Partnerships. Why aren't you using them?

Making money through partnerships

Finding and Creating Strategic Partnerships for Your Business

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Take a step back from your laptop and dashboards and think about what your customers are really like. Instead of asking why they would buy your product, or how to convince them you’re good, start with: what else does our target audience consume?

Chances are that the reasons someone would buy your product or service, the thing that motivates them to do so, are the same reasons they also buy from another complementary category. If they’re in the market for a gym membership, they’re probably open to healthy eating solutions.

Complementary businesses offer referral based acquisition opportunities for organisations of any size. When implemented and managed effectively they can be an absolutely game changing part of your growth strategy.

Today, we’re going to tell you how to strike gold with partnerships, based on our real world experience.

Identifying Partnership Opportunities

This is most important, and often hardest, step in the partnership process. In order to successfully appeal to both the partner business and your target customers, the partnership needs to feel valuable and natural to all involved — you, your partner, and your customers.

To do this, consider these questions whenever brainstorming partnership models:

  • Is your brand aligned with that of your potential business partner?

  • Can both businesses benefit from the partnership?

  • Is the partnership relevant? In other words, is there crossover in the target audiences of your and the potential partner’s brand?

  • Will you be delivering more value to your customers by striking this partnership?

Going through these questions before proposing the establishment of a partnership will protect your business and give you the best chance of benefiting from the deal.

Partnership Outreach and Set Up

Your approach to partnership outreach will vary based depending on the nature of your business, but the process is similar.

If you’re providing a product or service to the mass market, you won’t be able to establish partnerships unless you reach out to a large number of organisations (like Uber does with bars, clubs, etc.).you can also try  to strike a deal with a couple, or one, large organisation with mass reach.

If you’re targeting a niche group, you’ll be emailing a smaller group of target businesses. They may be online or other businesses in your community, but the only variation to what we’re about to tell you is in step 2 - customising emails. Obviously, in the case of a smaller outreach group, personalisation is a lot easier.

At STB, we’ve established and run many partnership programs. This is general process we follow:

  1. Use a mail merge tool that’s easy and flexible. We like Streak, because it fits straight into our existing email flow and is easy to use. See: Mail merge using Gmail but remember one important thing - you’re limited to ~500 emails per 24 hours, which is part of the reason why you should...

  2. Keep your list small enough to give it a personal feel. With a decent mail merge tool and flexible fields you can create an email that will feel personal, even with a large group of potential partners. Group them by similar business types, creating personas may help, and find a way to make it feel like you’re emailing them 1-1.  

  3. Send the email and follow up on the responses. Use a Google Sheet to track your outreach and responses, and to keep track of the specific partnerships you’ve formed.

PRO tip: email and we’ll give you our market-proven templates and spreadsheet templates, for free.

Proven Partnership Models

All of these models are based on real world partnerships that the team at STB have helped to implement for actual, thriving, businesses.

If you’re in the renovations business, why not partner with lawyers? Law firms are involved with property in many, obvious ways. Small law firms may very well be open to partnerships based on a commission structure, or simply a reciprocal arrangement. You have to be careful to avoid conflicts of interest, but simply placing brochures or business cards in the offices of both businesses, referring each other? Win.

If you sell alcohol, why not partner with florists? Florists and alcohol sellers are both part of organising parties of all kinds. This is a reciprocal partnership where both parties benefit. If I come to you looking to buy flowers for a wedding, you refer me to your partner who can sort me out with wine and beer. If I come to you to buy spirits, you can refer me to your florist for the arrangements I need.

If you create a line of healthy food options, meal plans, or you’re somehow in the business of helping people to eat better, why not partner with personal trainers or gyms? This is another perfect example of a reciprocal partnership. The real benefit here is that if you can secure a partnership with a gym, you may reach a large number of people at once.

Tip: approach a boutique gym operator, with between 1-3 locations. Offer them something of real value such as free trials for their members. Lock it down and watch the referrals roll in.

If you’re in ride-sharing, why not partner with… everyone? It’s no secret that partnerships were one of Uber’s key city launch tactics, proving hugely effective for both Rider and Partner Driver growth. Driver training schools can promote Uber to people getting their commercial or advanced licenses. Clubs and societies can promote Uber to their members. In both situations, the referral feels natural - everyone needs transportation. In return, Uber pays the society in either ride credits or cash.

Monitoring the Partnership

Keeping your partnership details in one place makes for easy tracking and monitoring. Using something like unique promo codes or UTM tags will allow you to identify which sales or signups came from which partnership channels. This is vital if you have a commission based partnership.

Make sure you pay attention to your partner’s business performance. You don’t want to form a partnership with a business that doesn’t serve their customers well. Nor do you want to risk being associated with a brand that does, or seems at risk of developing, a poor brand image.

Establishing partnerships takes some creative thought. Run some brainstorming sessions, identify complementary businesses and then run outreach to set up the partnership. Monitor the effectiveness of your partnerships and if a particular model proves valuable, explore opportunities to scale.

There’s always money in the partnerships stand. No bullshit.

Steffen Rusten