Buddy System

Team up with a marketing partner...and watch your profits multiply.

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.

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