A guide to creating an effective Strategic Partnership Plan for S48 Group members
By Brenda Thomson
Put really simply strategic partnerships are two or more businesses working together to achieve a mutually beneficial WIN WIN strategic outcome. They come in many different forms from referral partnerships to joint ventures, channel partnerships and affiliate relationships.
The purpose of this guide is to help S48 Group members identify and implement the most effective ways for them to both generate and receive value from being a part of the Synergy48 Strategic Partner Network while also adding value to their clients and/or potential clients.
How to use this guide:
Step 1: Read the information provided
Step 2: Identify the best industries and professions for you to work with
Step 3: If you’re new to Synergy48 Group have a chat with a member of the Head Office Team who will help you identify potential strategic partnership opportunties from within Synergy48 and discuss how each of the different strategic partnership options works in practice.
Step 4: Decide on those strategic partnership strategies or processes which you think will work best for your business. Note these may change over time as you develop stronger relationships with your strategic partners.
Step 5: Implement, test, measure and review with other S48 group members.
A two-step process for creating an effective Strategic Partnership Plan
1. Finding the right people to work with - learn more
There are two questions to ask yourself in identifying your ideal strategic partners.
1. Who are the businesses in your supply chain?
Typically businesses invest in services to solve a problem… however sometimes there are multiple service providers involved in providing the optimum solution.
For example, a business investing in a website may also need SEO, copywriting, video creation, photography and so on.
2 . Problem Spotters
There are two parts to this question:
- Who are the professions that can easily identify the problems that you solve?
- What are the professions that you typically see problems for?
Sometimes these will be the same as the businesses in your supply chain, however it opens up opportunities to think more broadly
An accountant can easily see when her client needs a bookkeeper, or when they need business finance or are eligible for an R & D grant (or at least one would hope so). However, if they are looking, and they care about the success of their client’s business, they can also see from the numbers when their client may be having challenges with sales and marketing or with operational efficiency or with staff turnover.
A marketing strategist commented to me recently “wouldn’t it be brilliant if I got to work with the clients’ accountant so I could help ensure a manageable marketing budget and better monitor ROI.”
Finally a word on businesses in the same industry or profession
Not every client is the same, they are in different industry verticals, have different budgets, different priorities and different personalities. Make sure to get to know other S48 group members in the same industry/profession as you to see how you can add value to one another and better serve your clients. Some of the best strategic partnership opportunities have arisen this way.
2. Creating processes to help you work together effectively - learn more
We’ve probably all been part of, or are at least familiar with, formal business referral networks where the process to ensure a return for members is based around an expectation of referrals. The problem with this approach is that it puts the emphasis on the results for the business being referred to rather than the results for the client.
We’ve also, almost certainly, been party to informal referral agreements. You see an opportunity to refer business to one another, exchange cards, have a coffee, agree to keep in touch… and then NOTHING.
Effective Strategic Partnerships needs structures and processes in place to ensure that their objectives are met.
The seven processes described below are strategies we’ve identified and/or created in Synergy48 Group which work on an ongoing basis.
The first five are listed in order of ever-increasing levels of trust required to implement them. The last two are exclusive to Synergy48 members.
In each of the strategies you will find a case study and also a description of the types of industries and professions for which they are most suited.
Of course you can always collaborate together in other ways as well. The great thing about strategic partnerships is that they are only limited by two things:
- Their capacity to add real value to you, your strategic partners and your clients or potential clients.
- Your imagination
Seven Strategic Partnership Processes for S48 members
1. Education Tools - learn more
At the very simplest level every business working with strategic partners needs to make it easy for their partners to refer business to them by giving them the tools to do the job.
The most common tools used by most small businesses are typically business cards, brochures and other forms of marketing material. There is nothing wrong with these and something as simple as a business card can work really well where the referral is really warm and ready to buy, in fact sometimes you don’t even need a business card.
However not all potential referrals are that warm or that well qualified, and the relationship between your referral partner and the potential client is not always that strong.
And that’s where it helps to equip your referral partners with powerful tools to get the job done.
Suppose you are at a networking event, you happen to mention in casual conversation to a real estate agent who you haven’t met before that you are thinking of re-mortgaging your house in order to get some renovations done. Now she could say that she knows a good mortgage broker and give you his card and you may or may not follow up on that recommendation, after all you hadn’t met the real estate agent before that night and you don’t know how well she knows the mortgage broker. How much more likely would you be to follow through on the recommendation and how much more likely would you be to actually use the mortgage broker if, in the next day or two you received a book in the mail from the real estate agent “Ten things you need to know when thinking about re-mortgaging” with a note saying… “Lovely to meet you the other night, I thought you might find this book handy, it’s been written by a colleague of mine who’s a specialist in re-mortgaging. I’ve included their contact details and I know they’d be really happy to give you some handy advice, no obligation. Happy to put you in touch.”
It doesn’t have to be a book: it could be a booklet, a CD, DVD, website link, e-book, whitepaper; whatever will work best in your industry and your niche. Education tools like this which build your credibility, while making your referral partner look good at the same time will not only make it easier for your referral partners to send you more qualified leads, it will also increase the likelihood that those leads will convert to customers or clients.
WHO DOES THIS WORK FOR?
Every business who is serious about supporting their strategic partners needs to have an effective tool to help them do the job and an effective process that makes it easy for them to implement.
2. Add value experiences - learn more
The idea here is to equip your referral partner with the opportunity to give their client an actual no strings attached experience of your products or services. It should not be a problem to work out whether this is a good solution for you if you know the lifetime value of a customer.
The key to the success of this strategy is ensuring that your strategic partners are properly educated to only pass on the experience to suitably qualified potential clients.
THE CASE STUDY
This virtual assistant uses a $100 gift voucher which she gives to members of her Strategic Partner Network to pass on to their clients or potential clients who complain about being overworked and drowning in day to day admin.
The gift voucher can only be redeemed in a meeting with the VA who takes the time to identify the best way for the client to utilise the $100.
WHO DOES THIS WORK FOR?
This strategy is for people who provide regular ongoing services. It works well for anyone who can provide a complete once only add value service as a taster that will (i) leave the client feeling that they have received a gift of genuine value NOT feeling sold to!!! (ii) leave them wanting more of the same that they will be willing to pay for.
Examples: bookkeepers, virtual assistants, social media specialists, printers, copy-writers.
3. Health checks and diagnostic strategies - learn more
The objective of this strategy is to provide a comprehensive review and report which will provide genuine value to the client. What kind of review and report you provide will depend on your area of expertise.
Do you have some form of diagnostic tool or process; a checklist, health check or review that you can give to your strategic partners to gift to their clients?
THE CASE STUDY
In this case study a commercial lawyer provides all of the accountants and business consultants that he works with the ability to give their new clients a legal health check as a part of their on-boarding. The lawyer spends time with the client, goes through a questionnaire and provides a written report with recommendations.
The accountants and business consultants WIN as they have provided a very valuable add on for their clients. It also helps them to make sure that their new client is not in any legal risk.
The lawyer WINS as he often gets new business as a result of the recommendations in the report.
The clients WIN as they have received a free comprehensive risk assessment of their businesses legal situation..
WHO DOES THIS WORK FOR?
This scenario works best for a pairing of generalists (e.g. business consultants) with specialists or specialists with other specialists. Taken to the ultimate extreme your clients can end up with a comprehensive set of assessments from a range of specialists that can genuinely help them take their business to the next level.
Here is a list of just some of the professions this will work for: accountants, business coaches and consultants, lawyers, HR consultants, Industrial relations specialists, OH & S specialists, marketing strategists, web designers, graphic designers, SEO and digital marketing specialists…
4. Built in service strategies - learn more
Built in services strategies involve one business including the services of another business as a part of their service offering.
THE CASE STUDY
This business coach was becoming frustrated working with clients who often didn’t have up to date books or accounts. It’s hard to measure bottom line improvements when the numbers aren’t up to date and available.
As a result they started including a bookkeeping service as part of their consultancy service.
The business consultant WINS because they now have up to date and accurate numbers to work with.
The bookkeeper WINS because they receive a new client every time the business consultant takes on a new client who doesn’t already have a competent bookkeeper.
The client WINS because they get a competent bookkeeper included in the services of their business consultant.
WHO DOES THIS WORK FOR?
This works for businesses who provide ongoing services that could benefit from having additional services built in.
Accountants can build bookkeeping services into their service offering.
A web-developer or a digital marketing strategist might provide access to a virtual assistant on an ongoing basis to ensure that web-site content is kept up to date.
5. Embedded proposal strategies - learn more
Embedded proposal strategies involve including multiple services into the initial proposal. Embedded proposals are ideal for businesses working together in a supply chain as all of the businesses included in the proposal play an important role in solving the client’s problem.
THE CASE STUDY
In this case study a web-designer includes SEO provided by a specialist SEO agency in every web development proposal.
The web-designer WINS because they know that they are providing their clients not just with a great website but with a website that will attract traffic. This also improves their conversion rate as they are providing high perceived additional value through their relationship with the SEO agency
The SEO Agency WINS because they receive a new client every time the web-designer wins a proposal.
The clients WIN because they are receiving a professionally optimised website as part of the proposal.
WHO DOES THIS WORK FOR?
This works well for any service which can be made better by adding an additional element. Generally the kinds of things which the client is going to have to go and get anyway sooner or later if they are really going to get the results they are looking for.
Think supply chain.. if your business is part of a supply chain then this strategy will work for you.
6. The Knowledge Sharing Dinner Series - learn more
The Synergy48 Knowledge Sharing Dinner series was developed to provide members with a high perceived value gift they can give their clients which would:
- make them look good to their clients
- help them build stronger client relationships
- make it easy for them to connect their clients with other members.
- help build the credibility of the S48 brand as a whole
HOW IT WORKS
At the start of each year we develop a program of ten dinners based around issues of particular interest or concern to SME business owners. We then allocate a panel of four different members from different industries and professions who can add real value on the topic.
The dinners are only open to members and their guests.
Members are encouraged to invite their clients to attend dinners as their guest as part of their ongoing customer relationship process. Some ways members do this are:
- As a part of their onboarding process as an add value welcome gift
- As part of their ongoing customer relationship process. E.g. as an anniversary gift or as a follow up to a meeting with a customer.
- As a way of extending their network beyond their clients, by inviting clients who are raving fans to attend a dinner and bring a colleague for whom they think it would add value.
7. The Better Business Benchmarker - learn more
We are in the process of developing a comprehensive self-help Business Assessment Tool which provides clients with an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in their business over 48 different best practice benchmarks.
The objective of this tool is to provide real value to members’ clients while also providing an opportunity for cross referrals across the entire Strategic Partner Network.
Watch out for an announcement about the forthcoming launch.
Putting it all together in a plan
- Determine your key objectives from your strategic partnerships. Is it to add value to your clients or to generate new business for you? Or something else?
- Identify the best industries and professions for you to work with
- Decide on those strategic partnership strategies or processes which you think will work best for your business and your objectives. Note these may change over time as you develop stronger relationships with your strategic partners.
- Implement, test and measure, review and revise.
And if you need any help, or you have any questions… don’t hesitate to ask. We’re only a phone call, or a ping away.
The Team at Synergy48 Group
PS we also love to hear about your success stories so make sure to let us know and share them in S48 Group meetings.