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Don’t Go It Alone: Partner With Other Small Businesses to Grow
To take your business to new heights, you need to grow your customer base. But you're not the only one to face that challenge. The solution could be in strategic partnerships.
Partnering with other businesses can help increase sales, boost awareness about your company, and provide extra value to your customers — at an accelerated pace than you would have been able to achieve on your own. The trick is to find companies that appeal to the same demographic as your business, but with products and services that work well in tandem.
An example of this would be a bed and breakfast teaming up with a local travel agency to arrange half-day tours for its guests. The bed and breakfast gets to expand its range of value-added services, while the travel agency gets new customers, travelers who may not have otherwise been aware of its services. When it comes time to reciprocate, the travel agency recommends the bed and breakfast as the perfect choice of accommodation to its direct customers.
Complementary partnerships like these have a big potential for payoff because partners can successfully grow through each other's customer base.
How to identify complementary businesses
So how can you find businesses whose product or service complements your core offering? Here are a few tips:
- Analyze existing relationships
Perhaps you're already in touch with a few businesses, but never really explored the idea of forming an alliance. Think about who's on your contact list currently and consider reaching out to them for a potential partnership.
- Look for companies your customers shop with
One of the best ways to find a complementary business is to ask customers where they currently shop for the type of products and services you think you'd like to recommend or offer. A web designer, for instance, could ask its customers about the freelancer or company they use for their content-related needs.
- Walk around your neighborhood
Walking around the area where your business is located will make you aware of nearby companies that could serve as potential partners to your firm. Collaborating with businesses in close proximity makes sense since you can refer people to each other more easily when you're only a short distance away.
How to reach out
There are several ways to get on the radar of potential partners. Below are some useful tactics:
- Host a networking event
Chances are you're not alone and other businesses are looking for opportunities to network, too. Why not break the ice and host a networking event at your office? Encourage attendees to bring information about their companies and set up a large table for all to display their materials. This will not only provide an opportunity for networking, but it also has the potential to build your own contact database.
- Become a customer
This works best if you're planning to collaborate with a local business in your neighborhood. Stop by its store or office to get a first-hand experience of their products or services. Build relationships with their owners or managers, then talk up the idea of a strategic partnership once you've gained enough rapport.
- Attend conferences
Find out what type of businesses will be in attendance and the caliber of presenters who are scheduled to speak. Registering a dedicated domain can help you find the right people who offer complementary services.
After you've finalized a partner, lay out the terms for your business collaboration before anything else. Working out the details in advance will help to ensure that there is no confusion about what to expect from one another.
Once you've got a handle on how the partnership is going to work, you can begin to implement your co-marketing efforts. Below are just a few ideas; be creative when designing your own strategy and try to build campaigns that people will appreciate.
- Run a contest
Partnering up with another company to run a contest will get you lots of traction, and potentially lots of new customers. For the prize, create a bundle that combines the best of both businesses — a free spot on a guided city tour combined with a free sample tasting at local wine shops, for instance. Use social media posts to create a buzz around your contest, and ask your partner to do the same.
- Cross-promote on social
Well-crafted updates or recommendations can provide free advertising and generate word-of-mouth for you and your partner companies. If you're a vegan-friendly hair salon, for instance, you could post an update on Instagram and mention the vendor who takes care of your supplies.
- Offer special discounts
Discounts are a great way to attract some new business; consumers love to save money and get an offer. Work with your partner to set up a campaign and offer special prices if people buy from your partner, and vice versa. A person ordering logo design could get a coupon for a reduced price on content services, and people ordering content services could get a small discount on their logo purchases. With a little creativity and finesse, you can attract a whole new segment of customers and make a profit in the process.
A mutually beneficial partnership is the basis for many profitable businesses. Start with tapping into your network like nearby companies, business owners you met a conference, and local vendors or merchants. Make sure you select partners wisely and that their goals fit the same value system as your own. Once the partnership is active, check in often to ensure your brand isn't being under-utilized in their campaigns. With the right approach, you'll discover new ways to grow your business, and you may decide to build more complementary relationships in the future.