If you have an Internet business, particularly a small one, forging partnerships with companies in related markets is an important marketing strategy to raise awareness for your business and to expand your own client base.
This may sounds like a fantastic idea, but how do you go about building these partnerships? It seems so daunting . . . if you’re just a small niche market business, how can you help anyone else and why would they want to partner with you?
These are valid questions and concerns, but forging a strategic alliance isn’t as difficult as it may initially appear to be. The Internet is full of small, niche market businesses, so while daunting, it is not a far fetched idea to think that a company of a similar size to yours would welcome an alliance with you, and that you would be able to help one another.
The first step towards embarking upon a strategic marketing alliance is to select a company who is not a direct competitor of yours, that wouldn’t serve either one of you very well, but to choose a company whose interests run similar to your own, without being a direct competitor.
The first step to figuring out what these businesses might be is to assess your own target market. You must know whom your business appeals to before you can embark on deciding who might be interested in a similar client base.
You first must ask yourself a few simple questions:
- What is the average age of your clients?
- What are their occupations?
- What is their income range?
- What other interests do they have?
- What are some other products or services that are compatible with mine?
If you don’t have immediate answers to these questions, it is time to create a market survey to address these questions, or to simply inventory your client roster and compile some basic data. The occupation and income range may not be relevant information to your business, if you deal in luxury goods, it will of course matter, but if you deal in refrigerators or stoves, or something that everyone at some point needs to purchase, income is a less telling metric. Questions 1, 4 and 5 may be the most helpful in targeting potential partners for smaller Internet businesses.
The Next Step
Once you have identified your target market, and a product or service that may be a good accompaniment to yours, what do you do next?
Let’s say for instance, that your company rents designer wedding gowns. The occupation and income, as stated above, are less important considerations than questions 1 and 5. It naturally follows that someone in need of a wedding dress may also be in need of a caterer, photographer or wedding planner. In this instance, question number 5 is the most important consideration, but the age of your clients may also be important. Will a young couple prefer a young photographer? Will an older couple prefer an older more established photographer? Perhaps.
In this case, your next step will be to contact some photographers, caterers and wedding planers to propose a referral agreement, or even to exchange mailing lists and client lists. It is also important to seek alliances with a variety of companies in terms of age, and establishment: some clients will distinctly want an experienced photographer, while some will be willing to take a chance on a newer professional.
Forming a strategic alliance can be an integral part to the marketing and ultimate success of your business. The first step is to know your client base, so you can target and appropriate partner. Don’t be intimidated by approaching companies with which to forge an alliance, ideally this is a partnership – something from which both parties will benefit equally.