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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boost Your Business with Power Partners

 By Nina L. Kaufman, Esq
Begin with the end in mind
The most important question to ask yourself about alliances is: do I really need one? Many business owners run around trying to "collect" them for the sake of having them, without focusing on whether their own business needs will get met. Or whether the work to create and sustain the alliance will outweigh its benefits. Don't start by thinking, "I want to form an alliance - with whom can I do it?" Start with, "I have a business goal, and an alliance is a good way to get me there."
What are your immediate business goals? Maybe the goal is to increase your visibility in a certain market so that you can attract more clients. If so, what kind of clients? More of what you already have? Larger clients? Clients in a different industry? Will these be clients for your current product or service offerings, or do you want to branch out into new areas? The answers to these questions are vital, because they help you hone in on (1) whether you will truly benefit from an alliance at this point, (2) if so, who will be the most appropriate allies for your company, and (3) what will be the best approach in working with them.
Finding the Right "Power Partner"
Let's say you have decided that you can achieve your goal better, faster, more efficiently with an ally than by yourself. Now it's time to choose the right "power partners." "Power partners" are people or companies that can give your business the boost that you're seeking in the way that you're seeking it. How do you choose? Again, this ties back into the goals you have set for your business. Among other things, you'll want to ask yourself:
  • Does this person/company offer products or services that complement mine (direct competitors are often not a good power partner choice)?
  • Is the person/company attracting the kinds of clients I want to attract?
  • What is this person's/company's reputation (do your homework on this one - you do not want to get into bed with a bum)?
  • Is the person/company in an industry that I want to move into?
  • Is the person/company a larger (or smaller) business, and if so, will that make a difference in who controls the relationship?
  • How much experience does this person/company have?
  • Do I enjoy working with this person/company? What is their "corporate culture" like?
  • What are this person's/company's goals in collaborating with me/my company? Are they compatible with mine?
If you can answer "yes" to most of these questions, then you're off to a great start! Many small business owners don't take time to pre-qualify their power partners . . . which is a significant factor in why so many arrangements fail.
How do you want to work together?
Once you have selected your power partner, now focus on how you will work together. Will this be on an ongoing basis, or for a particular project? Will this be a long term arrangement, or will you want to keep it on a short fuse? Will you be collaborating for marketing purposes only, or will you be jointly pitching and serving clients? Will you work exclusively with your power partner, or will you have similar arrangements with others?
Although people use the term "strategic alliance" to refer to a whole spectrum of collaborative relationships (see our September 2005 article, "Watch Your Language"), the term is most apt for arrangements where you have committed to a longer time frame and more involved responsibilities (especially if money will be paid, joint clients developed, and intellectual property created).
Just like personal relationships, it's best not to get too heavily involved before you've had a chance to test the waters. Strategic alliances work best when they evolve naturally, over time, from successful collaborations . . . which is better than trying to force an alliance into being. Don't be afraid to start small.
As an example, I have colleagues whom I met initially at a networking event. We enjoyed each other's company and trusted each other's skills, so over the years we began sending clients to each other (a basic referral relationship). That has blossomed to our developing joint seminars that we pitched and presented to local banks and other institutions, which, in turn, opened up new avenues for clients for all of us (can you see the "power" that comes from a "power partner"?). We are now exploring the possibilities for products and materials that we can produce jointly. At each level, our experience working together suggested that a deeper relationship could deliver more value. By taking things step by step, we grew . . . with wonderful results!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to Become a Local Expert

by Kelli Holmes
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the people in your town or city thought about "your name" whenever the subject of your type of business came up?  What impact could that have on your business?  Better visibility? Increased credibility?  More referrals?  More Clients?  Yes!!!

As with all worthwhile accomplishments this will take some effort on your part.  Start by developing two solid communication techniques.
1. A one-minute overview of who you are and what you do.  (As a member of TEAM you already know this).
2. Prepare a terrific 15-20 minute presentation on a subject that is helpful to the general public, not focused on selling, but you will of course be showcasing your business. Using your one minute overview and get on the phone and find the contacts for the local service groups, Rotary, Lions, the Chamber of Commerce (any group that schedules outside speakers) and get on their speaker rotation with your "informative 15-20 minute presentation."
You can also build your "fashion" reputation by becoming a contributing journalist to your local newspaper or community magazine.  Submit informative articles on trends, seasonal products or services or topics that peak the interest of your target market.  Look at starting an advice column that appears on an on-going basis.

Consider chairing a major event/fund raiser for a local charity. The more "you" and "your business" are featured the more visibility you will create.  Donate the proceeds of sales to the charity.  Making this an annual event really creates interest.

Don't forget to contact the editor of your local newspaper responsible for the calendar of events to publicize any and all speaking engagements and events you participate in.  Be sure to invite the local press to these events or better yet hold a "press party" in conjunction with these activities.  Send regular press releases to the local press keeping them up to date on all your activities, including any awards and recognition you receive.

If you incorporate these simple techniques into your business you will, along with your business will establish yourself as "The Local Expert".  Your name will become synonymous as  the person to go to whenever the subject comes up.  Don't forget to approach all of these avenues with your best way of doing business.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Become an Invaluable Resource

When someone asks you for something you do not do do you handle requests? 

One way to handle it is to refer the business to someone else, perhaps even a competitor who can better handle that particular request. By referring the important people in your life ( clients, family, friends, business associates, contacts, etc.) to the "right" person or business for the job, you become an "invaluable resource" to them. The result will be that they will think of you whenever they or someone they know needs your services and will also look to you as a referral source, keeping you and your business front and center in their minds.        

    Kelli C. Holmes is the Founder of TEAM Referral Network, a professional referral organization that turns success-oriented business people into a strong team of networking professionals who work together to build their businesses by referral.  Relationship marketing is a better, smarter way of doing business.  For more information visit their website or call (866)311-TEAM           

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Power of Strategic Partnerships

by Rhonda Sher

The primary goal of networking is to develop relationships that lead to a steady stream of two-way referrals. Strategic partnerships are the primary means of achieving that outcome.

Finding Your Strategic Partners

There are four activities in the Who to Meet step that lead you to finding the right strategic partners for your business:

  1.    understand the benefits your business provide 
   2.    Know your Target Market
   3.    Identify complementary business types that sell to the same Target Market 
  4.    Reach companies and individuals in your market area in each business type

Your goal is to identify specific companies and individuals that are the best fit as potential strategic partners – and therefore your best networking contacts.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Center of Influence

KNOW your Center of Influence
SEEK out Center of Influences
Become KNOWN as a Center of Influence

Stacey O'Byrne,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Power Partners

by Kelli Holmes 

Power Partners are business professionals who are in the same industry who want to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with each one striving to share referrals, ideas, clients and information with one another.

Who Are Your Top Power Partners?
Let’s think a minute -  who do you refer your clients, your family, your friends to?  People you know and trust!  When does the opportunity to refer your clients to a Power Partner come about?  When they need professional services that are related to your business.  These professions are natural referral centers for you, they are in your “center of influence”.  They are whom you want to develop a Power Partner relationship with.

Where Do You Find Power Partners? 
Look in your personal contacts: follow your money, who do you give your business to.  They are benefiting from you.  You should be benefiting from them!  Look to your “networks” whether it is a referral network, the Chamber of Commerce, a charity or service group, church, PTA, trade or social group, seek out the professionals that match your list of Power Partners.

What Do You Do With Power Partners Once You’ve Found Them?

Reach out to them.  Contact them and tell them what you want to do.  Ask to develop a Power Partner relationship with them, explain how mutually beneficial sharing referrals, ideas, information, and resources can be.  If this is not the type of relationship they are willing to commit to, find someone else in their profession who is!

When To Utilize Your Power Partners ?

What are you hoping to gain from your relationships with your Power Partners?  Referrals, ideas, information, resources, be prepared to first give these things.  Send them business, share a great idea with them and let them know about information that can help their business.  Once they see your efforts producing for them, they will strive to give back to you. 

How Will Power Partners Impact Your Business?

Once you have established these important relationships you will start reaping the benefits of receiving referrals, ideas, information and clients from them.  Because you will be giving to them as well, you are establishing relationships that will last for years.  Relationship marketing with your Power Partners can definitely impact your bottom line.

Developing relationships with Power Partners will not only help you generate more and better business for you, it will also reward you with satisfying personal and professional relationships to continue to build upon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting to Know Your Networking Partners

by Kelli Holmes 

Once you have begun your journey of doing better, smarter business with Relationship Marketing, there will come a time when you need to take those relationships to the next level.  You have worked on building relationships with your “Power Partners” and other members in your networking group and with the professionals in your local chamber of commerce, perhaps also a community service organization or in your own personal/social sphereBut do you really know them?  Better question, do they really know you? 

Getting together for a meeting once a week or once a month is good, but what would happen with your relationships if you invested the time to meet with your networking partners outside of the normal networking meeting, business mixer, committee or board meeting?  At TEAM Referral Network we call these meetings “Coaching Sessions”.

“Coaching Sessions”

For your networking partners to refer business to you, they must first get to know who you are and what you have to offer.  Meet for lunch or coffee with a different member of your group(s) each week. At this meeting, use the time so you can each share information about one another. Getting to know your networking partners will help you give more referrals and receive more and better referrals.
Here is a guideline to use when you get together:

  • Share information about who your clients are, where they live, work, etc.
  • Share with each other your background, education and any recognition/awards you’ve received.
  • Tell each other about your family life, hobbies and interests.
  • Talk about other organizations you participate in.
  • Exchange literature and/or selling tools.
  • Schedule a visit each others place of business.

Take the opportunity to make these “Coaching Sessions” part of your marketing plans for the next year.  The investment of time will pay off in growth for your business!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Importance of Strategic Partnerships

from: the National Federation of Independent Business

Strategic business partnerships allow small businesses the opportunity to grow their customer base and improve their business.

Small business owner Scott Schnurr, of Plainfield, Ill.-based DRF Total Property Solutions, a professional property solutions business, has seen the benefits of business partnerships firsthand. He’s been working with big-name companies like Sears, Home Depot and RainSoft Water Treatment Systems to better serve his current customers and to gain new customers.

“The main objective [of partnerships] is the true synergy of one plus one equals five instead of two,” says Schnurr.

But gaining new customers is only one of many reasons for forming partnerships. A partnership could mean your business will have access to new products, reach a new market, block a competitor (through an exclusive contract) or increase customer loyalty.

Some prefer to use partnerships to strengthen weak aspects of their business. Schnurr’s mentor, Rob Slee, founder of MidasNation, an aggressive business mentoring community, says small businesses should use strategic partners when those partners can better serve your customer. “What do you really know how to do in your business?” asks Slee. “Do those things extremely well and outsource everything else.”

Schnurr identifies his customers’ pain points and finds partners that can resolve them. Some of his customers were working on large projects that required several contractors. He partnered with contractors who had skills his customers needed—like painting or electrical work—so his plumbing customers, for example, could get all the services they need from one trusted name.

Want to get started? Here’s how:

Map out a plan. What is your purpose in forming a business partnership? Your purpose will drive who you decide to partner with.

Determine prospective partners. This will require a bit of time and digging. A few factors to consider:
  • Brand alignment. Do they share similar brand values? Are the cultures of your companies similar? Because Schnurr’s business is faith-based, he’s careful about which companies he partners with. “We’d never want to be in a meeting and have [a partner] say, ‘We need to find a way to rip off our customer,’ when every day [DRF is] trying to find a way to serve our customers,” says Schnurr.
  • Location. Is the potential partner in close proximity to your business? Will time zones and long distance travel strain the partnership?
  • Complementary products. This might work well if you’re a service business and can partner with a product you commonly use. Schnurr’s business installs water softeners. He partnered with RainSoft , a water softener manufacturer, and North American Salt Company, a water softening salt producer. They get access to his customers, but DRF gets valuable educational materials that he can pass on to his employees and customers.
  • Ability to deliver. Both you and your partner must benefit from the relationship. “If [both parties] can’t see what’s in it for them, why would they want to play?” says Slee. Be sure the business is successful and mature enough to partner with you. Schnurr finds that companies equal to or greater than your company in size and strength are best to partner with.
  • Target audience. The business must have the same customer profile as yours.

Pitch your idea to the prospect. “A lot of times people are going to think you have ulterior motives,” says Schnurr. “But a true collaboration has to be win-win. Everyone has to benefit.” Clearly lay out the benefit for both parties. You may explain your idea verbally at first, but make sure you put the agreement in writing, says Schnurr, so there’s no confusion about the purpose of the partnership.

Determine objectives and metrics. It’s better to set metrics in the beginning, rather than let a partnership fail due to unreasonable expectations. “What would define success for both parties? If you agree upon that up front, you don’t have surprises,” says Slee.

Don’t be afraid to get started. “If you have substantial market know-how and have a system that’s fairly effective at something, you can do partnerships,” says Slee. “Most people are scared, saying, ‘I’m just a small firm. Nobody will take me seriously.’ If you have a compelling value proposition, that speaks for itself.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Increasing Business with Strategic Partners

by Laura Lake
In business, it's important to align yourself with strategic alliances. For example, this week I received a call in my office of someone seeking marketing advice. "Laura, I have a company that has a small mailing list of approximately 2000 people. This list is broken out into two groups - one being those that have purchased our product and the other are those who have not yet purchased but have interest in a contest that we were running. What can I do with this list?"

While the company carries an interesting product, it is only one product. So how can we market to this list? More than likely the people that have purchased the item and they are not in need of an additional one at this time.

Many small businesses are in this same situation they offer one product or perhaps one service and do not the have or time to create new offers - so what do you do with those lists that you've accumulated?
The answer is easier than you think, you find other companies that cater to the same audience that you do, but are not direct competitors. For example, let's say that you are specializing in renting wedding gowns - your list has grown and you get fantastic referral business but how can you drive revenue from past customers. You find another supplier or merchant that is catering to your same target market. Take for example a photographer or catering service. Your list would of interest to them and their list could be of interest to you. Although, timing would be the key factor in this situation.

Let's take a look at another scenario. You specialize in selling art. The artwork that you sell has a specific target market. They are professionals with an income range of $150,000 to $300,000 per year. The pieces you sell are very rare therefore carry a steep price tag. While you continually market to your clients and enjoy repeat business, you'd like some fresh prospects. How about finding an interior decorating that is interested in joint venturing with you. It's a win-win. You both exchange lists and send out a special offering to the interior decorator's clients and she does the same. You could also just create a special offering and split the advertising and marketing costs.

The key is knowing who your target market is. Learn who they are:

  • How old are they?
  • What is their income range?
  • What are their occupations?
  • What other interests do they have?
If you don't have the answers to these questions it's time to create a market survey and find out this information. By not having it you are d opportunities that could increase your revenue and drive you new business at minimal cost.

When you've gathered the information above it's time to so some brainstorming. Who else markets to these people? What other businesses around me have the same target market?

Then pick up the phone and get in touch with these companies. Ask them if they would be interested in joint venturing with you and creating a win-win business situation. If they say no, time to move on to the next. There will be some who are not interested - but to be honest you find more that are.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

What's a Strategic Business Partner and Can I Be One?

by Erika Andersen

I hang out with a lot of HR folks.  Given that much of what we do at Proteus is in support of employees’ professional development – executive coaching, management skills training, team development – we very often work closely with the HR teams in our client companies.
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve noticed that ‘being a strategic partner’ has become a kind of mantra for HR people everywhere.  Generally, they seem to mean, “we’d like to be included the conversations where the future of the business gets determined, and have a real voice in those conversations.”
Lately, I’ve observed that the IT folks, the finance people, and the communication and PR groups are saying the same thing.  And I suspect that younger people in any function who want to advance in their careers are thinking or saying some version of it, too.
So, how do you get invited into those organization-critical conversations?  And – perhaps even more important – what does it take to become an actual participant in them?
One way NOT to do it: force yourself in. I’ve seen people try to do that in all kinds of ways: get the CEO or some other senior person to mandate HR’s inclusion; wangle it into the company policy; use various threats and/or forms of coercion.  This never works long-term. Never.   People will simply have meetings and “forget” to invite you, or pointedly ignore you at the meetings you do attend.
The best way I know of to be treated like a strategic business partner is to think and act like one.  Which means:
- understand the business. Know what makes your company work and what gets in the way of its working.  Get clear about how all the different parts operate together, and – again – what gets in the way of their smooth operation. Become knowledgeable about the competition, and understand how your company is better and worse than they are.  Be able to articulate your understanding.
- get out of your box. If you look at what the company needs only from the perspective of your own function (HR, IT, marketing – whatever it is), you will be seen as tactical at best, and an impediment to the business’ success at worst. Step back and think about what would best serve the business overall. Speak from that vantage point.
- be useful in a big way. Help the line business people in your organization meet their goals. Either do stuff that makes it easier for them to achieve those goals, or come up with and share ideas that support their achievement of them.  If good things happen for the business as a result of you being involved in projects, you’ll be invited back.
- listen.  The best way to do all three of the things I’ve noted above is to start by really, truly listening.  Get deeply curious.  Summarize to make sure you’ve understood.  When you get new information, listen very carefully to hear how it relates to what you already know and what it says about the person who’s speaking.
Finally, remember that reputation and influence are built over time.  If you start behaving in these ways, you’ll begin to be seen as a great person to have around. The more you fulfill that positive expectation, the more it will be reinforced.
And eventually, people will be saying they want to be a strategic business partner just like you…