First things first… what is a strategic alliance?
A strategic alliance, quite simply, is a win/win arrangement between two or more people; it is mutually beneficial to all parties concerned. These partnerships can be referred to by numerous names – strategic alliances, joint ventures, joint alliances. Regardless of what you call them, they should all be based on relationship building.
When thinking about who you can partner with, begin by knowing who your ideal customer is; who is your target market? Now, who else do you know who also provides services/products to this market? (Apart from your competitors!)
Then it’s just a matter of coming up with some ideas to share your marketing strategies. There are countless ways you can work with your strategic alliance partners to help each other’s businesses. These include:
- Promote yourselves jointly to the marketplace via joint seminars or other co-operative promotions;
- Join complementary products / services together and offer them as a package;
- Write articles for each others newsletter;
- Arrange for aligned businesses to write to their clients endorsing your business and making their clients a special offer, and you can do the same for them;
- Piggy back a special offer inside their mailouts to their clients;
- Arrange for them to incorporate your products/services into their sales process e.g. if you’re an accountant, you might actively recommend a solicitor as part of the service you provide;
- Arrange for links to and from each other’s web sites;
- Create a ‘how to’ booklet and badge it “Created especially for clients of XYZ & Co.” XYZ & Co. can gift it to their clients;
- Develop a formalised alliance, or an affiliate, where each party receives an affiliate fee or a ‘spotter’s fee’ for referring business your way;
- Look at producing joint/group offers, brochures, trade stands;
- Don’t limit yourself with geographical boundaries – look at National and International alliances too.
An ideal example of a group alliance is where several businesses within the wedding industry – a wedding boutique, function centre, photographer, limousine service and florist – form an alliance and combine their marketing efforts.
There’s nothing wrong with recommending products in exchange for a fee or being an affiliate – that’s a form of strategic alliance. However, make sure you know what you’re recommending. I often recommend products, services, events, software – that’s just what I do – but only if I truly believe in them and the company/owner. Remember, your own reputation is on the line here.
In negotiating your strategic alliances, remember that this is a relationship and not a transaction; it’s supposed to be win/win for each party involved, including your and their customers. Focus on how, together, you can help your customers by providing value-added services/products. If this is your focus, your business will, in turn, profit financially too.
No matter how well your business is doing right now – no matter what industry you are in; whether you have a business (online or offline) or not – you can apply this concept.