You can get a lot more leverage from your business networking efforts if you work on building relationships with strategic alliance partners. When done effectively you’ll get more regular and predictable referrals from these strategic alliances then from any other source.
In just about any business there are natural referral partners. A real estate agent needs a mortgage broker and an inspector. A financial planner needs a CPA or accountant and an attorney. A graphic designer might need a marketing consultant or a copy writer. You get the picture.
By finding a core group of these complimentary businesses you can all help each other grow by bringing each other into new deals. You win because you’ll be getting business you might not have even known about otherwise, and your customer wins by working with professionals who are used to working together.
Building your strategic alliance network doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by identifying the types of products or services that you don’t offer that your clients consistently ask you about. If you’re a computer consultant and your clients are always asking if you know a good web designer or telephone systems vendor start there. You’ll already have something to offer to the potential partners you approach.
It’s very important that you choose solid trustworthy partners. You’ll be putting your reputation on the line every time you refer one of these people to your customer. A good rule of thumb is to only work with others that you would trust with your own business, or to help your mother, or best friend.
You can either build relationships with these potential partners one on one, or bring them all together in a private networking group where you can all learn to work together. Personally I prefer to combine these two approaches. Bring everyone together and you’ll be helping everyone else out that much more. In addition, continue to build a strong relationship with each individual so that they know they can trust you with their referrals.
The details of every strategic alliance are up to you. You might choose to pay a referral fee or share a percentage of your revenue (if that’s legal in your industry, you may need to check with your business attorney to be sure). You might just decide to refer business to each other and know that in the end it’ll work out. Working together you may also find that there are some great opportunities for cooperative advertising or working a trade show booth together. It’s up to you and your new strategic partner.
Being successful in business is all about taking action. Reading about taking your networking to the next level and building strategic alliances is useless unless you act on it. Take a few minutes right now to think about the type of businesses you could build a strategic alliance with. Now, pick up the phone!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Scott Ingram is the founder of NetworkInAustin.com a networking resource for networkers in Austin, Texas who use networking as a business development and marketing strategy. You can find many of these entrepreneurs, executives, and other professionals in the Austin Business Directory . Scott also posts regularly to his Business Networking Blog where you can find more business and networking tips.
When he's not out networking at the local Chamber of Commerce luncheon or after hours mixer you'll find Scott on the running trails near Downtown Austin. Right now he's also spending a lot of time with his wife, Emily, as they're expecting their first child very soon.