Networking Through Strategic Alliances

Networking Through Strategic Alliances

Networker's know that you always get back more from your network then you have to​ give to​ it. However, that should not stop you from thinking about new ways you can help the​ people in​ your network. Your network is​ full of​ people who would like to​ partner with you, though neither of​ you may have approached the​ idea or​ formalized a​ plan. Here are some suggestions for​ ways that you can form strategic alliances with other businesses in​ your network.

BNI (Business Networking International) coined the​ phrase “giver's gain”, which basically means that if​ you give referrals, leads or​ resources the​ recipients will want to​ repay you somehow. the​ problem is​ that as​ your network grows, it​ will become increasingly difficult to​ give referrals to​ everyone in​ your network.

This is​ somewhat counterintuitive because most people would think that as​ they add contacts to​ their network it​ will be easier to​ refer the​ new members of​ your network to​ each other. However, if​ you know five accountants it​ is​ difficult to​ refer to​ all five of​ them equally. One way to​ give back to​ your network is​ to​ develop a​ number of​ strategic alliances.

There are a​ few basic steps you should follow to​ help ensure that your new alliances are effective. First, be sure to​ think about what you want the​ alliance to​ accomplish. Are you simply trying to​ reach new potential customers? or​ are you also trying to​ reduce your marketing costs? in​ general, think about the​ goals of​ the​ alliance. Here are some things you might want to​ consider.

- You will get access to​ the​ networks of​ your partners.
- You will get to​ associate your business with another, potentially, more established brand.
- You can decrease your overall marketing costs, while expanding your reach.
- You can learn from other businesses. What has been successful for​ them in​ the​ past?

Next you should think about who you want to​ partner with. if​ you are a​ Realtor, you might think of​ mortgage originators or​ real estate attorney's that you could partner with. Bear in​ mind that your partner does not have to​ have the​ same goals are you, but they should be complementary. Here are several ways you can potentially form and​ alliance with another business.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ customer - Creating a​ mutually beneficial relationship with a​ key customer can strengthen the​ relationship and​ reduce your risk of​ losing this key customer.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ market leader – if​ you are a​ small business, you may be able to​ reap hue rewards from partnering with the​ market leader in​ your area. You may be able to​ offer a​ level of​ local penetration that a​ big company may have trouble creating on it's own. the​ alliance may not offer a​ huge financial incentive for​ the​ small business but you can leverage the​ alliance in​ your own marketing program. if​ you are the​ market leader, consider partnering with a​ young, easer business that might be able to​ offer you this type of​ market penetration.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ non-profit organization – You might be able to​ create an​ alliance with a​ trade organization or​ local community organization, which offer not only direct rewards, but also in-direct rewards from helping a​ good cause.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ former employer – Your company may offer a​ service that complements the​ services offered by a​ former employer.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ competitor – while you have to​ pay very close attention to​ detail when partnering with a​ competitor, you might be able to​ tap into their resources to​ extend your reach. They might be a​ competitor, but may not have the​ specific expertise that you do. for​ example, many people would consider Yahoo! and​ Microsoft's MSN internet portal to​ be competitors, but MSN recognized Yahoo! Strengths in​ keyword driven advertising and​ started featuring Yahoo! Ads with their search results. of​ course, MSN is​ now developing their own contextual advertising system, which means the​ partnership is​ coming to​ an​ end soon.

- Create an​ alliance with a​ parelell industry – simply stated, find another business in​ your market but that is​ not a​ direct competitor and​ then team up to​ market to​ the​ same customer base. Each company can pitch in​ financially and​ see incremental results from their marketing activities.

Planning out exactly how the​ alliance will work is​ the​ next step. You and​ your partner should clearly outline what each party is​ going to​ be responsible for​ and​ how results are going to​ be monitored. Be sure to​ discuss the​ costs involved in​ the​ alliance and​ make sure that each party has a​ clear understanding of​ what all of​ the​ costs will be. Here are some ideas to​ consider.

- Ask your partner to​ display your literature and/or products. a​ Realtor may be able to​ display brochure from a​ mortgage broker in​ their office or​ include it​ in​ the​ packet of​ information they present new clients.

- Ask your partner to​ link to​ your website from theirs. an​ accounting firm may be able to​ place a​ link to​ your financial planning practice on their website.

- Include your brochure in​ a​ partners mailings. a​ delivery company might be willing to​ include your brochure in​ the​ invoices they send to​ their customers each month.

- Develop joint marketing materials that promote both businesses and​ share the​ expenses of​ implementing the​ plan. for​ example, a​ handyman and​ a​ landscaper may develop a​ direct mail piece that promotes both companies and​ then each company can contribute to​ the​ mailing expenses.

- Develop a​ “preferred partner” program that offers customers a​ financial incentive to​ buy products in​ tandem from two companies at​ once. for​ example, a​ car dealership might form a​ partnership with a​ service station and​ offer maintenance bundled with the​ purchase price of​ a​ car. a​ health club may offer a​ joint membership to​ a​ local tennis or​ pool club.

- Develop a​ seminar with another business – develop a​ educational seminar program with a​ business in​ your industry and​ then market the​ events as​ a​ team.

- Publish news about the​ businesses you have developed an​ alliance with.

- Introduce your new partners to​ your key clients. Perhaps you can invite your partner to​ events you are involved in.

- Serve as​ a​ sponsor for​ events your partners are involved in.

Once you have set up your alliance and​ implemented your plan, it​ is​ critical that the​ lines of​ communication stay open and​ that you pay attention to​ the​ relationship you have formed. Check in​ with your partner to​ make sure they are happy with the​ way things are going.

Set up a​ weekly meeting or​ conference call with your partner and​ go through a​ progress report. You may also find it​ helpful to​ create a​ “report card” for​ your project before it​ begins. Base your report card on the​ goals you laid out early in​ the​ relationship and​ then revisit it​ over time. By laying out the​ goals in​ advance, each person involved with the​ project will understand what is​ expected of​ them. in​ addition, it​ is​ harder to​ ignore setbacks and​ bumps in​ the​ road if​ expectations are fully developed and​ everyone is​ on the​ same page before the​ project begins.

The most common mistakes involve failing to​ clearly communicate through each stage of​ the​ alliances growth. Think about the​ overall value proposition, where each parties goals are aligned and​ mismatched, the​ level of​ commitment or​ excitement from each party. Always think about how the​ alliance can become a​ win-win for​ everyone involved. if​ you do not think you can really add value, don't participate because you do not want to​ damage your credibility. Finally, if​ the​ alliance simply does not add measurable value to​ your business, do not participate.

Creating these formal alliances will help you develop and​ strengthen the​ relationships you already have. Power networkers can create multiple alliances with multiple members of​ their network. These alliances have the​ added benefit of​ allowing you to​ add value to​ a​ number of​ businesses without having to​ actually give specific referrals to​ a​ number of​ businesses individually.

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