Building Business Partnerships

A partnership can be defined as a relationship that brings benefits that would not be available to each member alone. Partnerships formed with other local businesses can provide fantastic opportunities for finding new customers. The key is to be very selective in choosing the right partners. A good partner must share the same demographics, dedication to customer service, and focus on building relationships with its client base. That company must offer a service you respect and have the same standards and image that you strive to create. If you can find someone who meets these criteria in your community, you can open the door to many new customers together. Here are a few ideas on making this happen.

Create testimonials for each other

This idea works well for businesses that have built a very trusting relationship with their client bases. When trust exists, customers will value the advice of that business. If you can partner with a business that has this quality, you can offer a testimonial for each other. Here’s how it works. Each business writes a couple paragraphs about its partner and why they enjoy using its service. These testimonials are written from the angle of a happy customer, featuring the aspects of the service that will be valued by their own customers. The idea is to talk about how much you enjoy your partner’s business and why. Then, you send this testimonial to your own clients. Include an introduction like “Here is a place I love to shop with because of __. I thought you might enjoy it, too!”

Working together with another business for mutual support can lead to more business for both of you.

This kind of testimonial is effective because it is being sent to people who share the same buying habits as the customers you already have, and it is being sent by a trusted source. It also has a value to the business sending the testimonial because it is providing a tip on a really great place to shop. The only danger is in picking a partner that cannot deliver the kind of shopping experience that your customers value. If your testimonial leads to a negative experience, you will destroy the trust you have worked hard to build. Exchange the names each of you have sent your testimonials to so that each business can measure how well the program works.

Provide a service for each other

Partner with a business that could use framed art-work on its walls. The key is that it will be viewed by your partner’s customers, and those customers are the type who will buy that art. Make it clear that the art is for sale by placing that message on signs next to the art. Allow customers to purchase the art on the spot and offer free delivery on all purchases. Make delivery and replacement of sold art a priority. This type of partnership works very well with a restaurant that serves customers that have the same demographics as your business.

Promote each other

Provide coupons and brochures to your customers that direct them to your partner. Make sure your team members who give out these materials know why they are giving them out and are prepared to endorse your partner. This promotion cannot be treated with the indifference of merely sticking something in a bag. It must be an enthusiastic offering for it to have a value.

Participate in each other’s events

A great way to be exposed to potential clients is to per-form your service for them. Offer to provide art for a restaurant partner’s wine tasting event. Use the opportunity to help interested prospects learn more about art and framing. Allow your new partner to serve wine to your customers during your next gallery event. This provides a great opportunity for your partner to develop new relationships. Try using the “testimonial” idea by writing your opinion of your partner’s business on a large message board for the event and sign it to show your endorsement.

These kinds of relationships offer a huge opportunity. But like any relationship, it’s only good as long as both parties work at making it better. This cannot be a “set it and forget it” type of relationship. There must be ongoing dialog to keep any of these programs effective. There are going to be times where you get feedback about your partner that is negative. Agree up front to share these comments so they can be used to improve service. Share the victories, too. Let each other know which clients have responded to the program and tried the partner’s service. This will lead to a better understanding of what is working.

If you are thinking that a partnership is a lot of work, you’re right. Done correctly, it involves a lot of training of your staff and ongoing communication with your partner. But where do you find the opportunity to reach many new customers that are highly likely to want your product? Where can you find this kind of potential for almost no cost? Where else can you find something as effective as a trusted testimonial given to people who want what you provide? Yes, a great partnership is a lot of work, but it can be very worthwhile.

How do you find a good partner if you can’t think of one that meets all the essential criteria? The best way is to ask your customers. Collect information about their favorite restaurants, florists, dentists, golf courses, or other local business. It will soon be very clear that a few businesses are mentioned over and over. Personally check out these few to determine their potential as partners. Once you find one that meets the criteria of a good partner and you personally believe in the value of the service, approach the management about a partnership. Remember, the personality of the manager or owner must also fit well with yours if you want a successful long-term relationship. Building something special that works for both businesses can be a great experience.

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