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.