Starbucks and Barnes and Noble, State Farm and Ford – Big brands have been developing strategic partnerships for years. Why? Business growth for both. Alliances not only increase revenue, but give businesses a competitive advantage, and exposure to a slew of potential new customers.
Successful partnerships aren’t just beneficial for the big guys. As a small business, you too can and should reap the benefits of a partnership. To determine what’s best for your business growth, consider implementing one or more of the three partnerships below:
1. Develop a Distribution Partnership
Have you ever been to Portland, Oregon? Very few leave “The City of Roses” behind without a trip to the donut mecca: Voodoo Doughnuts. A sugary and mouthwatering Voodoo doughnut would feel incomplete, however, without a fresh cup of local Stumptown coffee.
Stumptown Coffee cafe tables, located just steps away from Voodoo’s lengthy lines, can be seen littered with Voodoo’s iconic pink boxes. Locals and visitors alike happily devour doughnuts from next door with mugs of coffee in hand. One experience is made better with the other, exemplifying a “complementary relationship” that drives incremental sales for both companies.
This is a classic When You Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario – if you have one (a cookie), you’re going to want the other (milk).
Exercise: Think about a product of yours that customers rave about. Now think about a local business whose core product would be enhanced if they had access to your product, or whose product would enhance your own if coupled together. Examples: Donuts (or books) and coffee, pizza and beer, hair salon/products and makeup, burgers and ice cream, etc.
2. Propose a Promotional Partnership
Here in San Francisco, we have a vibrant, outdoorsy community. Sports Basement, a local sporting goods store in the Bay Area, helps foster this community by offering a perpetual discount to members of the San Francisco Triathlon Club, a non-profit and multi-sport club. Triathlons are one of the most expensive sports with bikes, wetsuits, endless purchases of shot blocks, power drinks, and more.
Sports Basement supplies all of the equipment above at a discount, and on the weekends, you can see local triathletes fully decked out in cycling gear at most of their locations. By offering a promotion to club members, and by providing a gathering place for the local triathlon community, Sports Basement is able to build bonds and loyalty.
Exercise: Think about a local business with a similar customer base that you’d like to target. Now think of a promotion you could offer their customers to drive traffic into your store.
3. Create a Cause Partnership
Recently, Slurp, a newly-opened noodle bar in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco partnered with 474 Castro. The establishment located across the street from Slurp is also a project dedicated to making San Francisco the first city to put an end to the transmission of HIV.
As fellow supporters of 474 Castro’s project, Slurp owners partnered with the SF AIDS Foundation (474 Castro’s parent company) to raise awareness and funds for the cause. Slurp servers donned the project’s T-shirts while serving guests, and each table sported a table tent promoting the cause as well. The place is packed, and both parties benefit from the partnership while giving guests an opportunity to show their support.
Exercise: Think about a local organization whose cause is important to you (and ideally, important to your customer base). Think of ideas in which you can support the organization by building relationships with their staff and advocates through your business.
Action item: Pick one (or all) of these three partnerships and propose your ideas with fellow, local small business owners or causes. You may be surprised by the results.
Also, consider implementing FiveStars in the mix by offering various points or rewards that benefit you and your small business or cause partner.
If you’d like to be connected to a local business to launch one of these partnerships, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.