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Businesses of any size can take advantage of a strategic partner. From the seed of a start-up to a large Fortune 500 company, there are many reasons to take on strategic partners.

"Partnering has proven itself one of the most powerful business tools for dealing with fast changing markets, technologies and customers. As the global economy speeds up, partnering is becoming the weapon of choice for today's successful competitors." -Curtis E. Sahakian

Strategic partnerships come in all shapes and sizes. Understand which partnership will benefit you the most and find the best fit for your company.

Strategic Marketing Partnership

These can be very informal (a referral agreement) or more complicated and formal. It could be an attorney who teams up with an insurance agent to refer business to each other—the agreement isn’t complicated, just a beneficial relationship between two individuals. More complicated versions could look like the specifically branded content Yahoo provided for Starbucks to use in their locations.

Take action: This is a great way to get your name out there. Think of individuals or businesses with a customer base you could also target (i.e. gyms if you sell organic food). Then reach out to them and see if you can find something that is mutually beneficial.

Affiliate Partnership

Affiliate partnerships or affiliate marketing rewards your partners financially for the clients they bring you. It could be a lump sum, or a percentage of the sale that is made based on their referral. These kind of programs are especially nice for small businesses because there is little risk involved—you only pay your affiliates when they deliver.

Take action: Brainstorm some ideas of how you could be using an affiliate partnership. It could be individuals or businesses who act as affiliates. Does this sound like something that could benefit you and that you could operate without any major expenses? It may be time to make a plan!

Co-Branded Partnership

A co-branded partnership works when two brands join their respective reputations to influence more consumers to buy from them. You can see this all the time with popular brands—Nike and Apple teaming up for their iPod + NIKE kits to connect shoes to iPods, Martha Stewart and Macys, and a number of professional sports arenas named for a specific company. Both partners work to market the products and combine their efforts for boosted results.

Take action: Co-branding isn’t necessarily for big brands. But maybe you can think of a business on par with yours that might appeal to a target market you’ve been trying to break into. Be creative! Maybe you can work with them to create a co-branded product or service that will get your names out there to new audiences.

Strategic Supply Chain Partnership

Is there a part of your service or product that could be made or created by a dedicated facility for less than it’s costing you to do in-house? Like Intel, who manufactures processors and has agreements with a number of computer companies, your business could leverage a partnership to save energy, money, and time.

Take action: Break down your own supply chain. Think about the different parts and pieces. Could any of it be outsourced to a dedicated firm? Would that be cheaper? If so, it may be time to research and see if you can find a partner.

Strategic Integration Partnership

Usually for software programs or software and hardware companies, the integration is often called “bundling”. Think about the computers you buy with software pre-loaded, or if you use a customer relationship management tool (CRM), they often have different integrations worked into the program.

Take action: If you are a software or development company, brainstorm some ideas of companies you could integrate with. What would that look like? What’s the benefit to them? Then do some research and see if it’s worth pursuing!

Strategic Technology or Financial Partnership

I’m going to guess that unless you are an IT company (and maybe even if you are), you need some sort of IT support to keep things going in your office. Whether it’s printing, your network, or even cloud file storage, we all need IT—and support to go with it.

Same goes for a financial partnership: many businesses will outsource their bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, and other money-related tasks to a dedicated accounting firm. This saves time and energy as well as giving your business finances full attention.

Take action: Do you have some IT pain points? How much time do you waste each week trying to fix it on your own? Could someone help iron out the kinks and get you back up and running faster? Do you hate bookkeeping? Are you bad at it? Does your cashflow need a professional glance? It might be time to track down a good IT company or accountant.

Strategic Financial Partnership

A financial partnership could take several shapes, but commonly an agreement forms between a smaller, niche company and a larger organization. The large company provides capital, marketing, and other resources to the smaller group that may provide technical or creative expertise, or may be building a new product.

Take action: Do you need resources that a larger organization could provide to build a prototype or get your idea off the ground? There are lots of groups who have programs for inventors and small businesses. Take a look around and see if this type of financial partnership will work for you!

Want more details on strategic partnerships? Sign up today for my webinar: Grow Your Business with Strategic Partnerships.

About the Author(s)

 Shelagh  Cummins

Shelagh Cummins is sought after speaker, consultant and trainer for entrepreneurial women who are ready to own their time, double their income and accelerate business growth.

Co-founder, Mom Biz
partnership puzzle pieces