Want to target new markets, reach more clients and find greater uses for your products and services? Team up with another small business and form a marketing partnership. Whether you operate a bed and breakfast, sell sporting equipment in a retail store or teach people computer skills, you can benefit from a marketing partnership.
To find the perfect mates, Kevin Donlin looked for businesses that didn't compete directly with Guaranteed Resumes, his Minneapolis resume-writing service, and found a complementary industry: employment agencies.
To sell agency owners on the partnership idea, he showed them he could solve a problem for them. "Employment agencies can't sell an employer on a job applicant with a bad resume. I told them I can write better resumes and help them get jobs for their applicants."
Donlin sent a broadcast fax that offered his services to 40 local firms he found in the Yellow Pages, then followed up by sending resume samples and information about Guaranteed Resumes to those who expressed interest.
So far, Donlin has launched four marketing partnerships. "That's business from clients who wouldn't have known about me otherwise," he says.
Providing a top-quality product or service, Donlin believes, is the key to maintaining long-lasting marketing partnerships--and to starting new ones. "If you do a good job, your marketing partners will tell their friends," he says.
Forming a marketing partnership with two West Coast public relations firms helped Web-site consultant Katie Nosbisch, owner of Complete Consulting in Decorah, Iowa, land contracts with prestigious high-tech clients, including Hitachi.
Here's how it works: The public relations firms get leads on a new contract. They make the initial contact with the client and show off Nosbisch's marketing materials as part of their presentation. Once the contract is signed, the public relations experts hire Nosbisch to design the client's Web site.
"My associates are PR experts who know how to work with the press. I'm an expert at constructing databases and developing Web sites. It's a good mix," says Nosbisch. The alliance works well even though Nosbisch is several states removed from her partners. "When we're working on a contract, we're constantly in communication, either by e-mail or by phone," she says.
Maintaining quality communication, she adds, is the cornerstone of any successful marketing relationship. "Make sure you can talk to each other easily and understand what the other person [needs from the relationship]," Nosbisch explains. "That's especially important when you come from two very different areas of expertise."
Teaming up with a competitor worked for Alan Stuart, owner of Stuart Communications Group, an automotive public relations specialist in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He and his marketing partner won a $35,000 public relations contract from a major car manufacturer--a project neither would have been able to snag on his own.
Teaming up provided double marketing power. Stuart has contacts in the automotive industry; his partner has a flair for designing special programs, a service the car manufacturer wanted provided as part of the contract. "My partner never would have known about this opportunity except through me. I needed his skills designing exhibits to get the contract," explains Stuart. "It was a perfect business marriage."
The duo continues to cooperate--rather than compete--to bid on and win other contracts. "We know each other's abilities and limitations, and we trust each other," says Stuart. "That's the basis of a good marketing partnership."
Carla Goodman is a freelance writer in Sacramento, California.
Before you team up with a marketing partner, get the answers to these important questions:
- How well do I know my potential marketing partner?
- Do we have professional chemistry and the same business philosophy?
- Do we have a similar amount of experience running our businesses?
- What resources can I offer my marketing partner, and what can he or she give me?
- If the partnership doesn't work out, can we easily dissolve it?
For more information, consider these resources:
- The Art of Partnering: How to Increase Your Profits and Enjoyment in Business Through Alliance Relationships, by Edwin Richard Rigsbee (Alliance Works, $24.95, 805-371-4636), offers a nuts-and-bolts approach to forming business partnerships.
- Intelligent Business Alliances, by Larraine Segil (Times Business Books, $25, 800-733-3000), explains how to select a partner, create realistic goals and manage the partnership.
- Walk Your Talk: Growing Your Business Faster Through Successful Cross-Promotional Partnerships, by Kare Anderson (Ten Speed Press, $17.95, 415-331-6336), provides strategies for teaming up with other businesses to promote your products or services.
By Leigh Schindler Powell
Good things come in small packages, and the diminutive postcard is no exception. Not only are they easy and inexpensive to produce, postcards do what bigger marketing missives can't: They get through to even the toughest direct-mail customers.
Once relegated to appointment reminders and changes of address, these smart marketing tools are taking on jobs far larger than their size. Sales messages, invitations, coupons and correspondence adorn postcards as small as
4 inches by 6 inches. These days, every small business with a computer and laser printer can create winning postcards for just pennies apiece.
To integrate postcards into your marketing mix, all you need are mailing lists of customers and prospects. Design your offer with customers in mind. Here's how:
- Headline: Think of your postcard as a miniature billboard--fit the main idea into one short, attention-grabbing sentence, such as "Five shortcuts to greener grass."
- Body copy: Keep it short and simple--only one idea per postcard. If it can't be read in the time it takes to walk back from the mailbox, it's too wordy.
- Call to action: Emphasize the urgency: "Sale ends Tuesday."
- Response: Make it easy for customers to reach you. Include your phone and fax numbersand street and e-mail addresses.
- Design: Remember, it's a tiny billboard--use uncluttered, easy-to-read, clever graphics.
- Postage: Bulk mail is the least expensive, but it requires presorting by ZIP code and mailing a minimum of 200 postcards at a time. Regular first-class rates apply to smaller quantities.
Need help? Check out the book How to Market With Postcards, by Markus Allen (Mailshop USA, $15, 800-618-6050, ext. 9122), or the software program MyProfessionalMarketingMaterials from MySoftware Co. ($79.95, 800-325-3508).
Complete Consulting, 1817 Trout Run Rd., P.O. Box 511, Decorah, IA 52101, (319) 387-0702
Guaranteed Resumes, (612) 825-7262, http://www.gresumes.com
Stuart Communications Group, 37440 Hills Tech Dr., Farmington Hills, MI 48331, (248) 489-5595