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A guide to creating a Strategic Partner Network for business coaches and consultants
By Brenda Thomson
The information and case studies in this guide have been developed over a period of 2 years, working with a core group of outstanding B2B consultants, advisors and specialists collaborating to build a unique and powerful Strategic Partner Network, adding exponential value to network members and their clients.
If you are a business coach or consultant and your principle source of new business is referrals, either from delighted clients or from referral partners, and you’re looking for ways to:
- generate more referrals and grow your business,
- create a network of high quality specialists to add more value to your clients
- create a WIN WIN for the members of your network.
- create the potential for an additional income stream doing the things you would be doing anyway.
then this guide is for you.
The process outlined in this guide was developed for business coaches and consultants working with SMEs however it could be easily adapted to apply to coaches and consultants working with any B2B market segment.
- What is a Strategic Partner Network?
- The three key benefits of creating a Strategic Partner Network for coaches and consultants.
- A three step process to build a powerful, effective WIN WIN WIN Strategic Partner Network
- Four powerful case studies leveraging the power a Strategic Partner Network which you can introduce to the members of of your network to ensure a WIN WIN outcome for every member.
Time to read: 15 – 20 minutes
Savvy B2B consultants and advisors typically have two things in place to ensure a steady stream of quality referrals:
- They have a sound process in place to generate both testimonials and referrals from their clients
- They have an effective referral partner strategy.
However many consultants and advisors are not taking full advantage of a third, even more powerful opportunity to grow their business, add value to their clients and ensure WIN WIN outcomes for their referral partners: creating your own Strategic Partner Network.
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 groups to joint ventures, channel partnerships and affiliate relationships. A Strategic Partner Network is a collective of businesses working together specifically with the overall needs of the end client in mind. It takes the emphasis off the businesses in the partnership and places it, where it rightly belongs, on the end client… creating a WIN WIN WIN.
Creating a comprehensive Strategic Partner Network provides a unique opportunity for consultants and advisors to SMEs to build stronger, more lasting relationships with their clients, creating a real and meaningful difference to their clients’ businesses and lives whilst simultaneously supporting the members of their network to build more profitable and sustainable businesses.
The three key benefits of creating a Strategic Partner Network for advisors and consultants to SMEs
1. Add value to your clients - learn more
Create a self-sufficient, interconnected solution network which keeps your valued clients well served and secure within your circle of influence.
When SMEs have a problem in their business finding the right solution can be an overwhelming exercise. Who do they go to for help? Are they getting the best solution at the right price? Will solution A work with solution B? Are they even fixing the right problem?
As their business coach or consultant you are in the prime position to identify problems, recommend solutions and provide introductions to appropriate specialists and solution providers. Having a comprehensive, high quality strategic partner network which works together effectively as a coordinated team ensures that you are able to:
- Connect your clients with B2B specialists with complete confidence in the quality and the appropriateness of the services they will receive.
- Provide your clients with fully integrated services and solutions, reducing overlap and wastage, increasing efficiency, saving them time and money and ensuring better outcomes for their business. Ensuring they get the RIGHT solution for the RIGHT problem.
- Keep your clients informed about key information, not only from within your own area of expertise, but across all areas covered by your strategic partner network.
- Discuss issues and challenges which may be affecting your clients with the various experts in your strategic partner network, enabling you to provide them with higher quality advice from a range of perspectives.
And finally, with the full range of issues and challenges faced by your clients fully covered by members of your strategic partner network, you ensure that your clients (and those of your strategic partners) remain secure within your circle of influence. Why would they go anywhere else?
2. Generate more leads and referrals for your business – learn more
While it’s very easy for you identify problems and to refer business to members of your strategic partner network, it’s far more difficult for your partner network to refer business back.
Think about it… it’s very easy for you to say to a client… you need to get a decent bookkeeper (or accountant/lawyer/insurance agent/HR consultant etc) to help you sort out your books (tax, IP, insurance, staff etc) and I can introduce you to a good one.
But it’s not so easy for the bookkeeper to say… “You need to get a decent business coach to help you sort out your business”.
Here’s a foolproof strategy for business coaches and consultant to generate a steady stream of referrals from the members of their strategic partner network.
- Develop a detailed business analysis and report process. NOT a sales pitch in disguise. Something that provides a client with genuinely useful information to help them see the problems in their business and strategies to move forward across all areas of their business. This will become a central tool for your Strategic Partner Network. If you don’t have one ask us about the tool we use in Synergy48 Group. It has been purpose built to add value to clients and identify gaps across all of the key areas of building and running a profitable, sustainable small to medium business.
- Provide each of the members of your strategic partner network with a business analysis and report on THEIR businessso they can see the value it provides and the way it identifies gaps and provides appropriate recommendations across all areas covered by your Strategic Partner Network. They need to be able to see the value it provides to both clients and network members.
- Ask the members of your strategic partner network to include your business analysis and report as a “Thanks for being/becoming a client” gift for their clients. If you have done steps 1 and 2 correctly they will be happy to do it.
- Make sure that you include a clear call to action at the end of each report and have a good follow up process in place to continue to build relationships with all of the potential clients for whom you have provided the report. If you are not generating a satisfactory conversion rate from this strategy then perhaps you need to consult a good sales strategist. (Is there one in your network?)
- Meet with your strategic partners regularly to:
- discuss progress and make sure you are both benefiting from the arrangement. Make any tweaks as necessary so the relationship remains a WIN WIN.
- Review and update their business analysis and report… you want to regularly remind them of how valuable it (and your advice) are so that giving it to their clients remains top of mind.
Done correctly this strategy will:
- provide the members of your Strategic Partner Network with a tool that they can use to add real value to their clients’ businesses.
- send you a steady stream of highly qualified introductions to your ideal clients
- generate ongoing business from amongst the members of your strategic partner network.
- Make it easy for you to refer qualified leads and clients back to the members of your strategic partner network, completing the circle of influence.
3. Add value to your Strategic Partner Network – learn more
Being a member of a high-quality Strategic Partner Network coordinated by an experienced business coach or consultant provides value to the members of your network in three ways.
1. The ability to provide real added value to their clients: These are the benefits Synergy48 Group members have told us working together as a Strategic Partner Network has enabled them to provide for their clients:
- The ability to connect their clients with other B2B specialists with complete confidence in the quality and the appropriateness of the services they will receive.
- The ability to work collaboratively with other specialists, providing their clients with fully integrated services and solutions, reducing overlap and wastage, increasing efficiency, saving them time and money and ensuring better outcomes for their business. Ensuring they get the RIGHT solution for the RIGHT problem.
- The ability to discuss issues and challenges which may be affecting their clients in a confidential environment, enabling them to provide them with higher quality advice from a range of perspectives.
- The ability to keep their clients informed about any key information from outside their area of expertise which may affect their business through industry updates and alerts from their Synergy48 Group peers.
2. A centrally coordinated referral system: Having access to an effective centralised and coordinated system which automatically identifies opportunities to help their clients adds real value to your members. When we think of referral partners we tend to think in terms of one to one introductions. Your referrer identifies someone with a problem you can solve and they make the introduction. Strategic partnerships help us expand that thinking, opening up possibilities to unlimited ways two or more businesses can work together to help one another. Examples can include shared marketing opportunities, reducing costs and expanding reach, and opportunities to build your brand as a recognised expert in your field. Creating a Strategic Partner Network focused specifically on your ideal clients expands these opportunities exponentially and is limited only by the objectives and the imaginations of the members of the Network. Options can include one-off strategies as well as ongoing systems and processes.
3. A purpose built Board of Advice including access to your experience and wisdom: The benefits of both mastermind groups and boards of advice are well known. When you create a strategic partner network to provide a comprehensive network of advisors for your clients you are also pooling the collective knowledge, experience, and resources of a comprehensive Mastermind Group or Board of Advisors for group members, providing significant added value to every member of the network.
A three step process for creating a Strategic Partner Network
1. Identify the professions/industries needed to make up your network - learn more
As an experienced business coach or consultant you are no doubt fully aware of all of the potential gaps in your clients’ businesses and the advisory and specialist services best suited to fill them.
To ensure the greatest value for both your clients and your members we recommend that you think in clusters or key result areas. Typically you will want to include specialists in:
- Financial management
- Culture, HR and leadership
- Branding and Marketing
- Sales and Customer Service
- Systems and operations
- Various aspects of risk management and corporate governance – legal and insurance
2. Find the right people to fill the spots - learn more
If you don’t already have a strong network of ideal strategic partners to fill the spots in your network then here’s how we’ve done it in Synergy48.
We’ve reached out across our existing networks and those of our clients and associates (both off line and through social media) to identify specialists and advisors in the identified industries and professions who meet four central selection criteria:
- Aligned values
- Appropriate standards of quality
- Shared target market
- Aligned goals
No relationship can succeed in the long term without a common foundation of shared values. That’s why every S48 member shares a commitment to our brand values of professional excellence, truth, collaboration and business for good.
You need to carefully consider and set out the values you want to uphold in your Strategic Partner Network.
Appropriate standards of quality
In a Strategic Partner Network the reputation of every member is dependent on the professional excellence, service and integrity of every other member.
We’ve probably all experienced that unpleasant occasion when a referral doesn’t work out for the client. You need to ensure you have a strong process in place to manage and maintain the standards of professional excellence you want to be known for.
At Synergy48 every member is required to meet our strict quality control measure before being accepted for membership, and to maintain best practice client feedback processes on an ongoing basis.
As you’ve already seen there are a number of reasons why someone may choose to be part of a Strategic Partner Network.
- Adding value to their clients
- Growing their own business
- Improving their business practices
- Being part of a supportive, collaborative community
While each of these may be more or less important to individual businesses, if any one of these goals is not of ANY perceived value to a potential Strategic Partner Network member then you may find that they are not a fit.
And not everyone will be a fit forever. While you are looking for long term relationships with members of your Strategic Partner Network the reality of life and business is that members will come and go.
3. Create an effective process to maximise the benefits for your network members - 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 agreement. You see an opportunity to refer business to one another, exchange cards, have a coffee, agree to keep in touch… and then NOTHING.
An effective Strategic Partner Network needs structures and processes in place to ensure that it’s objectives are met.
Here are some of the things you need to consider:
- Decide on a meeting time, frequency and format.
- Develop a formal agenda.
- Address logistics – where you will meet etc.
- Develop some guidelines
- How many members will you allow?
- How will new members be added to the group?
- Will you have non-disclosure agreements?
- What fees will be charged, if any? This is your opportunity to turn your Strategic Partner Network into an additional revenue stream.
- Who will do the logistical work? (Room bookings, agendas, time keeping etc)
- Will you have attendance guidelines?
- How will you manage and maintain quality control? (See how we’ve done this in Synergy48 Group)
- How will you work together effectively to better support your clients and how will you measure effectiveness. Read the next section to find out how we’ve managed this in Synergy48 Group.
Of course if you decide to start or join a Synergy48 Group we’ve done all this hard work for you and faciltators of Synergy48 Groups are compensated for their work.
Four tested ways members of your Strategic Partner Network can work together more effectively.
The biggest challenge we found in Synergy48 Group as we got started was expanding members’ thinking past basic referrals to encompass easy to implement, ongoing processes which make it easy for members to work together.
The four processes described below are things we’ve tried and tested which work on an ongoing basis.
In each of the case studies described we’ve identified the industries and professions for which they are most suited, including those best suited to the coach or consultant at the hub of the network.
As well as implementing your own strategies you can help and support the members of your Strategic Partner Network to find the strategies that will work best for them and identify the other members of your Strategic Partner Network they can implement them with.
This list is a only an introduction to the hundreds of ways your network members will be able to work together. Over time they will be able to collaborate together on a range of additional “once off” and ongoing strategies.
1. The Embedded Proposal - learn more
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 the members’ business form a supply chain then this strategy will work for them.
2. The "Built-In" Service - learn more
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.
3. The Host Beneficiary Gift - learn more
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 NOTfeeling 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.
4. The Health Check - learn more
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…
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.
Why build a Strategic Partner Network? The benefits in summary
Creating a strong, quality tested Strategic Partner Network will enable you to:
- Add real value to your clients and your network members through the quality and scope of your network. Become the “go-to” person for ensuring appropriate and quality connections.
- Generate a steady stream of qualified referrals for members of your strategic partner network, building ongoing loyalty from members of your network.
- Generate a steady stream of qualified leads and referrals from your network to you.
- Empower the members of your network to work together more effective to generate leads and referrals for one another, further building mutual trust and loyalty within the network.
- Finally you have the potential to add an ongoing additional income stream by formalising your strategic partner network as an add value service for your strategic partners. Ask us how we have achieved this successfully in Synergy48 Group.
Are you ready to build your Strategic Partner Network?
At this stage you probably fall into one of three groups
- You already have an effective Strategic Partner Network, you’re working well together and you don’t need to do anything. CONGRATULATIONS!
- You have an extensive network of Strategic Partners – all you need to do is add structure and processes to the ways you work together to add more value to both members and clients.
- You can see the value in creating a Strategic Partner Network for your business and your clients, however you don’t yet have a comprehensive network of suitable associates or systems and processes in place to maximise effectiveness for members or clients.
If you’re in group 2 or 3 then I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you’re excited about the opportunities that creating a Strategic Partner Network will provide for you, your clients and the members of your network.
If you’d like to leverage off our experience and fast track the process AND if you share our core values then you might want to consider starting a Synergy48 Strategic Partner Network.
Why work with Synergy48 Group?
- We’ll work closely with you, giving you the training, processes and ongoing support you need to build and sustain an effective Strategic Partner Network.
- Your network members will realise the benefits of being a part of the wider Synergy48 community,
- you’ll have access to a wider network of quality tested professionals to meet the needs of your clients.
- AND you’ll be compensated for your efforts.
It’s a real WIN WIN WIN.
Our Mission: to bring together teams of outstanding B2B businesses working collaboratively to help members and their clients build more profitable and sustainable businesses and make a difference in the world.
All members of the Synergy48 Business Specialist Network share 4 essential characteristics:
- You are an experienced and respected expert in your industry or profession.
- Your ideal clients are small to medium businesses and your services add real value to this market.
- You share our commitment to four core values:
- professional excellence
- business for good
- You own your own business.
Get in touch to see if there could be an opportunity for your business. There’s no obligation and absolutely no pressure. We only want to work with people for whom we are the right fit and who are passionate about adding value to their clients.
CEO and Founder, Synergy48 Group
Brenda has an honours degree in organizational psychology and a Graduate Certificate in training and development and she is an experienced trainer, facilitator and counsellor. She is a firm believer in mutual collaboration combined with a practical, hands on tools, strategies and systems as the most effective way to achieve real results in business.
Brenda has over 20 years of experience training in communication, team work, time management, productivity, organisation and strategic planning in large organisations. She is also the developer of the Business Benchmarking Toolkit used by Synergy48 Group members and clients to identify areas for improvement in their business processes.
Brenda is a sought after mentor, speaker and trainer in the areas of strategic partnerships and networking with a difference. She is passionate about actively giving back to the community. In addition to donating her speaking fees and a proportion of every Synergy48 Group membership to provide microfinance to help women in Malawi to start their own businesses, Brenda has climbed the Himalayas to raise money for Kids Help Line and helped lay a pipeline to supply water to a remote village in Tanzania.