Strategic business partnerships can give small businesses such as yours the edge to help them compete with larger companies.
Imagine reaping the benefits of an asset, product, expertise or service that you don’t currently have.
Sounds crazy, right?
Large companies have been doing it for years. It’s known as a strategic partnership—a mutually beneficial contractual alliance between two businesses—and it can give small business owners a competitive edge and help them increase the bottom line in innovative ways.
It’s a given that bigger companies have more resources than smaller businesses. Strategic partnerships can help you compete effectively with larger firms by leveling the playing field.
Continuing our theme of discussing key lead generation strategies (last month we discussed the power of networking), this month as you might have guessed, we are discussing the power of Strategic Alliances.
This strategy has been particularly successful for me over the years and I believe quality over quantity is the key.
I had 3 key Strategic Alliances in my previous business and I found that keeping the number of SA Partners I worked with small, enabled me to block time to meet and work with them.
After all, you only have so many hours each day and plenty of things to focus on!
On the switch side, I used to have a coaching client who proudly told me that they had over 30 businesses that they partnered with.
When I asked how often they met each business owner, their reply was that they hadn’t since the first meeting.
My next question was how much business had they generated from each relationship and the answer did not surprise me – no business whatsoever!
Building a Strategic Alliance with the right business can be incredibly powerful. But choose the wrong business to partner with and you’ll question everything about why you EVER thought it a good idea to work with a business owner who ‘just don’t get it’.
From my experience, when you find a good business to partner with, it more than makes up all the B.S. you had to work through.
The reason I think more small business owners don’t use this fantastic business building strategy is they:
• Don’t know any business owners, nor to do they invest the time in reaching out and getting to know other business owners in groups such as BNI, Toastmasters, and the local Chamber of Commerce.
• Run into a problem with their SA partner, get frustrated, and ‘give up’ continuing work
on this strategy. You must be patient with the process of finding and developing
good relationships. If you are fortunate and develop an ‘instant’ connection that’s great, but most of the time it’s going to take a bit of time to get to know, like, and trust someone. And
then even more time to establish a strong working relationship that supports the
growth of both your businesses.
• Think they lack time. But that is no excuse, it’s up to you to organize and structure your business in a way that you CAN devote the time it takes to develop strong SA relationships. This involves shifting your mindset from someone who is the technician in their business, to someone who owns and runs a business. It's the classic battle of you are either working IN your business or working ON your business. Hint: as a business owner, you need to be spending 80% of your time working ON your business if you want to succeed!
So, what makes a good strategic alliance/JV partner?
• A business that serves your ideal prospect profile
• Has established credibility in your marketplace
• Actively markets internally to their customer/client base (this is a MUST)
• Has both online and offline contact information for their customer/client base
• Has both a quality relationship with their customer/client base
What makes a BAD strategic alliance/JV partner?
• No database of customers/clients
• No credibility
• No money
• No marketing plan
• Completely disorganized
• Doesn’t appreciate or understand the value of marketing/advertising and building
win-win reciprocal relationships (i.e. they just don’t get it)
What are some good potential categories?
In a nutshell, it's any business who serves the same target market as you but is not a direct competitor.
When I had my fitness business, for example, the types of businesses I looked to partner with
• Hair Salons
• Cosmetic Dentist
• Physical Therapist
• Beauty Salon/Day Spa
• Natural Foods Store (Whole Foods, etc.)
• Exercise Equipment Retailers
• Massage Therapist
• Nutrition Store
• Financial Planner
• Makeover Specialist/Image Consultant
• Running store
• Specialist Travel Agent (Travel Counsellor)
Where can you get lists and find people to that are candidates for these
• Chamber of commerce directory
• BNI directory
• Toastmasters and other business networking group relationships
• Your own Clients
• Don’t forget Google!!
• And of course, your own local knowledge will play a big role here!
Here’s your shortcut to success with this system:
1. At the bare minimum, I encourage you to join your local chamber of commerce. When
you join you’ll get a ‘directory’ of other members (and their business category) in
This will become the ‘hit list’ you start working from. Each Chamber also
has a president and what’s called ‘ambassadors’. These people work for the
chamber members and it’s their job to help introduce you to other members of
the chamber and overall have a positive experience in working with the chamber.
Go to lunch or make an appointment to get together with these folks. They are
influential and will be very helpful in introducing you to the right people, thereby
‘shortcutting’ your time in meeting the right SA partners.
You should also attend the Chamber events, and invest time in meeting the other business owners there. This is called networking. Have fun with it. It’s an investment in the growth of your business. And remember – it’s not WHAT you know, its WHO you know that counts.
SIDE NOTE: Inquire about advertising opportunities in Chamber publications, like their monthly newsletter and website or email marketing. These are often VERY
inexpensive media targeted at high impact professionals and a good market for your
2. Next, I would encourage you to visit a few local Business Networking International
BNI groups. Find a good chapter with a high number of members that you ‘connect’ with. Take on a leadership role serving in the group. Attend the free training workshops they have. You can cultivate not only a great referral network but also meet SA partners that ‘get it’ and want to do marketing with you.
3. Toastmasters is another organization that you’ll not only learn how to do public speaking from but meet other business professionals that are there to do the same. Go visit a few in your area and join one you click with (like BNI). Often you’ll not only attract new clients but also find great SA partners in these groups
4. Now open up a spreadsheet and create an “SA matrix” and start filling it up with as many candidates as possible in each category using your Chamber List, BNI group list, Toastmasters group list, and any other associations you have. These are your TARGETS. Here is a screenshot of one I used to use…
Your column headings should be Sub-group, Business Name, Address, Website, Email, Phone, Contact Name.
5. Leverage your existing relationships to book one-to-one meetings with each potential SA Partner. Find ones you ‘click’ with and that you can begin working with.
6. Discuss potential marketing opportunities you both can begin with. This is called cross-promotion. The possibilities here are endless, but good first steps are what are called rather grimly, host/parasite endorsed direct mail and e-mail campaigns where you write to your list endorsing the other business and presenting their offer to your list (eg “A Special Free Gift For You”) and vice versa.
Or you can look to run a workshop or presentation at each other’s place of business. One successful campaign I ran with a hair salon was a Beauty Body Makeover challenge where both the hair salon and I promoted my Boot Camp and participants in the challenge had a month of training and the person who achieved the best results over the month won a 3M membership to my sessions and a cut and blow dry (from the salon owner)
7. Rinse and repeat until you have at last 3-5 strong SA partners that you are
running multiple promotions and campaigns with. Get this right and you will end up with a steady stream of referrals to your business ☺
Watch out for our upcoming webinar where we will go over a number of sample campaigns to consider
Andrew Wallis is a business consultant whose primary focus is helping fitness business owners see the wood for the trees. He is LifeStyle180’s marketing expert specialising in building, creating and integrating solid marketing strategies and tactics into his client businesses. He loves to stick his head under the bonnet of their business to make sure it runs efficiently and effectively. Prior to running his own PT business in the UK and Australia, he spent 20 years in the offshore finance industry managing property and investment portfolios of the rich and famous. When he’s not at work, he enjoys traveling the globe.