Lyft and Delta partnership: Four young people ride in a Lyft car

The 3 C’s: Strategic partnership can get you customers, clout, and cash

Kendall Ridley Business Moves Leave a Comment

If your company isn’t part of a strategic partnership, you may be missing out on the three C’s — customers, clout, and cash.

Whether nonprofit or corporate, your organization should forge at least one strategic partnership to boost its bottom line. That’s what America’s #2 airline and on-demand car service decided to do. Delta and Lyft realized they stood to gain the three C’s by pairing up in a first-of-its-kind partnership.

Here’s how they did it and 4 tips to create a successful strategic partnership of your own:

1. Define your business goals

The first step in a strategic partnership is to identify your organization’s long- and short-term objectives. Do you want to secure access to a new demographic of customers? Strengthen your competitive position in the marketplace? Be specific about what you want to achieve.

  • Delta seeks to earn the loyalty of millennial travelers, many of whom have a casual attitude towards travel and aren’t frequent flyers.
  • Lyft seeks an increase in U.S. market share and continued international expansion.

After you define your goals, make a list of potential partners who can help you achieve those strategic advantages.

2. Define your criteria for potential partners

Lyft and Delta strategic partnership: 2 riders and a driver take a ride using Lyft

Perfect partnership: Delta’s 1 million+ SkyMiles members now earn miles for every Lyft ride. Photo credit: Delta Air Lines

Now that you have a list of potential partners, evaluate them against criteria you determine. Those criteria may include organizational values, reputation in their industry, geographic reach, and ability to enhance market share. What are each potential partner’s strengths and weaknesses? Filter out partners that don’t offer sufficient benefit to your organization.

Cultural fit was a major consideration for Delta. Sandeep Dube, Delta’s vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, told The New York Times that the it wanted a rideshare partner whose culture is “customer-focused and employee-centric.” Lyft has a reputation in the marketplace for treating its employees well and fairly compensating its drivers, making it a perfect fit.

Lyft sought a major American airline with a loyal customer base, significant international reach, and a similar focus on providing a great customer experience. Delta fit the bill, with more than one million SkyMiles members and service to an extensive domestic and international network (including 319 destinations in 54 countries on six continents).

3. Define the partnership’s structure

Now that you’ve selected a partner, hammer out the alliance details. What will each organization offer the other? The terms of the deal may include cash, joint ventures, or other contractual agreements.

Delta and Lyft partnership details

Details of the Delta-Lyft partnership. Photo credit: Delta Air Lines

The Delta-Lyft partnership provides Delta SkyMiles members with:

  • 1 Delta SkyMile per dollar spent on eligible Lyft rides, with no limit on mileage earning
  • 3 Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on an eligible Lyft ride to or from one of these airports that Lyft serves (for a limited time)
  • $20 in Lyft credit for SkyMiles members new to Lyft

Each travel company is rewarding customers with the miles, the promise of great service, and “a seamless end to end travel experience.” Consequently, both existing and new customers will have an incentive to use the other partner’s service.

What benefits will your strategic partnership offer customers?

4. Communicate the strategic partnership and benefits

Now that you’ve got the partnership terms hammered out, it’s time to announce them to the world. To do that, you need to create messaging that will resonate with your target audiences and potential customers. Your focus should be how they will benefit from the partnership. The benefits can be tangible (e.g., SkyMiles), intangible (e.g., a feeling or experience), or a combination of both.

Screenshot of the Delta Lyft strategic partnership website

Delta and Lyft created a simple website for new and existing customers to start earning rewards

Your communications plan must include a press release, posted on both partners’ websites. You should reach out to appropriate media outlets to share the press release and pitch the story. Share the news via your social media outlets and engage influencers where appropriate. You may benefit from a website devoted to promoting the partnership and getting customers signed up.


Remember — your messaging should focus on how the partnership benefits the consumer.

A strategic partnership can support your business goals, too

By partnering with a complementary business in the same industry, Delta and Lyft stand to increase their exposure to new markets and gain new sources of revenue. Delta gets access to a wealth of millennial travelers who use on-demand ridesharing. Lyft gets access to a new pool of millions of domestic and international travelers who need on-demand transportation by car. Who can you team up with to achieve your business objectives?

You and the right partner can achieve more together to extend the reach of your organizations. A strategic partnership may be exactly what your organization needs to hit the mark. Use the tips above to help you find a partner to increase your cash, customers, and clout in the marketplace.

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