One of the most overlooked sources of new leads for any business is the rich pool of non-competing businesses that serve the same target market. Many businesses understand the need to build business partnerships with other businesses, but only a few adapt this in their overall strategy and tap this approach to the full extent.
Partnership marketing can be really effective for businesses who want to get in front of new relevant audiences. Identifying a group of “best of class” providers in your market and finding ways to gain access to their customer base is one of the quickest ways to flood your business with new opportunities.
One of the most powerful things you can achieve with strategic partnerships is to increase your value in the eyes of your customers. Become a wealth of information and resources related to all of your customer’s needs, even if they may be unrelated to what you sell or provide. If you or your business can become known as the go-to provider for any need under the sun, you can develop a very important place in the mind of your customer.
Here are 6 tips to consider to make your eco-system of strategic partnership more effective:
It’s an asset
Your choice of strategic partners will not always depend on what they can do for you, but also on what you can do for them, and what they can do for your customers. If you always ask yourself what a potential relationship might mean for your customer, you will most likely stay on the right track. You must view your partner relationships not simply as a referral source, but as an asset that allows you to deliver more value to your customers.
Are they referable?
The key to building a powerful referral network is to adopt the proper point of view— in this case, the point of view of your customer. As you identify and recruit new strategic partnerships, it should always be based on this question: “Would I feel 100 percent confident referring my best customer to this business?” If a potential strategic partner can’t pass that test, then don’t even consider entering into a referral relationship.
Know the outcome
It is probably the most important question companies should consider when seeking potential partners. You can get excited about the details of a partnership, but understanding the why will keep you focused on the end goal. Will the partnership offer branding benefits? Will it bring more customers? This is where you need to assess how the partnership will bring in more customers and grow your business. Know the outcomes you want the partnership to deliver and work backward.
Seek partners with a similar target demographic
This might sound like an obvious tip, but your ideal partner has to have a similar ideal target audience, or one you are targeting. By collaborating with like-minded companies, you can reach a similar clientele and effectively grow the business.
Sustainable strategic partnership
Where there are benefits, there will be risks. You need to weigh up the immediate effect, as well as in the long run. Strategic partnership is a long-term strategy, not a quick win to get publicity. If you get the first few partnerships right, it then builds a solid foundation in attracting future partners. Start thinking about your own business in the next six months, 12 months or even in two years. Then decide whether this partnership is going to make sense now and in the future.
Keep an eye on your partners
Like all areas of business, perception is key. It is important to choose partners with a great reputation but you also want to work with business that will make good partners. When assessing a potential partner, it is good for startups to build relationships with companies involved in social work. It is ideal to work with an organization that stays true to your key messages, goals and demographics.
Here are the steps to building strategic partners.
Step 1: Discover
The first step is to identify the partners you would like to attract. You may be able to find some of these potential matches from your own experience and research, but your customers can also be a great source of suggestions. Ask them about other businesses they like doing business with.
Step 2: Recruit
Now that you have your initial list of candidates, it is time to reach out and introduce yourself and your idea for partnering. This is an important step and one that many get wrong. Instead of simply cold calling these prospects and suggesting you could work together, reach out and ask them to show you the best way to introduce them to your customers. If you are recruiting potential partners that your clients recommended make the common connection between your shared customers a starting point. When you make this type of invitation you get their attention in a way that is potentially beneficial to them. That will make all the difference in helping you stand out.
Step 3: Ignite
If you’ve completed steps one and two as stated above, you should have a handful of potential strategic partners interested in telling you more about their business and open to allowing the same from you.
This is the place where you need to plan the next steps. Most potential strategic partnerships fall flat because neither partner takes the initiative to make partnering both easy and logical. Simply sending a letter to all your clients saying you are now partnering with ABC Corp. is not going to benefit you, your partners or your customers.
If you want to ignite your strategic relationships then come to the table with a winning, prepackaged way for them to immediately benefit while introducing you to their customers.
Here are some ways to start igniting the partnership:
- Create content opportunities. Invite your partners to contribute to your newsletter, or as guests on your blog. Giving your partners exposure by way of content gets them exposure and gives you content for your blog.
- Conduct video interviews. Set a meeting with your partners. Use the opportunity to record an introduction video so you can have content to run on your website or on your social media, letting the world know about your partners. This will show you mean business.
- Acquire special offers. Get your partners to contribute a product or service that you can use as a way to enhance your offering. This can include free flowers when you make a reservation for dinner or free tickets to give away in your marketing. This is a great way to promote your partners while adding real appeal to your marketing.
- Make referrals. Make it a habit to consciously go out of your way to refer business to your partners. This is how you become someone that lots of great providers want to partner with. This will also increase your value to your customers by consistently helping them get what they need in every aspect of their lives.
- Rate and review. If at all possible become a customer of every one of your partners. This will make you a much more authentic referral sources (as a user). It will also allow you to test and filter the truly great experiences. Follow-up on this by actively writing reviews and ratings on online sites.
- Create events. Figure out how to bring your partners together to network and create deeper engagement. Let each partner have a day where they educate everyone in the network. Create workshops and offer to conduct them for your partner’s customers.
The ability for businesses to forge strategic partnerships is critical for continued financial success in an ever-changing and highly competitive environment. When you take a long term view of recruiting strategic partners, the opportunities for growth will become endless.