This post was originally published on Nov. 29, 2016, and was updated on March 10, 2021.
In the wild world of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to get caught up in the chase of customers and dollars. Everyone is ready and willing to tell you what ads you should be running or social posts you should be managing. But not everyone has an endless budget and time for investments, so what’s a business owner to do? You want your community to know your business exists, but you’re already putting in 10-hour days left and right. Fortunately, you can get shoppers in the door by partnering with other local businesses.
Why partner with local businesses?
Perhaps now more than ever, strategic partnerships are the key to bringing communities together. In large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses came into the spotlight as people began to see just how vital they are to cities and neighborhoods. In November 2020 Legal Zoom shared, “About 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays and circulates in the local community.” When these funds are kept local, the effects can be huge!
Consumers want to buy from locally owned businesses instead of national retailers because they want those dollars to keep their communities alive and thriving. There is a heightened awareness of the fact that every time someone purchases their coffee from a small business instead of a large chain they aren’t just adding to a bottom line, they are keeping a neighbor’s mortgage paid. When someone has a cake made at a local bakery instead of grabbing one from a big box grocery store, they are helping the owner keep food on the table.
As consumers grow ever more interested in shopping small and helping out their fellow neighbor, the opportunity for small business owners is ripe for the taking. Now is the time to sweeten the deal for your potential customers by partnering up with other local businesses to make the idea of going local a no brainer!
Partnering with local businesses gives you the ability to expand your reach to audiences you might not already be in contact with.
Best news? Partnerships don’t have to cost anything. The biggest benefit is the word-of-mouth from the owner to their customers. They’ll share info about your business, and you can do the same for them. Bonus, your partnership with other local businesses could unknowingly solve a need for customers.
Your products and services don’t cover everything, so make strategic partnerships to fill out your customers’ needs.
OK, so the why probably makes perfect sense to you, but what are the best strategies to use when partnering with other local businesses?
Research partnerships ahead of time
Think about your products and services. What do you offer? What’s missing? What will benefit your customers? Make a list of the types of local businesses you’d like to work with, and then write down why you’re interested in partnering up. Start thinking about businesses you already have a relationship with, big or small. Who can you call to discuss partnerships? How will you pitch owners to get on board? Come to the table prepared.
Choose businesses that complement yours
Let’s say you’re a wedding or event planner. It would stand to reason that your best potential partners are other vendors in the wedding and event business. Your partnership could look something like this:
Here at Avery’s Weddings and Events, we just adore Taylor’s Photo Studio. Mention us when you book with them for your event’s photos, and score a 10-percent discount on photography services.
Then, Taylor’s Photo Studio could have a similar promotion, offering your event planning services at a discounted rate for mentioning them during the time of booking. Speaking of discounts …
Reward your customers for branching out and working with new local businesses.
By offering incentives, you’re giving your customers an avenue to act (i.e., shop somewhere new, secure services, etc.). Your partner has the solution, your customers just need to be told where to find it.
Consider partnering with a local charity
There’s an old saying that the heart strings are connected to the purse strings. What’s better than purchasing something you want and donating to a good cause all during the same transaction?
Partnerships could include you donating a portion of your sales to your favorite charity. Here are some advertisements you could try:
- Twenty-percent of all vocal lessons will be given to the community Performing Arts Center.
- When you buy a T-shirt, a second one is donated to a local homeless shelter.
- Ten percent of all sales for the month of December will be given to the Salvation Army.
- Buy a meal, we’ll give a meal.
- A portion of all proceeds is given to youth sporting leagues.
- Your purchase helps us fund scholarships for underprivileged high school students.
Restaurants, retail stores, eCommerce sites and more all have the opportunity to donate. Whether a big shopping holiday is coming up, or you’re selling everyday wares, this feel-good incentive is a great way to spread the wealth while partnering with other local businesses.
Partner with more than one business
There are no rules that state you can only partner with one local business. Remember the wedding and event planner I mentioned earlier? Perhaps they could partner with a variety of vendors for events, including businesses like:
- Venue decorators
- Cake bakers
Pro tip: Consider creating a group package that includes services from a variety of industries.
Some customers prefer the ease of one-stop shopping. Minimize “the hunt” by providing packages and options from a range of companies to suit your customers’ needs. Imagine a bride or groom being able to take the stress out of their big day, and book all their vendors in one setting.
A moving company could partner with an interior designer and organizing specialist to help new homeowners get set up in their new space. A personal trainer could team up with a nutritionist and a local farmer’s market to tackle both the dieting and exercise aspects of weight loss. A local travel agent could even partner with a small limo company and personal shopper for the VIP treatment when the world re-opens. There are so many businesses that likely complement yours perfectly.
Try hosting open houses
Whether it’s just two businesses or several working together to boost each other, open houses are a great way to get the word out. Bonus points if you can host it in the building of one of the businesses!
You can also make your open house digital! If you want to get the word out without requiring anyone to drive to you, host a virtual open house on Facebook. Incentivize the fans of all the businesses involved to attend by offering raffle prizes, giveaways, coupons, and more. Each business gets a moment to share a little about their business, and the viewers get to enjoy the fun of possibly winning something for attending.
By making an “official” event, you can promote it on local news and radio stations. They’re often willing to support local businesses and share information in their community calendars. Free, positive publicity never hurt anyone!
Look into seasonal partnerships
Maybe a monthly or year-long partnership isn’t right for your business right now, but seasonal partnerships are a good way to test the waters and see how well your products mesh with other local businesses.
Take note of trends, create bundles or gift baskets, and work with local businesses to promote attractive holiday solutions. In our fast-paced society, there are plenty of shoppers looking for quick gifts that still have meaning.
Don’t stop with the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and others either. I’m sure mom would love a basket filled with local goodies for Mother’s Day and dad would prefer something other than a boring tie for Father’s Day!
Get it in writing
Any business partnership, regardless of what is being promised, should be in writing. This protects all parties involved. Agree in advance how you will promote each other, the beginning and end date of the partnership, and what both parties will contribute.
Get started with your partnership
Strategic partnerships can be beneficial for any company whether they are a startup, or a seasoned local business.These tips are far from an exhaustive list, but I hope they give you some ideas for partnerships you can forge with local businesses. By coming together with your fellow business owners, you could develop new friendships, promote new opportunities, and gain new customers.