Strategic partnerships can help small businesses get in front of new audiences and get noticed.

"Building partnerships is a vital strategy for any small business looking to grow in relatively inexpensive ways," says Todd Stewart, marketing manager for HourlyNerd, a platform that connects consultants with businesses. "For example, we were looking to build our webinar audience. After marketing it to our businesses and consultants, we recognized that we needed a new audience to market to, so we opened our toolbox and took out our strategic partnerships hat."

Stewart and his team reached out to bigger companies with larger audiences to promote their webinars, and they saw substantial success.

Want to create successful partnerships as a small business? Here's how:

Find the Right Companies

Search for companies that cater to your audience and offer complementary, not competitive, products and services. For example, freelance copywriters often work with designers.

Consider going beyond companies that cater to similar audiences and find those that provide services at particular times in the customer's journey. "The best partnerships are those where you work with a provider of a product or service that is used right before or after your own," says Len Bruskiewitz, manager of partnerships at Grasshopper, a virtual phone company. "For example, if you own a restaurant near a paint-your-own pottery studio, working out a 'dine then design night' discount package would be a great partnership."

Prioritize Relationships

Go into the partnership expecting to make friends, not to milk the other company for all they're worth. Send an introductory email that is nonaggressive and exploratory in nature.

The best partnerships come when both sides understand one another. To make your partner feel at ease, prioritize the relationship, not sales.

Manage Your Expectations

Respect your partner's limits. They may not be able to offer promotion after promotion in their email newsletter, for example, but this presents an opportunity for you to step up and take action where your partner cannot.

"Always excel in the areas that your partner does not. Even if it means more work for you and that you'll quickly need to learn something new, letting the other partner know that you have it covered will make the process move faster," says Stewart.

Red Flags

Some partnerships won't result in sales or good relationships. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Companies that want something from you, but are unclear about what you'll get in return.
  • Partners that want detailed insights into how you do things at your company so they can replicate them at theirs. It's good to help others, but you're a partner, not a consultant.
  • Partners that are more invested in getting something from you than in working together.

Ultimately, strategic partnerships represent a huge opportunity for small businesses. They help you get your services in front of new audiences, learn from other leaders and build your reputation. Consider giving them a try — you might soon see positive results.

Tags: small business partnerships