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Partner Power

Want to strengthen your marketing muscle and save money? Team up.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Open your mail on any given day and you'll find terrific examples of marketing partnerships at work. Just take a look at the next credit card solicitation that shows up on your desk; it probably pitches a variety of services, from low-cost car rentals to speedy Internet connections, offered by the bank's partners. Building such strategic partnerships could be a smart move for you, too. Your company can benefit from income-generating alliances and avoid the financial risks inherent in other expansion tactics.

If you're ready to see what effects partnering can have on your marketing muscle, here are three ways to take advantage of marketing alliances:

1. Gain a competitive advantage. When businesses that offer complementary services team up, they often form a whole that's much greater than the sum of its parts. They can market together to pitch and win major accounts, provide additional services as a unit, and diversify and expand their customer bases.

For example, a plumbing parts and accessories showroom that wants to market design services might partner with a remodeling firm that specializes in upscale bathroom additions. To support and promote the partnership, the two companies could run a joint advertising campaign in the local newspaper and show prospects who visit the showroom a brochure and video showcasing a completed bathroom remodel. Both companies would benefit from the new revenue stream: The retailer would gain a competitive advantage, and the remodeling contractor would get exposure to the showroom's retail customers.

Often, individual companies don't have all the expertise required to win major government or corporate contracts. But by choosing the right marketing partners, they can form teams with the specific background and capabilities required. A Web design company, for instance, that aims to solicit turnkey Web design and management projects from major technology companies might beat its competition by partnering with content providers experienced in writing about high-tech issues.

2. Enhance your image. What happens when a skills assessment and placement firm in Seattle develops strategic partnerships with similar, independently owned businesses in Chicago and Miami? It creates the image of a firm with national scope, enabling the company to target larger prospects-such as major corporations that have offices in multiple locations. Setting up strategic partnerships with businesses like yours in other cities can help you expand your market area and target larger accounts. Another benefit is sharing resources and marketing costs with your new partners-to create a joint Web site, for example.

3. Reduce your costs. Launching a new product can cost millions. But what if you could launch or test market a product nationally for a fraction of that cost, yet still gain input from experienced marketing partners with a ready-made audience? That's what you get when you form a strategic marketing partnership with a large company or association that regularly markets to your target audience.

Suppose you own a sports apparel business that manufactures a new commemorative bomber-style jacket for auto racing car enthusiasts. You could take a large financial risk by renting a list and mounting a direct-mail campaign to market the new product on your own, or you could partner with an association of racing fans and offer your jacket as a special premium to its members. Your product message would reach the association's highly qualified membership in its regular package or catalog and thus dramatically cut your costs.

There are unlimited ways to partner to achieve your marketing objectives and reduce your financial risks. No matter what your expansion plans may be-from launching a new product or service to taking on additional markets-consider the advantages of building strategic partnerships instead of going it alone. Whether you form these alliances with other entrepreneurs or with major corporations that have abundant marketing influence, strategic partnering will help you successfully market your business without breaking the bank.

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