One of the most overlooked sources of leads for any small business is the rich pool of non-competing businesses that serve the same target market.
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. Many businesses get this idea, and some even actively strike up the occasional strategic partner deal or lead-swapping campaign, but few tap this approach to the full extent.
For the right business, a strategy devised to make your business irresistible to potential strategic partners may indeed produce the greatest ROI of any marketing activity.
Below is a systematic approach for doing just that.
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.
Think in terms of building an entire team of first-rate providers as though you were going to go to your best customers with a suggested list of partners for every need they have.
Step 2: Recruit
Now that you have your initial list of candidates, it’s 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--a step that others are probably pitching them--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. This can make all the difference in helping you stand out.
Step 3: Ignite
If you’ve completed Step 1 and 2 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 your plan is going to really stand out. 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. isn’t 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 two examples: Create a valuable report or e-book that provides lots of great information that you know your customers will gobble up. (You should be doing this routinely anyway.) Take this field-tested free report and offer it to your partners as a tool they can provide to their customers and prospects. Allow them to co-brand the information and use it freely. They know they should be providing this kind of education to their customers and now you’ve just made them look good and gotten your name in front of their customers in a logical way.
The win-win workshop: Take your same valuable information from the above example and turn it into a workshop. Now you can go to your partners and offer to provide this workshop, either in person or online, free of charge to their customers. No selling, just great information. Now, if you want to really get them excited, go to two potential partners and suggest they co-host the free workshop. This way they not only get to provide great information to their customers, they also get to meet and mingle with some potential prospects from the other partner’s business.
Step 4: Promote
The last step is to find ways to promote your partners and make them glad they got on board with your program. Create opportunities for them to meet your customers; teach them how to create and promote content; provide a blog for all your partners and allow them to contribute posts related to their field; conduct video interviews and tours of their businesses and run these on your site; put together events and allow them to make presentations and invite guests.
When you take this platform approach to partnering you go from being a nice idea they may get around to some day to an irresistible marketing partner they can’t stop raving about.
Image credit: hdptcar via Flickr
Image credit: hdptcar via Flickr