Building mutually beneficial business partnerships for startups

How to find likely partners for your business

Creating a partnership strategy for your business is an effective way to both increase your productivity and reach potential new customers through an existing channel. You want to carefully target other companies with the same target audience, and think strategically about ways you can partner with them–Do you share space at a trade show? Do you send out email invitations on one another’s behalf? There are dozens of things you can do to help one another out, while also increasing your reach to make your company look bigger than it likely is.

We have created some tips on building strong, impactful partnerships. Not all of these are applicable for every business, but there are definitely tips here that all parties involved should take into account.

  1. Never approach someone with a “partnership” idea that is one-sided unless you have a budget. This is not so much a partnership as it is a form of advertising, and some companies simply don’t play in the advertising space. Do your research, talk to people who know someone at the company, and uncover a few of their needs and pain points. You can use these to your advantage if you can help alleviate some of these pains, and you’ll be much more successful in getting your target interested in working with you. If you cannot find a way that the partnership benefits the target, then this is likely a paid opportunity. It doesn’t mean the approach isn’t worth your time–your target may come to you with ways you can help them. But be prepared to pay if they need nothing from you, and you really want to be affiliated with them.

  2. Seek out partnerships with companies of similar size and scope, unless you have a clear advantage that they don’t. If you’re reaching out to partner with a Fortune 500 company, and you’re just hiring a small team, you better have a technological (or other) advantage they don’t have. This is similar to point #1 in that you need to speak to your potential partners in a way that shows working together will be mutually beneficial. If you do have an advantage in one area, be sure to stress this to the potential partner upfront while being complimentary about their business–you need to sell them on you while flattering them.

  3. Think both strategically and creatively. Sure, you have the same target market. It would make sense for you to work together to help build one another’s customer base and/or brand awareness. But there are likely scenarios where your businesses can help one another in ways you haven’t thought of yet. Do you have a PR rep, but limited resources? Your reps can likely share a Cision subscription to cut down on costs. You can also do simple things, such as linking to one another’s websites for added SEO value, passing along any speaking opportunities that may make sense for your partner company, or helping spread the word for one another when you’re hiring.

  4. Respect your customer base. A mutually beneficial partnership helps one another out, but ultimately respects the individual relationship each company has with its customer. You should never share contact information for your customers without their consent, nor trade email lists.

  5. Even if you don’t have a solid idea on how you can work with one another now, it’s good to begin outreach and start conversations. Most people want to network, and they will see the value in at least having an exploratory meeting. It’s good to learn about other businesses and their goals. Not everyone you meet with will wind up being a good target, nor will everyone be interested in partnering with you–just as you won’t be interested in working with everyone who approaches you for one reason or another. But having meetings with a number of different companies helps you identify various types of businesses that will likely want to work with you in the future, as well as what types of partnerships they’re interested in building.

If you’re interested in partnering with us for any reason, we’d love to hear about it! We are always looking for speaking, writing, cross-blogging, and mentoring opportunities, as well as working with organizations for social good. Please reach out!