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Growing Your Small Business Through Alliances and Joint Ventures
-- Beyond Cold Calling, "Warm" Calling and Sending E-mails --
Many Solo Entrepreneurs work from a home office. Our only connections to the outside world are the internet / e-mail and the telephone. Cold calling, "warm" calling and sending e-mails may seem like the most obvious way to let people know about us and to generate sales. But, there's another way that works even better.
An alliance is usually an agreement between two businesses whose services or products compliment each other. Each agrees to recommend the other's services to their respective clients and to pay a percentage to the other if the referral results in paying work. Let's say you're a marketing expert, but you don't do public relations. However, sometimes your clients require public relations as part of their marketing strategy. You meet with several public relations experts who specialize in different fields, but who don't offer your type of marketing services, and you form 3 alliances. A 10% commission is what you agree on for mutual referrals that result in work. Now, both you and your alliance partners are more "full service" providers. You can offer PR services to your clients and your partners can offer marketing services to theirs through you. In addition you could add them as "partners" on your website, giving your company the advantage and versatility of an expert team. It's a win - win situation.
A joint venture is formed when you not only have an alliance but you come up with a strategy to find customers together. Suppose you make custom window treatments. You decide to speak to a local fabric shop that specializes in upholstery and window fabric. If you could be their exclusive referral for customers that need someone to make their fabric into beautiful draperies, and you are willing to pay them a commission for each referral, what happens? They can say they now offer a new value-added service to their customers, which may mean a customer chooses their store above another. You have a steady source of customers. You may even get them to display some of your draperies made with their fabric in your store. They agree to allow you to advertise in their store, perhaps even offer a workshop, and you'll recommend them exclusively to your clients. You may even advertise together. The possibilities are limitless.
There are numerous ways to put together alliances and joint ventures. Thinking outside the box and being clear about what benefits both parties would receive are essential. As always, getting the agreement in writing is a good idea, as is being sure the person you're dealing with is honorable and reliable. And try to discover ALL the alliance possibilities that exist for your business. Our custom window treatment business owner above could also contact interior designers, furniture stores, residential real estate agents, home builders sales offices and even paint stores. So, what are you waiting for? Start today by:
-- Making a list of at least 5 prospective alliance partners.
-- Making a list of 5 ways the alliance would benefit them and you.
-- Making a list of 5 ways you could implement the alliance. start making contact!
One Final Note - some people have asked whether or not to disclose the partnership to the client. Sometimes it's obvious that you are referring a client to your alliance partner, as in the case of the drapery maker and the fabric store. If it's not so apparent, you may want to simply inform your client that you will be working with your alliance partner who is an expert in their field. For the sake of consistency, how much to explain to a client is something that you and your partner should agree upon up front.
Copyright 2003, Janis Pettit
Janis Pettit member of Team Solo-E (http://www.Solo-E.com) and President of SmarTrack (http://www.smartrack.net), which specializes in improving profit and productivity through small business marketing and growth consulting, business coaching, workshops and tele-classes. Janis is co-author of 136 Ways to Market Your Small Business. Her dynamic Big Vision Roadmap series includes a Mastery Program for small business, Big Vision Roadmap to Sales, Big Vision Marketing and Leadership, plus an upcoming book. In addition to owning four successful businesses over the last 18 years, Janis has worked with scores of small businesses owners and independent agents, as well as larger corporate clients such as IBM and Becton Dickinson. She hosted her own TV business talk show in New York, has motivated hundreds of professionals through public speaking and workshops and her articles have been published both locally and internationally. Janis can be reached at 919-562-2280.
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