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Small Business Marketing

Strategic Partners

When asked, most small business owners will say that a large chunk of their business comes to them by way of referrals.  However, many businesses are not doing anything to actively encourage referrals, and even those businesses that do encourage referrals from customers are often not utilizing another very powerful referral source: a strategic partner network.

This week, we’ll take a look at what makes a good strategic partner, and how you can use a strategic partner to generate referrals.

A good strategic partner for a small business is another business that serves the same market but does not directly compete with that business.  The idea is that by teaming up, you can both refer customers to each other.  Here’s some “classic” examples of businesses that might make good strategic partners:

  • A lawyer and an accountant
  • An auto repair shop and a used car dealer
  • A lawn care business and a pest control company

Those examples are all fairly natural partnerships, but sometimes less traditional partnerships can work well also.  For example, what if the auto repair shop partnered with a lawyer who handled a lot of traffic-accident cases?  Or perhaps the pest control company with many small commercial accounts could partner with an accountant who specializes in small business accounting.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and be creative!

How to use your partners

There are many ways you can make good use of a strategic partnership to get new customers for your business.  The common thread in all of them is that both companies need to benefit equally in order for the partnership to work.  Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Offer reduced prices or freebies to customers of your strategic partner
  • Jointly sponsor events or educational seminars with your strategic partner.  At the event you’ll both get the chance to meet each others’ customers.
  • Create a product or service together with your strategic partner that you can both offer to your current clients or customers

Starting to get the picture?  Good, because it’s time for this week’s action step.

Your assignment:  add one strategic partner to your network every month this year, starting with next month.  Have a target for how many referrals you’d like to get from that partner every month, and make an effort to send that many referrals to your partner.