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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.