Why creating an eco-system of partner businesses is worth the effort

photo credit: Shaking Hands via photopin (license)

photo credit: Shaking Hands via photopin (license)

Partnership marketing can be really effective for small businesses who want to get in front of new relevant audiences. It involves creating collaborations that are relevant to the customer. This last bit is crucial. Relevance can mean that there’s compatibility between what both businesses sell. Or compatibility in their culture, ethics and beliefs.  

If the collaboration adds value to your customer base, beyond the core product or service you sell, this can really help provide a point of difference. So how do you get rolling with this?

Using email to reach a captive audience

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to get customers to buy. It gets the reader’s undivided attention. The beauty of using email within partnership marketing is in the numbers. It is highly measureable and you know exactly how many people you can reach. This makes setting up fair, reciprocal agreements easier. Also, when you’re stumped for something to tell your email list, having partners to talk about helps with ideas for email content.

The goal is to get your brand in front of a new audience. It needs to be done legally. Don’t think about swapping consumer email lists with partners. It’s about getting each partner to send a message to their own email list in a socially intelligent way that introduces the recipients to other partner’s brand.  

Let’s break down the types of email activity you could execute:

The “look what I found” email:

Perhaps the simplest message to deliver. It involves telling the reader how you’ve recently discovered this fantastic new brand you wanted to share with them. In the same way you might tell a friend about a great new product you’ve discovered. The value in this is in you telling the reader something that they didn’t already know about the partner’s brand. So you need to go beyond simply introducing the partner’s brand and tell a story about why the brand is interesting.

The “competition” email

This communication goes a step further and also offers the chance for the reader to experience the partner’s products/services for free if they enter and win a competition.

Keep the email message focused on a simple, single call to action and in doing so, give your partner the chance to shine. 

The “special offer” email

Similar to the competition this activity involves providing the email reader with a special offer that you have secured, from the partner brand. Like the competition activity before, it’s still important to communicate the value of the partner brand to the reader. Providing an offer alone won’t work nearly as well. Tell the reader why you’ve teamed up with the partner and let them in on the deal.  

The “freebie” email

This is a neat one, and works in two ways. The first way is simply telling the reader to contact your partner with a special code in order to enjoy a freebie. The second way involves telling the reader they will get a freebie supplied by the partner if they order from you within a given time frame.

The “random act of kindness” follow up email

This is almost identical to the second freebie example, except you don’t communicate anything over email initially. For a select group of customers, you automatically give them a freebie supplied by your partner, as a random act of kindness, when a customer orders. Then you follow up with those customers via email and ask what they thought of the freebie, to get the email recipient thinking about the partner brand and encouraging them to go on and buy or subscribe to the partner’s email newsletter.

Putting this into practice

Follow these steps and you’ll be collaborating in no time:

  1. Identify 6 businesses that offer compatible products/services to your business.
  2. Identify 6 businesses that share your business mindset, ethics and culture.
  3. Come up with two or three activities you could do with each business, which would involve emailing both your and their list of subscribers
  4. Plan your partner emails. You might send one every two months in order to blend partner messages into your own brand messages, offers etc.
  5. Be clear on your partner agreement. Fair collaboration doesn’t need to involve paying each other, but it does require being fair. So if you think you’ll be taken for a ride, walk away.
  6. Approach the partners with your ideas and see how many you can get on board!



This post was written by Will Young, CEO and Co-founder of tech start-up rais. rais is a customer intelligence and CRM platform for small retail businesses, who want to better harness their customer data but don’t have the time or resources to do so.

7 Activities That Don’t Scale but Will Win You Customers


Photo Credit:www.launchsolid.com

Starting a business is hard work and early on you will need to hustle to find your first customers. There is no need to stress right away about what marketing channels will scale because you won’t know which options work best. And even when you do find out what will scale, it’s often the activities that don’t scale that will continue to provide the best ROI.

1. Attend an Industry Conference

For example, if your business is building websites for construction companies, you need to find out the most popular conferences. A quick Google search shows these conferences would be a good bet to attend: Construction Super Conference or the International Conference on Transportation. For your first few conferences, going as an attendee is recommended so you can scope them out and determine if it makes sense for you to come back as a vendor (and possibly rent a booth). Spend time walking the aisles, and I love hanging out by the lunch area, if you sit down at the right table and strike up a good conversation you can make a critical connection.

2. Organize a Q&A with Industry Experts

Create a list of 6-10 questions and reach out to industry experts to see if they want to participate. Package up the responses in a PDF, include bios and photos and make sure to give everyone a copy. Blog about the responses and encourage participants to get the word out. Since you are appealing to the vanity of the experts, it’s very easy to drum up interest, don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Sponsor Relevant Meetup Events

Meetup events all over the world are going on and they are often just a handful of people. If you target relevant Meetup groups and offer to sponsor their next event, you will find a lot of takers. Sometimes money to buy pizza is all you need to do and the organizer will add a special offer on their Meetup page and if you’re lucky and/or persuasive they will announce it at the event.

4. Solicit Individual and Personalized Feedback on Your Product or Service

Early on it’s a struggle to get even 5 or 10 people on board as customers. When you do get the first few customers reach out to each one of them with a personal email and thank them for trying you out. Ask for pointed feedback and if you can get them to spare 10 to 15 minutes on the phone that is fantastic as they will provide helpful insight about your product.

5. Attend Local Meetings/Events

Leverage your hometown or nearest big city to attend marketing groups and meetings. Chamber of Commerce meetings or local business groups are a great place to start. It’s not that you will necessarily find your ideal customer in your backyard, but once you start talking about your new company, your networking may uncover other opportunities. In addition, the people you meet may know other people that will help propel your business forward.

6. Target Tangentially Related Companies for Joint Marketing Efforts

If you own a stock photo site, it would make sense to contact web development companies as they often need stock photos when they are creating new websites. You could create a co-branded landing page that provides a discount to the web development companies if they want to have access to a special offer on your site. You could send their special offer to your email list (and vice versa) if you want to do additional joint marketing.

7. Create Handwritten Letters as a Relationship Builder

The old school approach can win you big points. If you take time to customize handwritten letter like this example here, you have a great shot at making a beneficial introduction. Do your homework and understand what the person likes and dislikes before writing the letter and make sure to send it to their place of business.

11.16 headshotChad Fisher is a co-founder of Content Runner, a marketplace for connecting users and freelance writers for the creation of unique written content. Friends of Duct Tape Marketing can create a free account and receive a $30 credit to try out the writers on Content Runner, click here to learn more!

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