, I'm Rich Williams, host of the Payments Podcast and today I'm talking to Randy McFarlane, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances at Bottomline. Hello, Randy.

Randy McFarlane: Hi, Rich.

Rich Williams: Randy, welcome to this episode. In the prelude, I mentioned eBay and PayPal specifically, but there are, of course, countless other examples I could have chosen. Expanding on this, why do organisations need to form partnerships today?

Randy McFarlane: I think, Rich, for me, the first place to start is there's no better approach to solving challenges than the famous saying, “Two heads are better than one.” When people think about partnerships, they think about two businesses coming together to solve challenges for mutual customers but, actually, you could extend that.

That’s creating internal partnerships between colleagues and departments and, of course, right through to those larger partnerships between businesses. The key here is harnessing the strengths and ability of others from different corners of your ecosystem.

Strategic partnerships benefit everyone in the value chain. If we start with businesses, employees and customers, the businesses themselves, I think they can broader their relevance and increase their adjustable market. Customers benefit from the strengths and the offerings that each of the organisations in the partnerships brings to the table. For the employees themselves, they can expand their development opportunities by being exposed to new perspectives and expertise.

Rich Williams: It’s interesting that you mentioned there about the importance and the value chain there that affects the customers and the employees as well. We’ll come onto that in a moment but let’s talk specifically about the organisations themselves. When successful organisations collaborate more closely together, what tangible benefits can they expect and what does it look like?

Randy McFarlane: I think the first thing is all the successful partnerships that we see in our space or, actually, in others too, they have a laser-like focus on delivering value to the end customer. What that does is that really focuses in on what does a compelling value proposition look like. That, in turn, drives innovation and that, in turn, drives opportunity and that, in turn, drives incremental revenue.

What are those opportunities? First of all, once you’ve been through that process and once you’ve identified what is the customer pain point that we’re looking to address here and how can we drive success into those customers, it’s who do you then take it to. The beauty of a partnership is you have access to new customers.

If you’ve chosen your partner well, one thing for sure is that their customer base, your value proposition will have resonance with them, it will be relevant to them and, of course, you will have customer base that has already purchased and that already has that key ingredient, the trust factor as well. It’s the same for the partner, of course.

Again, if you’ve chosen the right partnership, what you're able to do is open up a new prospect base for your partner organisation, driving incremental opportunity and revenue for them but really important for you, as an organisation. You have your customer base, one of the things you're doing by bringing in a partnership that has relevance and can help solve additional challenges for your customers is you're helping drive more value into your existing customer base and, of course, that goes right to the heart of our customer retention strategy.

Rich Williams: It’s interesting. We often see that partnerships are discussed, strategic partnerships or trusted partnerships, how much emphasis and importance can we place on that?

Randy McFarlane: One of the things you just called out there was the word trust and, for me, for any strategic partnership to be successful… I said there was one key element, which was the laser-like focus on customer success so that’s one, but two is the trust. The partnerships, certainly that we enter into, it’s with the spirit of we’re in this for the long-term.

What does that mean? That means transparency, that means integrity and that, also, means having the ability to say, “No,” actually. To say, “No” when we think we are not in a position to deliver the value, either to our existing customer base but, more importantly, to the mutual customer base too.

If we align that to the laser-like focus on driving value and success for the end customer, that’s when you'll also build up the trust with the end customer themselves. What does that mean? That means longevity in relationship, that means loyalty from the customer and that means additional revenue opportunities.

Rich Williams: Great. That symbiosis is clearly key to that and that sounds like a win-win to me.

Randy McFarlane: Yes, absolutely. We like win-wins.

Rich Williams: We do. Let’s talk about the opportunities themselves. What actual opportunities are out there right now for the right partners working together effectively, Randy?

Randy McFarlane: I think it depends on the partnership but I think you could probably boil it down into a few areas. We've just talked about the access to new customers, of course, so that’s an opportunity. Any business is always looking to extend its reach to grow its customer base so that’s one.

Certainly, when I look at what we’re looking to achieve from our Strategic Partner Initiative at Bottomline, of course, it’s the opportunity to access new markets and new sectors, perhaps, where we wouldn’t necessarily have a footprint. A partner can take us into that space so that opens up a whole plethora of new ways that we can grow and extend and evolve and transform as a business.

We talked about the added value proposition for the existing customers. I think that gets played out across all partnerships as well so it’s not just about the access to new customers but it’s about adding more value into your existing customer base.

Building brand awareness as well. There's a brand awareness and a brand association type of thing so we help each other drive market awareness and, also, drive the agenda of the market as well. Again, two heads are better that one and, having two parties come to the table with their resources, with a combined agenda and with a common goal, you can really get some momentum around that particular piece.

Expanding geographic reach as well. For many organisations, we’re living in an increasingly globalised world so, as organisations look beyond their home markets, how do they penetrate other geographies without overextending themselves, without having to put feet on the ground, without having to build up whole infrastructures and resources? The right partnerships can facilitate that as well. It’s all about growth. I think the very thing that underpins all of that is you can win more business. It’s very simple. Win more business.

Rich Williams: Thanks, Randy. Let’s start drawing to a conclusion now by looking at some other real-life cases where companies have maximised the benefits of a mutually successful relationship. What other examples can you draw from?

Randy McFarlane: I'll mention a couple that we, at Bottomline, are up to but one I thought was quite innovative was I saw that PayPal and Toronto Parking Authority had entered into a partnership whereby they worked together to develop an app. PayPal socialised the ability for Torontonians, I'm not sure what to call people who live in Toronto but for their ability to seamlessly park anywhere, utilising the app, pre-paying with the app via their PayPal account.

It really drove incremental revenue for PayPal but, also, from customer loyalty and uptake. Also, from a customer satisfaction perspective to do with the Toronto parking service, that absolutely went through the roof and that’s something that’s been very successful. I've seen that PayPal are now looking to replicate that with different cities across Canada. That’s been a good one.

Here, ourselves, at Bottomline, I think about our partnership with Starling Bank that we've entered into to allow real-time payments. This is a new 24/7 service that allows banks and corporates to send and receive and, also, track payments in real-time in UK bank accounts. Why that’s important is because, for many corporates and banks, becoming a direct member of the Faster Payment Scheme can be very challenging.

The implementation costs, the payment expertise and the restrictive timelines can extend the project into many months. It’s a real overhead. It also leaves the ongoing compliance burden inside the organisation. The partnership between Bottomline and Starling Bank solves this issue and it supplies an API driven real-time payment and settlement service and all the core benefits of historical access to Faster Payments.

That’s a good one, we think and that’s proving very popular with corporates and banks alike. I think, earlier in the conversation, we talked about it’s becoming an increasingly globalised world and many of our customers, large and small and that’s quite interesting, actually, not just the large corporates but also SMEs, they're asking for payments to be added in several currencies.

They are looking to extend and move into new geographies and international payments is extremely complex and highly regulated. What we've done is we've teamed with a partner called Currencycloud. They’ve got very pioneering APIs and together we can deliver real value for the customers.

What we've done is we've combined our intelligent payments platform seamlessly connecting through their APIs with Currencycloud and, ultimately, the value is that the customers will enjoy a simple-to-use transaction process to pay suppliers and employees abroad. That solves that challenge for big businesses and small business alike in doing international payments.

Rich Williams: Great. Calling back to what you said earlier, that’s driving the needs and the requests of the market?

Randy McFarlane: Spot on.

Rich Williams: More smart, more simple, more secure?

Randy McFarlane: Absolutely.

Rich Williams: Fantastic. Closing remark then, Randy, for anyone listening who might be thinking about partnering with a business, such as Bottomline, and maybe taking advantage of some of the things that we’re looking at at the moment, what would be a suggestion for them?

Randy McFarlane: Pick up the phone and give me a call. Open for business. Open for collaboration. Let’s do this.

Rich Williams: Randy, thank you very much for joining us today. Really exciting to talk to you.

Randy McFarlane: Thanks, Rich.

Rich Williams: Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for. We’ll be back with some more podcasts very soon and, in the meantime, you can listen to more episodes and all things payments at the touch of a button using your preferred provider. We’ll see you all next time. using your preferred provider. We’ll see you all next time.

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