Are you looking to grow your business, gain a few more clients or expand your skill set?
Forming a strategic partnership with a like-minded business could be a creative and cost-effective way to do it.
No doubt you have valuable services, talent and/or resources that you can share in return for help in an area that you need it so it will be a win-win situation for both parties.
It’s better together
Particularly if you’re a small business, it’s easy to feel restricted by lack of time, resources and tight budgets. If you work on your own then sometimes it can be lonely – the creative juices can dry up and motivation to win new business can wain.
But of course, there are many other businesses in similar situations, lots who you probably already have in your network. Consider opportunities that you might have closer to home for collaboration or cross-promotion where two (or more) heads will be better than one.
What to look for in a potential partner
- Someone who is already part of your network or has come recommended.
- A business with goals and values that align with your own.
- Where is the overlap, for example, a matching target audience? What can you offer to each other?
- Good communication is essential – be honest with each other about your expectations.
- Be prepared to cultivate the relationship – learn and grow together.
7 brilliant business partnership ideas
Idea 1: Service or skill swap
How it works: Identify a service or skill that your business would benefit from acquiring, find a relevant provider and offer them a contra-deal of your services in return.
Example: A client of yours runs a marketing company and you need help running your social media channels – offer to exchange accounting services of a similar value.
Idea 2: Sharing resources
How it works: Club together with another business to share the costs of resources like equipment, premises or admin staff.
Example: Two sole traders currently working from home expand into a rented office space together.
Idea 3: Advertise together
How it works: Split the costs for advertising or marketing by sharing the space.
Example: At an event for SMEs, share a trade stand with a legal company where you both offer packages for startups.
Idea 4: Cross-promote to customers
How it works: Both businesses go out to their database with a special offer from the other.
Example: Team up with your local printers to offer a special offer to their clients and in return promote one for them to yours.
Idea 5: Expansion of services
How it works: Grow your business and improve your customer offering by collaborating with another business in the same industry who offer a complementary service.
Example: Find a local business with a service that you don’t offer (for example, bookkeeping) to offer a full service to your clients for managing their finances (and so the bookkeeping business can do the same to their clients by using your services).
Idea 6: Share content
How it works: Build a network online where you share each other’s content.
Example: Twitter is great for finding like-minded businesses – start sharing their tweets and blogs and you’ll get the same in return. When you have more established relationships you can guest blog for one another or be interviewed on their podcast.
Idea 7: Create something brand new together
How it works: Let the creativity flow with your new partner.
Example: Team up with a freelance designer to start a co working space or networking group for local businesses.
The first steps to finding that perfect partner
- Adopt an open attitude to new opportunities – don’t restrict your possibilities and be prepared to relinquish a bit of control.
- Explore existing business relationships and friendships – these are more likely to be fruitful than cold calling potential partners.
- When you network, do it with finding new partners in mind, as well as new clients. Keep an eye out for partners on business courses and at industry events.
- Make contact – get in touch and propose a trial partnership.
- Go with your gut instinct – if something doesn’t feel right it’s probably not.
- Try out different partners and don’t be disheartened if the first one doesn’t work out – it’s all part of the learning curve.
Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include lastminute.com Group and the Coca-Cola London Eye.