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The 10 things you absolutely MUST know about creating strategic partnerships and joint ventures (JVs)

By Brenda Thomson


That’s right you need to have a strategic alliance plan that is directly linked to your business and marketing plans. (After all we know that if you fail to plan you plan to fail). But what is a strategic alliance plan and why do you need one?  Let’s start with what it isn’t.  A strategic alliance is not an opportune relationship developed from a chance encounter.  According to the Q3 2015 Price Waterhouse Coopers trendsetter barometer 45% of the top 100 fastest growing companies are planning mergers or strategic alliances in 2016.  That’s right planning. A strategic alliance plan is “the who” to help you achieve “the what”.

What are your business and marketing objectives for the next three, six and twelve months? Who can help you to achieve them more quickly, easily and at less cost?  So get planning.



First you must know who your target market is.  This is absolutely critical to identifying and developing successful strategic alliances.  The better you understand your target market the easier it will be to find and create successful alliances. A high end day spa doubled her business by giving away gift hampers to the buyers of new Mercedes, BMWs and Porches NOT just any new or second hand cars. Know your niche.

Second you MUST understand your business finances: your customer acquisition costs, the lifetime value of a customer and your profit margins.  If you don’t know those then you are at risk of not capitalising well enough on strategic alliance opportunities or worse still of sending your business bankrupt as the result of a successful marketing strategy. Let’s go back to our day spa owner for a moment.  She knew the lifetime value of a customer so she gave away hundreds of dollars of products and services in her gift hampers – NOT ten percent discounts! But what if she hadn’t understood her profit margins – a sudden intake of new customers with not enough profit margin can send a business out the back door.  Know and understand your business finances.



Once you have a plan and you know what you want to achieve it is easy to work out WHO can help you.

  • Who shares your target market?
  • What are the businesses before and after you in the supply chain?
  • Which businesses see the problems you solve?
  • What other things do your clients shop for and from whom?
  • Who has already captured your market that you could leverage off?

Write a list then it will be easy for you to recognise the people who can help you when you need help.  Here’s a guide to how to identify your ideal strategic partners.



Do you already know them?  Who do you know who knows them (remember 6 degrees of separation) – if you don’t ask you will never know.  Will you find them at networking events, at community service organisations, at the golf club? Will you have to resort to the yellow pages or online searches?  Find out – where are the people who share YOUR target market – for some of you this may be the most valuable piece of information you will ever collect. Here’s a  guide to where to network



This is a sales process – YES I’m sorry to say it if you hate sales – but you HAVE to learn to SELL your strategic alliance idea.

Step 1 – find out what THEY want – no assumptions. What is their PAIN – it may not be the same as yours.

Step 2 – make them an irresistible offer – show them the benefits from THEIR point of view

Step 3 – call to action – just as in any sales process you have to tell them what to do – close the sale.



  • Can you refer business to each other?
  • Can you set up an affiliate program for them or can you be part of their affiliate program?
  • Can you advertise together and share the costs?
  • Can you share information products or event create an information product together?
  • Can you provide each other with additional products or host beneficiaries?
  • Can you help each other to reduce costs?
  • Perhaps you can even create a whole new product or service together – a real Joint Venture

Check out 101 Ideas for ways small business owners can work together



No, all strategic alliances are not the same.  There is not much point suggesting a referral strategy to someone who doesn’t want more customers (and that’s right some people don’t). Different strategies produce different outcomes. Link back to what you want to achieve and what your alliance partner wants to achieve that way you will select a strategy that will not only be successful but be effective as well – not always the same thing!



I have seen more strategic alliances fall over at this stage than at any other (except the next). Two business owners get together – they agree that they share the same target market, they promise to refer business to each other and guess what?  Nothing happens. A successful strategic alliance requires a clear implementation plan  – who is going to do what, by when, if there are costs involved who is going to pay?  Learn to manage your strategic alliances as you would any project and you will be successful.



Was your alliance strategy effective? How do you know? Just as with any marketing or business development strategy you MUST have measurement tools in place. What was the return on investment of time and money? Did it achieve the desired business objective? If not why not?  What can you change to make the strategy more effective?  All good strategic alliances are living projects, they should not be set in concrete, build in measurement and review stages so that you can ensure that the relationship is, and continues to be, a  WIN WIN!



That’s right – all good things must come to an end. Well not necessarily but businesses change, business objectives change, most strategic alliances will have a limited life. Be prepared for it and “don’t get married”. Set up every alliance so that both parties can walk away with their heads held high, their businesses all the better or at the very least none the worse for the experience and nothing but happy satisfied clients on both sides.

Brenda Thomson

Brenda Thomson

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.


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