Unless you have an unlimited advertising budget, chances are you aren't reaching all of the potential customers who could benefit from your undoubtedly fantastic service or product. Barring a sudden influx of cash into your PR coffers, how can you promote your business with minimal expense? The answer may lie in strategic business alliances.
Not to be confused with joint ventures or formal partnerships, business alliances offer mutually beneficial you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours style agreements. Done right, alliances give the businesses involved access to new markets, customers and, ideally, sales.
3 Steps to a Winning Business Alliance
1. Consider what your customers need
There are endless businesses out there that may be willing to team up and to create an alliance. Before you jump at the first opportunity that presents itself, you want to be smart about which business you select.
If you are a real estate agent, your clients may not necessarily be in the market for a new coat or wheels for their car. However, they may need a moving van and maybe trash service at their new residence.
One of the keys to a successful alliance is to find a partnering company that offers a product or service that goes hand-in-hand with yours.
2. Look for an established partner
This may not feel fair to start-ups, but you are creating an alliance to build your business, not to help launch someone else's firm.
Perhaps the easiest way to find an established partner is by talking to your current clients. Ask them who else gets their business. For example, customers at a children's consignment shop could provide insight on the best local preschools. Or wedding planners can ask clients which jewelers they prefer.
From your customers' responses, create a short list of companies to contact. In addition, knowing that your customers already do business with these companies gives you a natural icebreaker.
3. Outline your strategy
Finally, have a concrete -- preferably written -- plan of what is expected of each partner. There is no right way to build your alliance, but for the relationship to be successful, you need to have more than a vague idea of what you expect to gain.
For example, let's say you are a Web designer teaming up with a copywriter. Will you simply refer your clients to the copywriter for their Web content? Or will you create a package deal offering both your services at one low price?
Clearly define how the alliance will work and then check in with your partnering firms on a regular basis. Don't forget to keep them in the loop, as appropriate, when it comes to advertising efforts, special events and discounts you may be offering.
Business alliances offer a unique opportunity to tap into another company's existing customer base. It can take time and effort to build relationships with other owners and entrepreneurs, but in the end, your bottom line may thank you.
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