Synergize, Collaborate and Conquer
Let’s face it: In order to grow, and even survive, a business must continually be marketing itself to its marketplace.
But advertising and marketing are expensive. Many businesses don’t promote much because they fear the reward will not justify the risk of an extended campaign. Yet everything we read on the subject, including many research studies, tells us an extended campaign eventually will bring a profitable return on investment. The word eventually is the problem since many small businesses cannot afford (or don’t think they can afford) to bankroll a campaign while waiting for eventually to show up in the form of buyers waving fistfuls of cash.
Enter the concept of synergy or strategic alliance marketing. Merriam-Webster defines synergy as “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts).”
In plain language, synergy happens when a group of compatible (and non-competing) businesses combine their efforts and promotional budgets to create marketing events or promotions far larger than either could put on individually.
This type of thing happens formally all the time. Locally there are many business expos, home and garden shows, fishing fairs, etc. Typically they are organized by chambers of commerce and other business organizations.
While the total cost of these events is substantial, when split by the participating companies, it is far less costly than it would be if each marketed separately, and the size of the event coupled with a hefty marketing effort can attract much larger interest among prospects and customers.
But creating synergistic marketing doesn’t need to be a formal affair; it also can be successfully done on a much smaller, more informal scale.
Imagine that businesses, which sell complementary, non-competitive products or services, put on a sale or informational event. Each business promotes to its own customers and prospects. Additionally each advertises in appropriate media to the greater population.
They share in other expenses, dividing the costs in some equitable manner. The advantages are that each business exposes their customers and prospects to the other businesses’; together the group of businesses is able to promote itself in a better manner than each could do on its own.
The logic works something like this:
- A carpet cleaner serves a particular demographic market.
- Geography you serve,
- Customer income level and lifestyle,
- Your level of quality and pricing.
- The carpet cleaner seeks “marketing partner(s)” who serve the same demographic market, providing a ccomplementary non-competitive service.
- Together they can:
- Share customer databases and promote all businesses by email and mail advertisements,
- Create an event in which participating “marketing partners” can promote themselves (particularly effective when the event is aligned with a local charity and the charity markets to its database).
Here is an example of one such relationship:
A carpet cleaner becomes a marketing partner with a lawn care company and a heating /air conditioning company. None of them compete in any way with each other. They all sell their services to home owners in the same local area. Their pricing and quality levels are similar.
They compose a letter, and each company sends it (either email or real mail) to its customers on its own stationary. The carpet cleaner’s letter says:
As a thank you to my valued customers, I have partnered with Perfect Cut Lawn Care and Total Comfort Heating and Air Conditioning and would like to introduce you to these two companies who, like me, provide high-quality, high-value services. I’ve known the owners for years and am confident they will prove themselves as professionals and experts in their fields. I know that if you like doing business with me, you will have a similar experience with them.
Both have created money-saving promotions for my customers, and I’ve attached coupons for your first service call with these companies.
When you have need for lawn care or heating/air conditioning services, I’m sure you will like doing business with my partners.
The other partners send similar letters to their customer base and include the carpet cleaner’s promotional material and coupons.
There are many business categories of potential marketing partners who serve a similar customer base. Here are just a few off the top of my head:
- Automobile detailing/Car washing,
- Hair styling (men and women),
- House painting,
- Veterinarian/Dog grooming,
- Dry cleaning,
- Home handyman services,
- Deck cleaning and maintenance ,
- Upholstery and furniture restoration.
You can approach businesses you might like to partner with by calling the owner, introducing yourself and briefly telling him or her what you are thinking. If the concept appeals to them, make an appointment to meet and discuss whether you are a good fit for each other.
Of course, if you personally know a potential partner through a networking group or other business association, making that first introduction call will be easier and probably has a higher chance for success.
Naturally there are some significant issues to consider and reach an agreement upon before entering into any association with a potential partner:
Timing: Because there are seasonal issues for all industries, promotions should be planned to take advantage of high- and low-volume seasons.
Budgets: How often will you promote, and how will you split the expenses?
Compensation: It is possible there could be some type of revenue sharing between companies (the company that gets the sale gives a percentage to the company with the customer in its database); however, unless this is very well managed, it could easily become an organizational nightmare that could cause disagreement between partners.
Service standards: All businesses in the partnership should honor the same level of guarantees or warrantees for customer satisfaction.
Insurance: It would be to your advantage to discuss liability issues with your attorney and insurance agent so as to protect yourself and your company from any problems that arise.
While you will probably discover other issues as you start working with other businesses, these issues should be discussed before entering into any agreement.
As I said earlier, a marketing partnership could work with a charity to create a marketing event and invite members of their database as a fundraiser for the local charity. The advantage here is the charity can, and will do, a major amount of promotion for your event. It is another way to make prospects aware of your company and your services.
There are many worthy charities, and they are always looking for opportunities to raise funds for their organizations. With the right team of marketing partners and a popular charity working for you, your business will be exposed to new prospects. Most of them need your services, and if you are aligned with the charity they support and you properly promote to them, you will gain new customers.
If you think of this type of association with other businesses in the way airlines partner with hotels and car rental businesses, you can visualize how it can work for you.
Synergize, collaborate, conquer… and GROW!
Larry Galler works with business owners to create management and marketing breakthroughs. Sign up to subscribe to his weekly newsletter and newspaper column at www.larrygaller.com.