Do you want to grow your business? This second series of articles goes beyond the basic ‘sell more / charge more’ advice to explore your options for business growth. In my role as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have talked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs about what they really need to know, not what a business guru thinks they need to know. This series is the result. Today’s blog looks at strategic partnerships.
There are any number of ways that strategic partnerships can help your business grow, depending on the partner, but the basic idea is the same. Each party agrees to help the other where possible. This could be passing on prospects, giving referrals or exchanging goods or services.
You should try to find another business operating in the same industry or with crossover appeal – but not a competitor, for obvious reasons! It’s essential for any partnership to function that both parties are working for their mutual benefit. Everybody needs to come out of it with a ‘win’.
Let’s say you run a painting and decorating firm. Wouldn’t it be great to hear from a local tradesman when someone in your area needs a room painted? How about if a local plasterer left your business card with each client as he finishes his job, ready for you to step in? And of course, you return the favour by leaving his card with anyone who talks to you about a new extension. That’s a strategic partnership.
The variations are endless, depending on your business, what you can offer and what you need. The important thing is to think strategically about how another business can help yours – and how you can help them. The partnership could be as simple as swapping web links, or as involved as you like.
As a freelance copywriter, I have strategic partnerships with a select few graphic designers, web developers and branding agencies. These are all areas that I have some knowledge of, but don’t feel comfortable that the quality of work I could deliver to paying customers in these areas matches the same high standard I expect of myself in content marketing. Instead, I prefer to refer my clients to individuals and businesses that I know well and trust to deliver their best work on my behalf. Similarly, they have worked with me on many projects and know the value that I deliver to their customer base, so they are happy to refer their valued customers to me. I’ve built a network of trusted, respected strategic partners and everyone benefits by their involvement with new business flowing in both directions – and I recommend you do the same.
Whatever you do, do NOT pick an ad out of a directory and suggest a partnership. Sure, they’ll agree soon enough – what business owner wouldn’t turn down free advertising – but if the service is anything less than you would expect of yourself, then it could reflect badly on your own business. Every referral you make is a reflection of you as a professional. It just isn’t worth the risk.
It’s important that you don’t expect results straight off the bat – your strategic partner is unlikely to devote time or resources to marketing your business on your behalf (that’s your job). Think of it as a slow-burn, free form of marketing. You might not see immediate benefits, but the partnership may sow seeds that will ripen with time. That said, it’s important to monitor the effect that any partnership has on your business growth. If you don’t realise any benefit, but you know that you have passed a lot of business onto your strategic partner, it may be time to renegotiate for a percentage of the value of each referral, or call an end to the partnership. Don’t be afraid to move on if the relationship isn’t of benefit to your business – that’s the whole point, after all!
And remember that unless you both agree otherwise, they are free to refer their customers to the partner they feel is best suited to each job. I will refer a client to a different designer, depending on whether they need a company logo, print advert or website. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value the other’s talent or ability, simply that I expect my strategic partners to play to their strengths, just as I do. I want the best for my customers. And if your strategic partners aren’t comfortable with that, maybe they aren’t right for you.
When you manage your strategic partnerships well, they can be an invaluable source of additional revenue. Any business relies upon marketing to succeed and what’s better than a professional recommendation from a company whose customer already values their work and opinion? You can’t buy that kind of exposure. In fact, that’s the beauty of strategic partnerships as a marketing strategy – they don’t cost a penny.
Next: Grow Your Sales To Grow Your Business
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your new web copy to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.