Running a small business by yourself is a challenge, and sometimes there just isn’t the time or the opportunity to do all the things you need. One of the most time-consuming parts of getting your business off the ground is marketing your services. We’ve already covered some basic marketing exercises, how to plan your marketing, how to choose a message that works and how to get your message in front of potential customers through blogs and social media.
The thing to remember is that there are plenty of other small businesses, in different trades, doing the same thing – trying to get their message out, and this is where opportunity may knock. By identifying other businesses aiming at similar customer personas to you, you can try contacting them to find out about partnership opportunities. This is a simple arrangement for a little ‘mutual backscratching’, whereby you agree to market the other’s services to your customers. For example, you offer hypnotherapy for weight loss, and another person is offering personal training services. Personal training customers who are getting fit to lose weight may also be interested in your hypnotherapy services, whilst your weight loss hypnotherapy clients may be interested in a personal trainer to help them get fit and keep the weight off.
Be imaginative! Look at the customer personas you developed earlier, and embellish them by imagining what other goods and services they might consume, and then draw up a list of likely candidates who might be amenable to some cross-referrals and mutual marketing efforts.
Before you approach these other businesses, draw up a proposal for what you think would be an equitable and mutually beneficial arrangement. Keep clear of promising any financial commitment though, unless you’re planning on making it a binding, legal contract, in which case you should seek professional legal and contractual advice. A simple arrangement, like sharing the cost of a leaflet drop with a partner business, can save you money immediately, whilst agreements to cross refer could double or even triple your potential customer numbers.
Building partnerships takes time, so don’t rush in and over commit with discounts or loss-leaders when you start. Begin with simple joint marketing exercises and build your network of allied businesses. You will soon establish which partnerships are the most fruitful, and you can then develop the possibilities within those partnerships to the benefit of everyone involved!