What are the best strategic partnerships and referral opportunities for a boutique web design company?
My management consultancy The Sterling Organization (www.thesterlingorganization.com) provides strategic website design and development services to small business leaders. I'm interested in connecting with entrepreneurs and companies that provide complementary services so that we can refer our clients to each other and grow our businesses together. What industries or companies should I reach out to and how?
One would be IT management companies. Depending upon how expensive your services are will determine which companies to align with. We serve small businesses and startups.
Know it's late, but I just joined the site, are you still looking for referral partners?
What has worked for me is Volunteering and Networking. For me this has allowed my company to form alliances with similar business in my city.
Also, contact or visit your competition. Check with your local SBDC and any other organization that helps small business.
Hope this helped.
The new buzzword for this is "partner ecosystem". Many SMBs are doing this to stay competitive (especially in industries dominated by bigger companies). My recommendation would be to divide partnerships into 2 buckets - Technical Partners and Functional Partners. Your Technical Partners would provide complimentary services and round out your capability gaps while Functional Partners would provide industry specific expertise (i.e. healthcare, energy, government, etc.) in your target verticals. Industry associations are a great place to start the search!
For new businesses
- Marketing advisors for small business owners
- Business attorneys specializing in business formation
- Print shops
For existing businesses
- Small business IT support companies
- Business lawyers
- Business coaches
- Marketing firms
Content specialists and experts are 2 great partnerships for a web design company.
As technology advances and web usage evolves, so do SEO best practices. Web designers now have more choices and technologies available than ever before. As we enter 2014, I expect we will continue to see advances in web design that bring even more options.
Most of clients looking for web designers want to be online and show off their websites to potential customers and mostly they want to be found.
I'm sure that a lot of your clients assume that getting a website will help their business grow by attracting people to their sites, but they just don't know where to start.
To make a website popular, the site needs content and SEO.
Our Seo and Inbound marketing company, Evergrade Interactive (www.evergrade.ca), has a lot of partners such as Shopify and Volution, because we understand that just having a website doesn't mean people will be drawn to your website.
We help small businesses get found online, and increase their website traffic and sales.
Hi Sterling, from my experience partnerships or alliances can take a number of different forms. Those can be opportunistic and based on forming a relationship and then making use of that relationship when it suits one or more of the partners. Typically that’s when Partner A identifies an opportunity that Partner B can help with, hence opportunistic and certainly non-strategic. Another is transactional and based on moving products or services on volume. While strategic partnerships are those that brings two or more partners together to better understand how they can bring their own capacities, capabilities and resources to provide a greater value to customers than individually. The best way to describe that is with the analogy of “1 + 1 = 3”.
I hope you excuse the preamble, the reason here is to stress the need to understand who do you think you can strategically partner with to add value to your customers? Once you have identified those partners then it’s on to the next step of trying to discover how you can add 1 + 1 to arrive at 3 or 100.
Networking events to be honest. Network events get the word out plus a lot of them need your service.
Hang with the businesses and organizations you aspire too - and/or the ones that give you exposure to such a market.
If you are local, check out the CoCs and SCORE et al. You don't have to join and you can look at their members as prospects (free lead gen - yay!) - they are already involved in "leadership" communitities - get them while their hot!
Don't forget non-profits, if you do pro-bono for them you are leading and they will pay you back in referals. Just be aware that some of these orgs, like SCORE are limited in their ability (and desire) to promo you based on policies.
If you are going national, you might consider rethinking your concept and promote at least an arm of your business as a leadership association. Give away lotsof stat and procedure info for business signups (this works at the local level too.) You get to pitch the concept of improving business through an internet presence but you won't be able to sell directly in that forum - but you will be an authority.
Give pause to your positioning (marketing.) Most small businesses are just people making bets of blood, sweat, & tears on the "American Dream" or at least a sustainable/comfortable income. Few if any small business start ups really believe they are "leading" anyone but themselves and that soon devolves into being their own best/worst employees as needs force them into servicing operations and issues of cashflow.
Be sure you have a real market and that your message can affect them in a way that converts your services into your income. You might also consider the effects of using the word "small" in your pitch.
On the business partnership side, I'd be looking for companies that already have complementary services such as SEO & internet marketing on the tech side and Supply Chain, Accounting, etc. on operations. Pitch them "link swaps" and maybe commissions (both ways.)
Last but not least, consider the language of your prospects and look closely at your sales copy (website offerings.) Try to reframe your message so it sounds more like they are talking to themselves about their wants and desires and not all that techno-speak. A start up has their own lexicon/vocabulary about flooring or motorcycles etc. and beyond that they know "customer", "inventory", "profit", and other standard business terms - not "DIGITAL" this or that. Sell them what they want to buy and then be sure to deliver so they will percieve your leadership.
Good afternoon Sterling. I am an African Based Company. Please keep in mind that African level of IT communication, awareness and understanding is very often not on PAR with International Understanding and Education on how and what Online, Web ect can mean to their respective business. Therefore depending which continent you need to penetrate, that will set the trend and niche of your marketing of your specific services. Language is also very often a huge stumbling block.
I trust this gives u a small insight into the African Based Markets. South Africa is the most developed at this stage.
Entertainment (news, magazines and blogs) and fashion industries requires high visibility for their products which is now better done digitally. Hence, I will suggest that you concentrate on these industries. In addition, most businesses, except for heavy goods sectors, now carry on a large portion of their businesses online.
So, while you focus on entertainment and fashion, other sectors should also not be neglected.
There may be many ways to look at this issue, five of which are as follows:
1. Strategic partnerships with 'influencers' in the social groups.
2. Strategic partnerships with small companies that have something strong to offer -- fulfilling the need of the day -- say employment, food, education, health or housing. You may take up all these domains or be selective about it to establish your unchallenged supremacy in any selected domain.
3. Fix a strategic direction to partner with companies that have a strong common link between them and are involved in doing something that is relevant not only in the 'now' but also for the future.
4. Get involved in the social media with a theme to promote. What do you stand for? Beauty? Grace? Functionality? Design? Something that is close to one's heart and purpose and something that is grossly missing. Promoting the purpose is more important than the business one does. Business potential is always hidden in the conversations and not in the products one sells. Moreover, selling yourself (your conversations) is more important than the service you try to sell. Trust comes first and it is so much lacking. So build on intention, empathy and trust (three key words).
5. Extend the range of service from that of web design to include business development and continually modify web design for a client according to his/her changing business needs. That is: web design changes as per the needs of the business one is involved in. This combination is rare or nonexistant (a new opportunity) in the domain you are presently involved. You might need to network for this. Or add an educational service for guiding entrepreneurs.
Let me know if anything appeals to you.
Whichever direction you take, you’ll need to share our commitment to the consumer and our belief in enhancing lives with everything we do. With strong marketing credentials, ideally gained in a fast-moving consumer goods environment, you’ll have shown you relish solving commercial challenges with marketing practices. Strong communication and analytical skills are key in this area, as is the ability to influence others and collaborate with teams and individuals. The people who excel in marketing are open-minded to learn more about the environment, they meet objectives effectively and responsibly and they execute flawlessly.
Sales and Marketing,Exhibitions,B2B,E-Commerce,Trad Business,Advertising and good Communication with Client.
1. Identify qualified referral sources
2. Take a long-term approach that focuses relationships
3. Understand needs and motives
4. Create an industry group
5. Take care of your referral sources
Most importantly though, a good referral program saves time, enriches your relationships and minimizes hard marketing costs
I'd suggest you find content specialists who can take on the task of writing web site copy for your clients. The best know how to reposition web content to run across multiple platforms. That would really enhance your offerings -- and few small businesses have the time to write copy.
I do communication planning for companies, and I come across this issue frequently.
Partnerships are the best way to grow a business. The fact you are asking this question you are on the way to some exciting growth.
Depending on how much time you want to spend on research there are a couple of options. Below are just some quick suggestions, please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss them in depth
1. Join a local chamber of commerce and become an active member
2. Volunteer your work for a local or regional charitable organization (great networking)
3. Look for accelerator or incubator hubs near you.
4. Search large agencies who typically only do large websites and structure a deal for referring work.
5. Join and participate in LinkedIn groups for entrepreneurs.
6. Search common trends in Twitter like #SmallBusiness #StartUp #entrepreneur
7. Continue to post in websites just like this.
I am looking for a website design company to complement marketing strategies so if you would like to connect please send me an email at email@example.com.
Best of luck!
There is no "BEST". It depends on you, your business and your clients.
You need to determine your ideal client and target market. Concentrate on what problem you solve and the results your clients get from working with you.
As for referrals, ask. I find that many business owners never ask their clients for a referral. If you don't ask, you don't get.
Great idea to partner with another complementary provider to differentiate and build a value prop that stands out amongst template based web designers. Industry suggestions: Social Media, Loyalty, Payment Enablement, Tech Support. Check out product bundles from companies like Company.com that can be integrated into your value prop.