By Kelli Calabrese MS
Forming alliances with people or companies whose business interests are compatible with your own is a lucrative way to get more for your marketing dollars and grow your business.
Strategic partnerships can significantly increase visibility and bring in many more prospects and ultimately paying clients. Best of all, you can reach new markets for your services by leveraging your strategic partner’s promotional efforts. Selecting the right strategic partner is the first step.
Begin by looking for businesses frequented by your customers including spas, salons, health food stores, massage therapists, private schools, florists, boutiques and chiropractors. It’s likely that you’ll share similar demographics.
Ask people you trust to recommend and refer you to a business with a superior reputation and track record.
Check references and follow your instincts. Visit the business and ask for a tour. Learn about the business owner’s ethics and practices prior to making any commitments. Invite your potential new partner to tour your facility and get to know your systems as well.
The more you understand about each other’s services, the more valuable your relationships could become. Once you are comfortable that you have chosen a partner with a superior reputation, discuss how your partnership can benefit both of your businesses through value added programs, cross promoting and referrals.
Then sign a simple agreement so there are no misunderstandings. There are many potential ways to cross promote your services. For example, each of you could send the others customers a special offer on services or products.
You could cosponsor seminars, share exhibit space at community events or place ads and articles in one other’s newsletters or web sites. On-hold phone messages or signage in your buildings also offer places to promote one another’s services.
Getting your partner to endorse your product or service in a newsletter to his or her customers is powerful.
The opportunities are limited only by your imagination. If the business you are partnering with does not have a product or service to reciprocate, you can simply give your partner a percentage of sales that come from their referrals.
A 50/50 split is typical unless one of you is starting out and the other brings more to the relationship like a large data base of customers, 20 years of experience, a thriving web site and a solid reputation.
Once you have systems in place for how you will share your customers, offer to host a seminar for your partners employees educate them on your business philosophy and what valuable services and products you offer. By understand the value of your services you will get employees invested in the process of referring customers. Word-of-mouth recommendations will have far more credibility with their clients than any ad you could place in your local newspaper.
When I owned my clubs, we had an alliance with a local, salon. The salon would offer my employees 30% off of their services and we reciprocated with 30% off our memberships fees for their employees. We instantly attracted 15 new members from among the salon employees, but the hairdressers and manicurists produced even more new business for us by telling all of their clients about our well-equipped facility, friendly staff members and top notch personal trainers.
Their enthusiasm spoke for itself when their bodies began to transform and their clients wanted to know how they did it. Both trainers and salon employees have unique relationships with their clients and the results of both types of services are visibly noticeable.
In most cases, however, I recommend you make as appealing an offer as possible to your partner’s employees and customers. To increase your odds of success, always use the highest level of professionalism and respect when contacting your partner’s customers.
Create an attractive offer and a call to action, like an invitation to attend a seminar on a hot topic at a special rate. Create a system to track all leads and commissions.
Maintaining partnerships should be just as important as acquiring them. Dedicating one afternoon each month to visiting your partners will show them you are sincere, and their employees and customers will begin to get to know you as well.
Never go empty handed. Bring a small bouquet of flowers, a fragrant candle, a holiday ornament, a case of oranges or some other small token that will remind employers and customers of you and your services.
It can also be an educational item, like a model of fat and muscle, or samples of cholesterol levels or a comparison of a healthful and unhealthful lunch using food models.
Showing before-and-after photos of one of their employees is also very powerful.
Aligning yourself with someone who is established and respected can give you instant credibility and bring your business to the next level. For example, physicians simply tell their patients to exercise. Cultivating a relationship with a doctor or better yet, making them your client, can lead to high quality referrals who are likely to become long term members.
The time you put into developing strong strategic partnerships will bring you profits and opportunities for years to come. Once you solidify your first relationship, use the same formula to attract many more strategic partners.
Kelli is on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Personal Trainers, An Expert Fellow for the National Board of Fitness Examiners, and has attained over 20 fitness and nutrition certifications. Kelli is the co-author of Feminine, Firm and Fit and is available for fitness consulting. She can be reached at Kelli@KelliCalabrese.com. For more details go to www.KelliCalabrese.com