Partnerships can be extremely beneficial when it comes to business growth and building business relationships—regardless of your size.
From bootstrapping startups to Fortune 500 brands, the right partnerships can be a game-changer. And the best partnerships help expose your small business to new audiences, leverage the trust associated with popular brands and even help you navigate through certain situations business owners face.
Knowing which types of business partnerships lead to improvements and growth is key, so here are five worth pursuing, as the payoff can make a substantial impact on your business exposure, amount of revenue generated and growth.
1. Company Partnerships
Developing relationships with other companies or small businesses is a great way to get your name in front of audiences who are already receptive, allowing you to leverage that already-existing relationship to attract customers.
Let’s put this into perspective. Through the , for example, you’re able to promote your business to Shopify’s large merchant audience (and collect leads) by becoming a Shopify Expert.
“I became a Shopify Expert through their Partners Program in early 2015. It’s a major source of work that I bring in and I don’t think I would have the amount of work I have if it wasn’t for Shopify Experts,” says Kelly Vaughn, founder and lead developer at , who’s also a FreshBooks customer.
Nima Haddadi, managing partner at also stresses the importance of building quality relationships with these companies.
“The many website designers and developers that turn to Shopify’s resources perfectly match FreshBooks’ target customer, making it an extremely fruitful company partnership,” he explains. “While a program might be successful, that doesn’t make it the perfect fit for your business. Focus on building partnerships with companies that not only have a large audience, but also one that is perfectly aligned with your target audience. Quality over quantity should be your main focus.”
Not all companies will have a partnership program established, so don’t be afraid to reach out and pitch them. You never know until you ask.
Want to learn how to become a Shopify Partner?
2. Accounting and Financial Advisors
It’s important that you have a grasp on your numbers from day one, as overspending and poor decisions can cripple your business, even if it shows promise. Developing a relationship with a financial advisor that looks out for the best interest of your business, as well as your own personal finances, is key.
An accountant with extensive experience handling the books for businesses in your industry is also key. Rather than hiring an accountant based on recommendations from friends and family, hire based on their experience. Remember: An accountant who specializes in 1099 consultants is very different than one who handles the books for Fortune 500 companies. If you aren’t doing so already, cloud accounting software can help make sharing reports between you and your accountant seamless, especially during tax season. That way you can focus on doing the work that makes you happy–not worry about numbers.
3. Leadership and Peer Mentors
Some of the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have one thing in common — they used business mentors to help them build successful companies.
One of the benefits of finding a mentor is the elimination of mistakes that can stall growth and progress. A mentor is able to give you advice and suggestions that are designed to help you avoid mistakes, which are often the same mistakes they have encountered and successfully overcome in the past.
“You might think that you don’t have time for a mentor or that nobody knows your business more than you do, but this type of thinking will not help you get over the hurdles that cripple many businesses. Mentors not only help you with sound business advice, but they also mentally challenge you and change your way of thinking. By working with a mentor, I’ve learned to evaluate situations from different perspectives,” says Max Soni, CEO of .
I used to think having a mentor was only helpful for first-time entrepreneurs, but throughout the years I have learned that some of the most successful business owners still rely on mentors. It’s an edge that can help business owners with varying degrees of experience and success. Having a mentor in your corner is a definite business advantage.
4. Referral Partners
Strategic referral partners can drive instant sales and revenue for your business, and when they are reciprocal, they turn into long-term partnerships that create a mutually beneficial relationship. The beauty of referrals is that they are in addition to whatever other marketing channels you are using to drive sales, and the right partnerships can provide huge sales and revenue multipliers.
“For our business, referral partnerships have been instrumental when it comes to our growth,” explains William Young, CEO of . “The most effective referral partnerships are ones that provide value to both sides. For example, a referral partner will send us a client that needs financial help, and once they complete our program we are able to send them back to that partner when they are qualified to become a customer. When you are able to return value, you will see the number of referrals sent your way increase tremendously.”
Exploring possibilities with the vendors and companies you already do business with is a great place to start. If there is a potential opportunity, that communication window is already open, and there is already a level of trust established. Once you have established a successful referral relationship, explore scaling the same referral relationship with other similar businesses.
5. Brand Supporters
According to Verizon and Small Business Trends’ 2014 survey, referrals were said to be the top way small business owners acquired new customers. Word of mouth referrals outperformed SEO, social media, email marketing, and every other marketing strategy.
“Referrals in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations are very powerful, but so are online reviews, which are in-direct referrals. Consumers love to voice their opinion, whether positive or negative, online. When you provide a great product or service and deliver exceptional customer service, you create loyal brand supporters,” says Adam Boalt, CEO of .
How effective are online reviews? The presence of online reviews is responsible for an 18 percent increase in sales, which is more than enough incentive to focus on creating an army of brand supporters. The more customers that are actively promoting your business on social media and through word-of-mouth, the more extra business you are going to attract.
Consider implementing a customer loyalty program, which rewards your top-level customers in the form of free product or service, deep discounts and other incentive-driven rewards. Not only will they help promote your business, but they will also end up spending more money with you in the long-run.
Creating the right partnerships for your business can help accelerate your growth, which leads to stability and market share. Consider aligning your business with some of the partnership examples discussed above. These relationships can be responsible for tremendous results.
about the author
Jonathan Long is the founder of , an e-commerce brand-development agency.