No man is an island; neither, apparently, is a business. Entrepreneurs may not need staff, but they do need customers. When going into business, you were most likely told to network as if it were a part-time job. In many ways, it is not as much about getting your name out there to everyone as it is a focus on strategic partnerships.
Partnership marketing is when two non-competing businesses share a similar client base and cross-marketing occurs. Both businesses can cross-reference one another and share the following benefits:
- Expedited referrals
- Smaller marketing budget
- Approval by association
- Customer appreciation
- Increased impressions
New businesses are only expected to turn a profit after three years. It can take up to a year just to build a solid client base. This does not mean customers who buy once and want to try your product again. The goal is to have high-quality, repeat customers. Naturally, this takes quite a while. However, partnership marketing allows you to access a solid base of buyers in exchange for access to yours. What may have taken you months to achieve alone could happen in an accelerated time frame if properly researched. Many businesses only want a balanced partnership association; so try to find a business that it is at the same level as yours. Ask for potential partners by sending an email listing the benefits of a partnership for them. Be careful not to sell yourself too much, as it may turn off a potential partner.
Smaller marketing budget
Marketing can be expensive. Your investment may not be justifiable without quantitative results. By partnering with a successful business, you could trim your budget and count on results. Most businesses have to spend hours on social media or send out items such as postcards, knowing a wide net must be cast in order to bring in at least a few results. In a partnership, the costs are minor. If you are the one asking for a partnership, invite the other business owner to lunch or order in as you both draft promotional materials sponsoring each other. Track results with links and make sure that the partnership is as balanced as possible. Direct mail campaigns and brochures may be your only big expenses.
Approval by association
In the real world, when you meet someone who could be a potential romantic partner, you investigate to see if you know the same people. Candidates with friends in common fare better, as they already have the seal of approval from people you trust. In partnership marketing, a stamp of credibility can take your business to a new level, and in the first and second year of business, much convincing has to be done to sell yourself. When no one else speaks up for you, it can be a lonely road with few results. A partnership enables another trusted business to vouch for your services to help you get better results.
If you do not offer a service, you lose nothing by referring a client to a partner. For example, let’s say you are a hair stylist who cannot tell the difference between a contour brush and a lip brush, but you know a talented make-up artist. Referring customers adds to your base, not subtracts. Customers might feel loyalty to you and your service, but they may be looking for someone to meet their other pain points. If you can make their lives easier with a solid referral, you will have a thriving business.
On average, it takes seven impressions of a brand before people start to think of it as credible. The faster potential customers see you, the faster your business gains credibility. Even in established brands such as Altoids, they roll out new products by trying to make several impressions in quick succession. In 2006, Altoids offered chocolate mints that had an interesting texture and flavor. To overcome the unfamiliarity of a chocolate mint, their marketing team hit the streets, giving them out in supermarkets and when commuters got off mass transportation. While the product ultimately did not succeed, Altoids did make a huge effort to familiarize the product by giving people the opportunity to try the sweet. Make sure to include your branding, including your logo, in as much partnered material as possible.
Joining forces with a non-competing business allows you the opportunity to thrive. Make sure you are thorough in your research for potential associations and expect great results.