It Takes Two - How to Cultivate Profitable Alliances

"Cross promoting with other businesses can give you a significant advantage over the competition, with many benefits and cost savings." -Heidi Richards-

More and more competition in the marketplace is making it necessary for companies to find creative ways to connect with customers and prospects, to enhance brand identity and attract top-notch employees. In order to enhance competitiveness in today's marketplace, more and more companies are forming strategic alliances. Strategic alliances can maximize your position in the marketplace. When you learn how to leverage partnerships you increase your market share. It is also a very smart way to grow a small business. Cross promoting with other businesses can give you a significant advantage over the competition with many benefits and cost savings.

A strategic alliance is based on an arrangement between two companies to combine resource that will help both gain a greater share of the market. They are often formed when one business alone is unable to fill the gap in serving the needs of the marketplace. Forming strategic alliances can save time and boost productivity. It enables companies to be more efficient and concentrate on the core strengths in developing their products and services. These alliances can be formal (partnership agreement is put in writing) or informal (a handshake is all that is necessary to "seal the deal").

There are several ways you can collaborate with another business or individual to increase revenue, traffic, and even expertise to your business which ultimately will increase the value to the end-user (customer).

Find the Right Partners

Collaborate with a well-known company - Most small businesses benefit from partnerships that add value, prestige and greater credibility to their own endeavors. Associating with a well-known business can give your company instant credibility and exposure. It's not always about the bottom line.

Collaborate with Your Best Customers ? Look at the company or companies who do the most business with yours. Work with them to solidify the relationship by offering them more than just good products and service. Make it nearly impossible for them to consider going anywhere else. Continually asking them why they do business with you and why they stay are the best ways to keep them. Collaborate with the Nonprofit Community ? Joining forces with nonprofits can increase your circle of influence and your visibility in the community.

Collaborate with a Former Employer ? You offer a product or service the former employer needs and provide it to them. You become a subcontractor or vendor to them. One of my dear friends worked for a fast-food company as their corporate trainer. When she decided to go into business for herself, they hired her to continue to provide training to their employees for several years. As her first major contract, the collaboration they created started her company on the road to success, and she still travels and does work for them.

Collaborate with a Competitor ? Believe it or not, competitors can be very good partners. For instance, they may offer a service or product you don't or don't wish to and vice-versa. They may also have the ability to handle a larger "job" than your company. Joining forces with another business on a project makes you look good to the customer. You become the hero. In 1999, I had the opportunity to provide all the decorations for a HUGE Floral Fair in Miami, Florida. I knew my small company alone could not handle all the business. So I called several other florists in the community whom I admired and who did similar work. I subcontracted them to do portions of the project and get a piece of the action. Because these were floral importers we were serving, the other florists had the opportunity to network with and find new suppliers of product. It was easy to convince them to participate. It was such a success, that it has been an ongoing project for several of the shops over the years.

Think about the many businesses that are natural partners. In the real estate field, realtors partner with one another when selling a house. Florists partner with caterers, photographers and others in the event industry. Automobile insurance companies often partner with auto repair companies to insure their customers get the best service at a fair price.

In an issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, I read about a coffee company in New Jersey who became the ultimate collaborator. The coffeehouse carries works from a local art gallery, has a reciprocal agreement with a local community theatre to offer significant discounts to their patrons, cross promotes with a local music store, book store, cigar shop, as well as many local nonprofits.

My flower shop has partnered with masseuses, welcome-to-the-neighborhood companies, travel agents, professional organizers, beauty salons, and realtors, and several nonprofits, to name a few. We have collaborated on networking events such as business after hours and open houses. We have promoted one another through door hanger campaigns. We have given each other our coupons to distribute to other companies. We have carried one another's business cards and brochures to distribute to our respective clients and customers. We have given away one another's products to our customers. We offer hyperlinks on one another's websites to further promote each other. The possibilities are endless. Look for opportunities in your community that would be mutually beneficial to your partnership.

The real key to success in cross-promotion, is to collaborate with non-competing businesses that are going after the same client or customer base. Choose businesses and people you trust. The promotion should make sense to both partners. It should be a true win-win for everyone involved. Plan the promotion and evaluate the Alliance on a regular basis. Look for ways to expand your reach without increasing your overhead or debt.

Excerpted from The PMS Principles - Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business by Heidi Richards

About The Author

© 2004 - Heidi Richards is the author of The PMS Principles, Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business and 7 other books. She is also the Founder & CEO of the Women's ECommerce Association, International www.WECAI.org (pronounced wee-kī) ? an Internet organization that "Helps Women Do Business on the WEB." She can be reached at www.HeidiRichards.com. (Permission to reprint this article is hereby granted with the understanding that the article and signature file remain intact)

heidi@wecai.org

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