Using Strategic Partners to Grow Your Marketing Practice
One of the most overlooked sources of leads for consultants is the valuable pool of non-competing businesses that serve the same target market.
By identifying a group of “best-in-class” providers in your market and finding ways to gain access to their customer base, you’ll be able to quickly flood your business with new opportunities.
Many consultants get this idea but few tap into this approach to the full extent.
For the right business, a strategy created to make your business irresistible to potential strategic partners may produce the greatest ROI of any marketing activity.
In order to build a powerful referral network you must adopt the proper point of view, and in this case, the point of view should be that of your client. As you identify and recruit members to be part of your team, filter your list based on this question: “Would I feel 100% confident referring my best client to this business?” If the answer is no, then don’t consider making them a strategic partner.
If you adopt that mindset, you will never add a referral partner based on what you think they can do for you—and that distinction is huge. Always ask yourself what a potential relationship might mean for your client. By doing this, you will most likely stay on the right track.
One of the most important things you can do to increase your value in the eyes of your clients is to teach and be a resource for all your client’s needs, even if they may be unrelated to what you sell or provide. If you can become known as the go-to provider for any need under the sun, you’ll be able to secure your spot in the minds of your clients and future clients.
Below is a systematic approach I use for doing just that.
Identify the partners you would like to attract. Some of these potential matches may come from your own experiences and research, but your clients can also be a great source of suggestions. Ask them about other businesses they’d like for you to partner with.
Build a list of first-rate providers as though you were going to pitch them to your best clients. This will help you ensure that you’re only working with the best of the best.
Once you have your initial list of candidates, it’s time to reach out and introduce yourself (when applicable) and your idea for partnering. This is an important step and unfortunately, it’s one that many get wrong. Instead of simply cold calling these prospects and suggesting you could work together, reach out and ask them to show you the best way to introduce them to your customers. If you are recruiting potential partners that your clients recommended make the common connection between your shared clients a starting point.
When you make this type of invitation, you get their attention in a way that could be beneficial to them, which will make all the difference in helping you stand out.
Perfect the Introduction in Reverse process
The perfect introduction is a tool that I use as a way to properly educate referral sources. It gives the referral source a clear picture of the ideal target client, a way to communicate what you do, and the comfort of knowing how you work with prospects. This is something that we have most of our clients complete and use in their own businesses as part of their referral lead generation processes.
The Perfect Introduction in Reverse uses this tool as a way to recruit referral network partners. It is a very low-key way to find good referral sources and introduce your business in a creative way.
It works because you won’t simply try to introduce your business to this potential partner – you are going to do a reverse introduction. In other words, you are going to reach out to them and ask them to introduce their business to you with the idea that you could refer them to your network. Make sense?
This is why it is so important that no one is on your list unless you are serious about referring business to them.
Sample copy might include:
“Our shared client told us we should get in touch with you, so I wanted to reach out! We have clients that we believe can benefit from your services. We’d love it if you would teach us the best way to introduce you to them. We’ve included a document that will help you outline the best ways for us to refer you to others and have included one of our own for reference…”
Steps for a systematic approach
For those of you who follow my blog, it will come at no surprise that I have a system I use to approach all of this. The steps I follow include:
- Creating a list of potential referral sources (I’d aim for 20-30). These should be businesses that work with small business owners, and that you either know or assume operate in a way that would make you confident in referring them to your clients and network. (Think loan officers, insurance, financial planners, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers, web designers, software companies, computer consultants, leadership and HR trainers, sales trainers and so on).
- Reach out with a perfect introduction letter.
- Keeping track of phone calls, returned forms, and files for later use.
- Following-up with responsive prospects to learn more about their business and help them better understand what you have to offer.
As you continue building partnerships, you’ll find that some don’t last long whereas others are active and extremely beneficial for your business. For the latter, create a formal structure to include co-marketing, cross-linking, reviews, and co-hosted events.
Once you have a system in place that works for you, reaching out to potential partners will be far less daunting.
Are you using strategic partnerships within your business? What advice would you give for initial outreach?
If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Building a Small Business Marketing Consulting Practice.