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?
I believe the franchising industry is a powerful place to start when trying to build a referral network amongst small companies. A single franchisor client can expose your firm to hundreds or even thousands of affiliated franchisee locations. In addition, the supplier/vendor community within franchising is very well connected and there are many referral and synergy opportunities. As a starting point I would explore membership in the International Franchise Association (IFA). Although membership and participation in IFA events can be expensive it is still one of the most powerful small business networks in the country. You can investigate the IFA at www.franchise.org.
I see you are on G+, Sterling, which is a muct now. My first recommendation is being much more active there, connecting with as many of the "big names' on G+ as you can, engaging with them, and building out what I call a "Network of Purpose" with them.
This is important because of the increase waiting Google's Semantic Search is giving these relationships and authorship to search placements.
This in turn becomes an invaluable part of your own value proposition to your clients.
This also helps you build strategic partnerships with some of the best out there, which keeps you on top of your game, and helps spread your brand as a one of trust and authority.
Circle me on G+, and I can help get you connected to the big players there.
In my point of view it depends on the area in which your services are provided, but generally the technical consultation companies are included in supply chain of different industries may be an appropriate choice.
have a good partnership
I will save the specific strategies for other colleagues and take 2 different tacks. First, what referrals do you have and to whom would they be valuable? That answer should give you a logical field to consider.
Second, without playing semantician Strategic Partnerships and Referral Strategies are very different things to my mind. It is rare that two companies will just throw business back and forth equally. These usually go one off, one sided but generally don't last.
If you want a strategic partnership I would suggest it should be to combine expertise for a single client (so who fills your gaps and vice versa) and your company needs a SALES REFERRAL STRATEGY. With that in place the two concepts can thrive independently.
I've seen too many people pretend a relationship will make the phone ring, sometimes it does but never forsake sales strategy for soft hopes.
Quite a few valuable comments made already. The first question that comes up, when someone mentions "strategic partnership", is what do you mean with strategic? What defines a "strategic" partnership from a "regular" partnership?
What I'd also add is that you should start with your customer. Who is your customer (with great amount of specificity and detail)? Where are they? What services are they buying, and who are they buying those services from? What is the win for your prospective partner, and why should they want to partner with you (as opposed to the many other website design and development agencies? What will you provide to them?
Note that a mere exchange of leads or referrals won't do - these never last, and certainly not strategic in nature.
Ultimately you need to consider how the customer wins from a partnership.
Sterling, Good question however the best answer really is a question. What is it that you need? That will drive the best strategic partnerships that you would need,
You also asked about the best referral opportunities. This would be people or companies that serve your target market. They already have relationships with your market, so this would be a good fit especially if you compliment what they already do for thire clients.
I hope this helps. - Dino
Hi Sterling ~
I would think mosaicHUB is one of the best places to find and form strategic partnerships ~ we are an entrepreneurs' networking platform! ~ and by the very nature of your inquiry, I suspect you will be flooded with replies. Like Pamela, I could have used your design and development service for a client's re-branding effort last year. I'm a marketing/copywriting/social media maven who works across a number of verticals, so a designer is an ideal complementary service for me to be able to offer clients a more complete package.
That said, if you want to attract clients in specific industries as your question seems to indicate, trade shows and networking meetings in their fields might also be excellent places to rub elbows with professionals who need or will need your services. A colleague in healthcare IT generates all of his new business this way.
What Gary Brooks said holds very true. I ran a web-application development company for a few years. Our biggest customers (and the most came from our strategic partnerships with ad agencies and business consulting companies. If you're targeting specifically small business leaders for their own personal websites, executive coaches, career coaches, and life coaches are good sources of leads too.
Don't forget to partner with some back-end developers who can program for PHP apps (like WordPress), Android, Facebook, and iPhone also; there are quite a few companies that need to integrate everything into one for their digital marketing efforts.
If you are looking to develop strategic partnerships and referral opportunities, I suggest you commit, in writing, a 'finder's fee' structure for your company.
This can serve two purposes. (1) it shows you are serious about working with another person/company and (2) it also serves as a reminder of your service offering.
My company works in the A/E/C (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) industry where 'subcontracting' is the norm. When an owner needs a building, they hire a General Contractor to deliver them a finished product. They don't go looking for a steel erector, foundation contractor, grading company, carpenters, etc. That General Contractor exemplifies the 'strategic partner' process.
Think of companies that offer complimentary services, reach out to them and be ready to show them your finder's fee program. This will help separate the tire kickers from those who could really prove to be a successful partner.
If you are looking for a Finder's Fee template, we have one on our website you can download.
(Note: I am very new here so if I am breaking any protocols, I apologize.)
I'm a big believer in the power of building relationships via B2B networking. What you are offering is a service I needed a year ago and found the perfect partner via an introduction from a fellow (trusted) business owner/networker.
My advice? Get out there and network your business to your target audience or, if nothing else, to the businesses who would most likely provide you with quality referrals. I'd start with your local Chamber of Commerce, professional networking groups, and professional associations.
I would suggest that you look to small advertising agencies and e-commerce advisers/consultants for referral opportunities. Regarding strategic partnerships, you should ask yourself to what degree you will be able to bring your share of new business into the relationship. If limited, the partnership will fall apart. I would focus first on building the referral network. Good luck.
I would go to local tech/entrepreneurship meetups. They are a great way to connect and pitch to people. I would also leverage Linkedin. This answer is short and sweet but you have to get out in front of people.
I am doing this myself - have a deep expertise in strategic, financial and ops and now trying to build out a consulting practice for start-ups. I am using Linkedin, my business school, contacts, and in the beginning offering free projects.
Hope this helps a bit - feel free to reach out to me if you want to chat.
Reach out to freelance designers. They generally work with clients who can't or don't want to pay for agencies. You could also reach out to small marketing/branding/advertising firms that target similar sized clients and don't have digital capabilities.
The best strategic partnerships will add value to your own product offering to your clients; or where you can add value to their product offering(s) to their clients. Canvass your own client list to see if there are patterns in what they are seeking that can be filled with your own product offering or from somewhere else. If it is the latter situation, then you should reach out to with a conversation to do projects together. Building on joint successful projects can lead to long-term strategic partnerships.
I've been providing online marketing services in the areas of SEO, SMO, PPC and Marketing for several years. I've just incorporated and I am looking to grow by forging strategic partnerships with other marketing individuals such as yourself. Connect with me and let's talk.
Graphic designers are great partnerships to make if you ever decide to outsource any of the design work and focus strictly on the development. You can also argue the same for development if you want to focus strictly on design.
Content marketing experts are great people to reach out to so they can create all of the content for the websites you create. Additionally, if your SEO expertise is lacking, SEO experts are obviously beneficial people to partner up with.
I would reach out to these people on mosaicHUB! If you ever answer any of their questions/read their resources, commenting on it and mentioning a potential beneficial partnership could always be really helpful.