This post was originally published on June 19, 2018, and was updated on Sept. 17, 2019.
When you own a local business, it can be fun and rewarding. But as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. A beneficial way to help market a local business is through a strategic collaboration with someone who’s interested in the same goals. Partnering up can increase revenue and extend the client base — and this kind of local strategic partnership can prove to be a cost-effective relationship that will help both brands grow through cross-promotion.
Sound good? Read on for some helpful tips to market a local business through strategic collaboration.
How to market a local business through strategic collaboration
Take these three basic steps to market your local business by partnering up:
Find the perfect match.
Join a strategic collaboration organization.
Create a marketing plan.
Let’s dive into the details, shall we?
1. Find the perfect match
A strategic collaboration between two local businesses needs to be thoughtful, reasonable and, most importantly, the right fit. If you own a local wedding photography business, consider teaming up with a local florist or local wedding planner. If you own a real estate business, team up with a local furniture company.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, business owners should keep the following considerations in mind when forging strategic collaborations:
Understand and communicate competitive advantages
You’ll want to align and being able to communicate mutually beneficial goals and objectives. What advantages will partnering up offer for both local businesses?
Do your due diligence
Don’t skimp when it comes to evaluating prospective strategic partners. Look at the other business’s philosophy and culture as well as its overall capabilities and reputation in the marketplace.
Be open to various partnership options
Alliances can take many forms — a small business with a large business, a minority-owned business with non-minority owned company, a women-owned business with a male-owned company, etc.
And there’s nothing wrong with forming a local strategic partnership with a business that share your company’s socioeconomic characteristics. Again, do your due diligence.
Get it in writing
It’s just good business practice to formalize your partnership with a written agreement. Include joint goals and objectives, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, a communication plan and periodic re-evaluation of the arrangement.
Consult the pros
You’re probably not a legal or accounting expert — so find someone who is to consult on your joint venture agreement.
Have an exit strategy
Sometimes things don’t work out. Come up with a clear exit strategy for terminating the alliance if necessary.
2. Join a strategic collaboration organization
If a local business ever needs additional resources for strategic collaboration, a beneficial membership is through The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals, an organization that provides tools and resources, education and professional development, and a community for networking to alliance professionals at every stage of business collaboration.
3. Create a marketing plan
To market a local business via strategic collaboration, both participants must come together to discuss the five W’s and one H: who, what, when, where, why and how.
These are the building blocks of a marketing plan that can serve as the road map to the results you want.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and ask the following:
- Who is the target demographic for this product?
- What would the consumer’s perception and feelings be about the product?
- When is this product being introduced?
- Where will both local businesses be promoting this product?
- Why are these local businesses teaming up to promote this product?
- How will the product benefit the customer?
It’s also important to address the big four marketing P’s — price, product, promotion and placement — when you partner up to market a local business:
Make sure that the product is priced fairly for the customer. It might even be worthwhile to offer a special introductory price to entice more prospects to try your products or services.
For example, when Salesforce and Google teamed up in the fall of 2017, Google offered Salesforce customers company-wide G-Suite licenses at no additional cost for up to one year. Salesforce benefited with the Google Cloud Platform for a global expansion of the company’s infrastructure. Win-win.
Ask how your product/service will benefit the customer. It’s important for partnering businesses to offer high-quality products or services that offer a unique selling proposition.
For instance, Uber once partnered with Pandora and Spotify Premium to give customers the ultimate groovy ride experience with just the touch of a button — adding value to the ride experience.
Explore a multi-channel strategy to market a local business. Explore promoting your local partnership on each business’s social media platforms, websites, blogs, email marketing campaigns and, if the budget allows, paid media ads. For example:
- Announcing in a joint press release the strategic collaboration to consumers
and placing the press release in the newsroom section on both websites and through media distribution.
- Appearing as a guest on the other local business’s social media platform and discussing how excited you are to be collaborating with the other business and what services you’re both offering.
- Executing a social media contest, like a photo contest featuring the target products or services, complete with dedicated hashtags.
- Offering rewards. For example, when the Seattle Seahawks teamed up with Starbucks for the 2017-2018 football season, they wanted to give their fans something special to support the local team. So when Seahawks fans bought a cup of Starbucks coffee, they were rewarded with limited-edition cup sleeves autographed by eight different players.
Learn more about starting a customer reward program.
Place the product strategically on all promotional platforms.
For example, when announcing the collaboration on both websites, put a news header near the top of the page so that consumers can click and read about it — like when McDonald’s announced its collaboration with Disney to help improve the nutritional standards of Happy Meal menus.
On social media outlets Facebook and Twitter, use the cover photo to announce the strategic collaboration, followed by a post.
Have plan, will execute
When you market a local business via strategic collaboration, do not forget to have plans A, B, C and D. Having a back-up plan in case something falls through with the collaboration is crucial to success and protects the business.
Trust should start on day one of collaborating with another local business with the same goal: making it a win-win situation for both companies. Honesty, integrity, putting in an equal amount of time and professionalism can benefit both businesses for the long haul.