It’s no secret that 2 heads are often better than one. That working together can usually solve problems and drive growth faster and farther than if you work alone. Even so, many small and even large businesses are hesitant to work with other companies. Some of the reasons may be fear of sharing secrets, admitting shortcomings, losing customers, or perhaps sharing in the revenue. The truth is, when done right, working with other business can actually help to widen your reach, deepen your knowledge, and strengthen your impact. In other words, business partnerships can drive significant growth for your business!
What is a Collaboration or Business Partnership?
For the purposes of this article, a business collaboration or partnership is when one business works with another business to reach goals or solve problems. We are not talking about a single business with two or more partners. It can be short term or longer term, formal or informal. It really depends on the objectives, as to what type of collaboration or partnership is needed. The key is that each business fills a gap or a need for the other business. We are not talking about hiring an agency or other service company to complete services for your business. Rather both/all businesses have something to gain while working toward a common goal.
Partnerships do not need to be legally binding, they can simply be collaborative. For example, you may start a local business summit in your city where businesses can come together on various topics. Or perhaps you want to meet with other businesses in your category to share insights on the category. Conferences and conventions are a great place to collaborate and work with other businesses in this way.
However, if resources are being contributed by either party, there likely should be a written agreement regarding the terms. For example, if you are partnering with another business on a customer giveaway or other type of promotion, there should be a contract as to the details and terms of the agreement.
Let’s have a look at the types of partnerships and the some ways to use them to drive growth.
Collaborating with businesses that are considered your competitors can be incredibly lucrative. Many businesses look at the competition as if they are the enemy. However, if you change your perspective to one of collaboration vs. competition you can start to see how working together vs. against each other can carve out new niches or grow the category. There is a saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. This means that when the category grows, more customers come in to it or there is more demand for your products or services, everyone stands to gain.
So how do you work collaboratively with your competitors? There are many ways to collaborate, so make sure to first look at where your goals and objectives reside. Have the specific metrics in mind that you will need to see with a collaboration so that you go into any discussions with a clear focus.
Complementary Business Partnerships
A complementary business is one that offers services that support vs. compete with your own. For example, a paper company and a pen company are complementary businesses. A business that sells rugs and a business that cleans rugs are complementary businesses. Complementary businesses can promote each other without cannibalizing each other’s sales, which makes them the more popular choice for partnerships.
Ways to Collaborate or Partner
Here are some ideas collaborating with competitors or partnering with complementary businesses.
Conferences and conventions are a great opportunity to share your success, hear a competitor speak, brainstorm, learn about category trends, and of course, to network! It’s a great way to start discussions without the pressure of having to ‘make of a deal’ or committing to work with someone.
Most businesses today have a communication medium that they use to connect with their customers. Sharing relevant content with their audience can help you to gain new customers. This may be in the form of an article for a competitive blog, asking for a social media post share exchange, or content for their customer emails. Keep in mind, however, if you are selling a competitive service, the content you share has to be worth it to share. It cannot simply be a link back to your site, it must add value and give the other business a reason to share.
Pooling or combining resources, funding, products, services, labor, or knowledge, can help two businesses accomplish more than only one. Examples of where pooling resources can benefit your business are with advertising and promotions. A promotion can be a giveaway, a sampling event, coupons, or other discounts. Complementary partners can run a promotion together to give away free products if customers sign up for a mailing list, for instance. Competitors can work together on advertising. For instance, Miami coworking space businesses, such as Starthub, could work together to advertise the benefits of co-working spaces in Miami. Pooling funding from multiple businesses can result in greater reach and impact.
Another way to collaborate with competitors strike up business partnerships is through mentorship. There are likely businesses that have been around for longer or achieved greater success than you have. Generally, entrepreneurs want to help other entrepreneurs, so reach out! It doesn’t hurt to ask to speak with them. Finding a mentor in the business is a great way to get advice and counsel to help you grow as a business owner. However, be genuine and be clear with what you are asking. Time is precious so you want to make sure that it is work their time to meet with you. If you come off as if you just want all of their secrets, you can forget a response. However, if you offer them something in return, whether it’s simply to buy them lunch and express your admiration for their success, you are more likely to get a response.
Affiliate marketing is tactic where a business provides a commision to other business (affiliates) based on visitors or customers brought by the affiliate. This can be in the form of a % of the sale that the affiliate generates or a conversion rate. In the later, it may be $10 for every new customer converted, for example. As a business owner, you can either launch your own affiliate program where other affiliates will market your business in hopes of driving you new customers for a commission. Or you can join other business affiliate programs.
Launching an affiliate program for your business is a great way to partner with other businesses to promote your business. You can work with Affiliate Networks that can do all of the leg work for you, such as www.ShareaSale.com. Or you can launch your own private affiliate program. The challenge with doing it on your own, is that you will need to ensure you have the proper legal agreements, analytics, and accounting system set up to track, measure, and pay commissions.
Joining other affiliate programs is a great way for incremental revenue if you are a publisher or a website with more content than products or services. If you are interested in this option, you will want to first think about the business that you want to promote. It needs to make sense, be relevant to your audience, and be a fit with your brand and/or identity. If you are interested in joining an affiliate program to further monetize your blog or website, then you can also utilize an affiliate network, such as www.ShareaSale.com. Check out this article from HubSpot to read more about this and see some of the highest paying affiliate programs.
Find Businesses to Partner with
Now that you can see all of the lucrative ways to collaborate or develop business partnerships, you may be asking how to find business partners? Well, the best way is to start to network. If you have a specific business partner in mind, by all means write a pitch to work with them. However, if you are not sure of what direction to go, leverage your business networks, co-working space networks, look at other local businesses, and attend conferences. See what other businesses are doing and get inspired! Start small and see where it goes.
Looking for more ways to grow your business?
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