It’s hard to grow when you’re small. Without a marketing budget you can’t attract new customers. Right?
There’s no question that a decent marketing budget goes a long way to getting sales. But it’s not the only way to grow. One of the most overlooked ways to find new sales opportunities is to partner with other companies. And it’s as simple as reaching out to connect with someone new.
Contacting a stranger to explore partner opportunities might sound a bit intimidating. But approach them with the intent to add tons of value to their company, then they’ll be happy to hear from you.
Three simple questions
A successful partner program happens when everyone wins. That means you have to think about things from the other person’s point of view. Start by answering these three simple questions.
1. Who are my natural buyers?
Making sales is a lot easier when you’ve defined the people who are most likely to buy from you. In theory a painter can sell a painting to anyone. But in practice they need to connect with people that have homes AND disposable income.
A wedding photographer needs to connect with people who plan to get married.
An accountant needs to connect with people who want to open their own business.
And so on. So, who do you need to meet?
2. Who shares my audience?
When you know who your buyers are, you probably know how they spend their time. Make a list of all the shops, clubs, online stores, restaurants, and online communities where your best buyers are likely to show up.
3. What do they want?
Once you know where your customers hang out, consider how to help the person in charge. What keeps them awake at night?
Remember, what’s important to you may not be important to them. So brainstorm ideas that go beyond just monetary considerations.
When you know what they want, then you’ll know why they’ll take you seriously.
Start with an email
There are lots of fun ways to structure partnership opportunities. All you need is a boatload of creativity, and an understanding of what your partner might need.
Not everyone will give you the time of day. But sometimes it just takes one great partner to take your business to the next level.
Offering to collaborate is best done in person. And if your target partner isn’t local then you’ll want to speak by phone. But just dropping in on someone isn’t polite, and you may not know their phone number. So it makes sense to reach out via email to arrange a visit or phone call.
But what do you say that will get you a response?
If you have a large pool of potential partners then you could try different types of messaging to see which one works best. If not, you’ve got to make sure your first email is a winner.
Remember, just because someone doesn’t respond doesn’t mean you can’t send them another email a few days later. At Sales Higher we consistently see responses come in after the 3rd reminder has been sent. Just be sure to treat other people’s inbox with courtesy!
Keep your email short. You don’t need more than 100 words to explain why they should be interested, and ask for a meeting. Focus your message on your prospective partner’s number one priority. The owner of a website might be looking for ways to better monetize their email list. While the owner of a pet store might want to meet dog owners. The more focused you are on what your partner actually wants, the more likely they are to reply to your email.
There are so many ways to connect and partner with other businesses. All it takes is a dash of creativity, and being open to contacting a stranger. Here are a couple of ways to craft a partnership program to get you started:
Unused Capacity: If you need something to grow that someone else has then they may be open to sharing. This works well when there is little or no cost to themselves, and lots of potential upside.
A dance studio that teaches children after school might be happy to let you use their facility to teach mommy yoga at a low fee. They know the mommies have young children who are the right age to start after school dance classes.
A painter can ask a posh hotel or high-end restaurant to hang her paintings. The establishment gets expensive art on the walls, and can earn a commission on any sales that result from their display. On top of that, they can save a small fortune on decorating expenses.
Combined Impact: Some types of work go together like peanut butter and jelly. In such cases, it only makes sense to explore partnerships.
Consider an architect, roofer, electrician, plumber, and builder. They can all get jobs independently from one another. But together they can build a whole house! They are more valuable in aggregate than as individuals.
This principle holds true in many industries. Consider a marketer and a web designer. New websites are useless without any marketing. And marketers need new pages and graphics to support their marketing efforts. Together they can provide more value than they could alone.
Shared Audience: A lot of businesses share the same audience with another firm, that isn’t a direct competitor.
A family doctor with extra office space in a high traffic spot may be reticent to share rent with a fellow GP. But a dentist would make an excellent partner. They have the same target clients and can drive exposure for one another.
Compensated Referrals: Business partnerships wouldn’t be complete without mentioning direct compensation as a form of partnership.
If you have a transactional product or service then you should pay your partner on a per sale basis. If your sales cycle is more than a few days then consider paying partners for each introduction they make.
If you work in commercial real estate then you may want to partner with an accountant who specializes in helping new businesses incorporate. They can introduce you as their in-house real estate advisor. It adds a sense of ‘gravitas’ to their firm. And they can earn a referral fee for every qualified introduction.
A great partner might be someone with an email list full of high quality prospects. They can’t share their email list with you. But you can come to an arrangement where they mention promote your solutions and are compensated on a pay per outcome basis.
The perfect way to grow
Connecting with your natural partners is the perfect way to grow your business. There is often no cost at all. And the payoff can be huge. When you consider how little effort is required on your end, it just makes sense to explore partnering as a way to grow your business.
Aside from delivering a high ROI, partnerships are sometimes the best way to access valuable insights, connections and experience. Your partners will have experiences you have yet to learn. And in many cases they can offer guidance on your venture.
So don’t be shy. Think hard about who has what you need. And how you can best help them succeed. When you know that, there’s no limit to how many sales you can make.
About the author
Matthew Murray is the director of Sales Higher, a B2B lead generation firm. They do all the prospecting, so you can focus on landing deals.