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Business Partnerships – What Can We Learn From Them?

Something exciting recently happened in Australia. The online restaurant booking company, announced a partnership with Uber, the limousine driving service that has created quite the buzz all over the world, as a replacement for personal driving, taxi cabs, or other modes of transportation in congested urban areas. This partnership is really the perfect match. Now, diners can book their reservations as well as their transportation, all in one place. Of course, to launch their partnership, and Uber are offering all kinds of special deals.

What Small Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups Can Learn From Partnership Stories

The concept of strategic partnerships and/or cross-over marketing is not new. Consider any of the major travel sites – you can book your airline, rent a car, make your hotel reservations, and even purchase advance tickets to entertainment venues, all in one spot. Many small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs may not have even thought of strategic partnerships as potential ventures; but, indeed, with some creative thought and a bit of solid, committed legwork, they can establish partnerships that may be the difference between survival and death or between just “making it” and thriving.


And with 500,000 new startups a year in the United States alone (that’s one a minute), there will be plenty of possibilities. If a budding entrepreneur can partner with a related business, think of the possibilities – they can refer each other to their existing customers with the potential for both to “double” their customer base; they can piggyback on services just like Yum Table and Uber. The possibilities could be almost limitless. So, how to go about establishing these strategic partnerships? Read on.

Tips and Strategies for Forming Strategic Partnerships

1. Do Some Serious Brainstorming: Your first step is to “push” your creative buttons. Identify all of those types of businesses with which you might have mutual customers. You can probably identify 25-50 easily. Start by looking for businesses within your larger industry. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • You own a small real estate agency – perhaps you and 3 other agents. You haven’t been in business long, but you hope to continue to grow, as your reputation becomes known and your “brand” trusted. Who can you partner with that will give your business a boost and at the same time boost theirs? How about handyman services, painting companies, landscape companies? How about local appraisers and small mortgage brokerages? Think of the possibilities.
  • When you are called to a home as a possible listing, you will probably take a tour and give the client some tips on things that should be done to make the house more appealing and therefore more “sellable.” Here is where you pass out the cards of your partners – that fix-it company, that painter, and that landscaper.
  • Home improvement/repair companies are often called upon to make those repairs and improvements, as people are getting ready to put their homes on the market, although they have not yet done so. Those companies can refer these potential clients to you.
  • The same kinds of cross-over marketing can occur with appraisers and mortgage brokers. And, ultimately, there can be a larger partnership with all of you recommending one another exclusively.
  • You own a restaurant in a localized area. Is there a movie theater nearby? People who frequent that movie theater will all be relatively localized as well. The opportunity for a mutually beneficial partnership is an easy one to envision. Movie ticket sales come with special pricing at your restaurant. Customers who dine with you get discounts on movie tickets. Now expand that thinking to concert venues, local motels/hotels, local attractions (a zoo, any of the new kids’ play venues, etc.). Is there a local specialty wine and cheese shop? You can feature their wine in your restaurant, and, in turn, they can open up a refrigerated or frozen section in their shop featuring some of you great desserts.

Making that Contact: Now you have your list of businesses, and you need to reach out to them. This is not the time for timidity – you must be pretty aggressive. Get on LinkedIn and find out what you can about the owners; get on their social media pages and learn what you can; study their websites. You need names, contact information, and a full understanding of the all that the business does. You will have to make those contacts – perhaps there is a way to contact the owner through his/her website; perhaps you can dig around on LinkedIn and find someone you know mutually; sometimes, it means calling until you get that owner on the line and making an appointment. This is like an initial “cold” sales call, and you cannot allow initial rejection to stop you.

1. Make the Proposal: You will need to do this verbally, but you will also need to have written back-up – particularly a listing of all of the ways in which the two of you can partner for mutual benefit. The key here is to be simplistic. Perhaps the two of you can engage in cross-referral; maybe you can feature each other in newsletters or conduct a cross-blogging campaign; you can refer each other on your social media pages; and, of course, you can make face-to-face referrals with your customers.


2. Put Your Agreement in Writing: This should be a really informal written agreement of what each of you agrees to do. A good idea is to set a time frame for these initial partnership activities, so that you can see how it goes, and then come back together to determine success and/or modifications that may need to be made. If, at any time, you believe that your “partner” is not 100% committed, you need to either make changes or find another partner. If both parties are not fully committed, it will not work.

3. Add More Partners as You Go: These may be partners for you exclusively or they may be partners for all of your other partners as well. In fact, you could end up with an entire network of partnerships, with everyone growing each others businesses. Think Travelocity for example!

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