Could your marketing benefit from a strategic alliance with another business?

A strategic alliance is an arrangement between two companies that have decided to share resources to undertake a specific, mutually beneficial project.

Where marketing is concerned, this is generally an agreement to share each other’s details with their client base, or split costs to conduct a joint marketing campaign.

A strategic alliance is less involved and less permanent than a joint venture, and does not usually constitute a legally binding agreement.  It is simply two compatible businesses agreeing to work together for mutual gain.

Some businesses do this very well, but it can be a forgotten avenue of marketing in this tech-led, digital age!

One of my clients that does this very successfully is a wedding boutique who has formed a strategic alliance with a local jeweller. When better to capture brides than at the purchase of the engagement ring?  They have placed a bridal display with a dressed mannequin in the jewellery shop, offering a 10% discount on wedding dresses if they purchase their engagement ring at the jewellers. This is an incentive for the customer to make their purchase with that specific jeweller – and provides the bridal boutique with a new prospect.

There are a number of ways strategic alliances can work for marketing purposes.

Here are a few suggestions.

Reciprocal links on your websites
Include an ‘our trusted partners’ page on your website and list your network of professionals with compatible businesses – in return, ask them to do the same with a link to your website on theirs.

Displays in each other’s shop
As illustrated with the wedding boutique example, an eye-catching display coupled with the right offer can bring fantastic results.

Joint campaigns
Team up with a relevant business to promote a joint campaign.  For example, a hotel could link with a local attraction or two to promote a family deal – bed and breakfast at the hotel plus tickets to the local attractions at a discount price.

Joint flyers
Share design and print costs and produce a double sided leaflet that promotes both businesses.

Joint stand at networking events
Exhibiting at networking events, particularly larger, industry-specific events like the Birmingham NEC’s wedding show, can prove extremely costly.  Splitting the cost of a stand with a compatible partner business can allow you to have a presence without the extortionate price tag.  OK, you halve your space, but it’s better to have some presence than none.

Page advert in a magazine or newspaper
Splitting the space in a magazine or newspaper advert can work in much the same way as exhibition space.  Promotional activity that could otherwise be out of reach due to cost, suddenly becomes a viable option.

So, spend half an hour writing down which businesses might ‘fit’ well with yours and get in touch.  As long as you can offer them something of value in return, why would they say no? It’s worth a go!

If you would like more insights on marketing and growing your business, book a FREE business review with Doug today.

The six simple steps to marketing success

Marketing your business can seem like a gargantuan task.

Google ‘marketing’ and you’ll be deluged with articles, blog posts, books and resources that all claim to know the best way to promote your services or products – as well as lots of companies wanting to do it for you, for a fee.

By all means buy a book, dip into some blogs and drink in the ‘how to’ tips on building a marketing strategy, producing content marketing,  getting results from email marketing, or text marketing etc. Knowledge is always a good thing. You might even cost up outsourcing some, or all, of your marketing – but, before you spend any of your marketing budget, please take a look at my six steps to marketing success. Unless you have these basics in place, whether you’re taking the DIY approach or employing a specialist marketing company, you’ll just be throwing your money away.

First and foremost, however, make sure you understand what marketing actually is!  Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is the activity you undertake to bring in leads and prospects. Once you have prospects, you can then follow a sales process to get them to buy what you’re offering. It’s important not to get the two mixed up as discussed in a previous post here.

When you’re clear on the distinction, here’s how to succeed at marketing.

1 – Clearly define your product or service

Yes, it may sound simple – but you’d be surprised how many business people I’ve met who attempt to tell me what they do, and I end up with no clue as to what they offer! Often, we can be too close to it ourselves to see it through a customer’s eyes. We live it every day but, what we think is self-explanatory, often isn’t.

If you offer marketing services, for example, don’t just say ‘I do marketing’. Not everyone will understand what exactly you can do for them. Tell people you help promote businesses by creating tailored marketing campaigns that bring in valuable leads and prospects. It’s an introduction that allows you to then move seamlessly into talking about the kinds of campaigns you run and the results you can achieve.

Getting this initial definition correct is so crucial because, why will people buy if they’re not sure what they’ll be getting?

The best solution is to try and explain it as you would to a 14-year-old. Be descriptive, but don’t lose them in the detail. Keep it simple, jargon free and succinct. When you’ve got your definition together, try it out on a few people. Tell them what you’re selling and see if they can understand and relay it back to you.

2 – Understand who you’re marketing to

A really important thing to remember with any marketing activity is, the more tailored you can make it to a specific audience, the more successful you will be. Try and promote to ‘everyone’, and you’ll find you’re promoting to no-one!

Once you can easily and clearly describe your product, think about who will want to buy it.  Are you aiming to capture the imagination of the trendy teens, or pitching at a more mature audience? Are you looking for families with young children, or affluent couples with greater disposable income? If you’re offering a business-to-business service, are there specific industries you need to focus on? Paint a picture in your mind of the person you’re aiming your marketing at. Refine it as much as possible. For individuals, think about age, gender, profession, family situation and geographical area. For businesses, focus on relevant industries, the contact you require within the company and geographical area.

3 – Find out where your target audience shops

Once you know who you want to contact, it’s much easier to figure out the best way to do that. Are they always online? Are they regular users of specific social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Linked In? Will they read newspapers, magazines or industry publications? Do they go to networking events? Do they shop in certain high street shops? Could you consider a strategic alliance with another business?

Give some real thought to the best places to get in front of your target market and it will help you determine the best marketing activities to focus on.

4 – Now to take action!

You’re now ready to market yourself. You know what you’re marketing, who you’re marketing to and the best ways to reach your target audience. Now might be the best time to research your chosen marketing activity a little deeper and pick up tips on how to do it well. If you’ve decided you need to be promoting yourself and advertising on Facebook, find out how to do this professionally and effectively by reading some articles on it, or booking onto a local training workshop.

Here’s the biggy, though – whatever marketing methods you use, it’s vital to keep that activity going regardless of how busy you get! You might find you bring in loads of leads in the first month and are so busy following up and doing the work, that you don’t think it’s important to do more marketing. This is a big mistake. You’ll just have to start from scratch again when those initial leads and work dry up.  Marketing should continue constantly in the background, producing a steady flow of prospects. This is where outsourcing can really pay dividends. Consider employing a marketing company to keep churning out the content for you.

5 – Remember your call to action

How frustrating would it be if you received a leaflet about a workshop, you’re really interested in attending, but there are no details included on how to book? Believe it or not, this does happen!

Before sending anything out – proofread it (or even better, get someone else to look over it and see if they can spot anything you’ve missed) and make sure it has a call to action, and contact details!

Think about what you want to achieve. Do you want visits to your website? For people to call you? Or bookings onto an event? Whatever the outcome you’re hoping for, make sure your marketing material makes this clear and gives the audience everything they need to complete that action.

6 – Measure and adjust

Whenever you undertake any marketing activity, especially if you’re allocating budget to it, you want to  make sure it’s performing as you hoped and is worthy of the spend. There are lots of ways of monitoring and measuring your marketing and, again, there are plenty of resources available that will tell you exactly how to do it.  Measuring your marketing’s effectiveness is the only way you can hope to ensure a return on investment, and work towards improving your activity in the future. One client, for example, was paying £1,000s on an annual Yellow Pages display advert.  When they started asking leads where they had found their details, however, not one had come from Yellow Pages!  Time for a re-think, me thinks!

Keep a record of how many leads each marketing activity brings in and measure the quality of these leads.  How many turn into paid work? Don’t be afraid to experiment with different marketing methods to see which brings the greater return. You should constantly question and adjust your marketing methods – don’t just do what you’ve always done.

Marketing and getting your message right are addressed in more detail in my book, ‘Getting Down to Business’.  You can order your copy here.

It also forms part of my business mentoring programmes.  If you feel you could benefit from my support with any aspect of growing your business and becoming more profitable, book a FREE business review here.