#2: Collaborate and Partner
“My company has assets—knowledge, expertise, know-how, services—that we know benefit clients. But we also don’t have all the financial assets we need to reach potential clients. We don’t want to just survive, we want to grow. That’s why we collaborate and partner with other companies. Simon and Garfunkel’s old song, “I Am a Rock” is not the way to go.”
BQE Customer (Business Consultant), New Jersey
Like a new service opportunity, keeping your eyes open for a possible strategic partner is critical. Your potential collaborator in success has something you need AND you have something they need. You both have something that customers need. Strategic partnerships are all around you—local, state and regional industry, professional and business associations, accounting firms, law firms, consulting firms, competitors, software companies, web sites, and more.
For example, a BQE consultant who specializes in the construction industry, or perhaps engineers and architects who work with contractors every day, might partner with a local association. Deep experience (or extensive research) holds high value. It also gives you credibility. However, if you view this opportunity as a scheme, a one-sided strategy to sell your services to a captive audience, then you’re in for a disappointment. Owners and managers who attend association meetings are skeptical. They expect a sales pitch.
So, be a contrarian: Be up-front and honest. Here’s an example from a BQE Customer and his “pitch” to a local association’s leaders.
“Your association members want to survive and be ready for the next up cycle. You want to help them. They expect you to help them; that’s why they’re members. They don’t want commiseration meetings. They want to walk away from every meeting smiling and thinking: I CAN DO IT! They want you to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel and know it’s not a train bearing down on them.
“And from my side, I need and want them as clients. I want to grow my business. But I’m not a fool. I know most members won’t simply hire me to consult or coach them out of the blue. I need to build credibility and trust. Some will join my group sessions—that’s one of the services I offer, group advisory sessions. It’s cheaper than one-on-one consulting and they learn as much from me as from the others in the group. But for most people, my help will come through their association. I know when the time is right, they will remember me.
“I don’t give sales pitches. That’s my promise to you. Now’s the time to give, not take. That’s good marketing, for you and for me. Whether I speak at a local meeting or the association sponsors an online webinar or I’m talking with a member at a meeting, it’s all about giving. I teach them how to survive until residential and commercial real estate picks up again. I share insights from my experience. I help them become better managers and owners—and to be ready for the next downturn long before it comes.”
Learn from this business coach and consultant. When you see an opportunity to collaborate with another organization, remember three key rules:
- Only seek marketing partnerships with organizations that you would have no problem referring your best clients to.
- It must be Win-Win-Win. Partners’ mutual self-interests must benefit each other, but most important, the collaboration must first and foremost benefit the client.
- Document your understanding. Sometimes this might be a written agreement. More often you will know you’re dealing with honest, forthright people. Emails, letters, a proposal or a simple ‘Letter of Understanding’ may be all that’s needed. They make sure everyone is on the same page.