How To Create Strategic Partnerships For Your Business




Strategic partnerships can give small businesses such as yours the edge to help them compete with larger companies.

Imagine reaping the benefits of an asset, product, expertise or service that you don’t currently have.

Sounds crazy, right?

Large companies have been doing it for years. It’s known as strategic partnerships (or a joint ventures) and in essence, it is a mutually beneficial contractual alliance between two businesses—and it can give small business owners a competitive edge and help them increase the bottom line in innovative ways.

It’s widely acknowledged that bigger companies have greater resources than smaller businesses. And that is where strategic partnerships come into their own.

Strategic partnerships can help you compete effectively with larger firms by levelling the playing field.

The strategy of using the power of strategic partnerships has been particularly successful for me over the years and I believe quality over quantity is the key.

When I ran my personal training business, I had 3 key Strategic Partners and I found that keeping the number of Strategic Alliance Partners I worked with small, enabled me to block time to meet and work with them.

After all, you only have so many hours each day and plenty of things to focus on!

On the switch side, I used to have a coaching client who proudly told me that they had over 30 businesses that they partnered with.

When I asked how often they met each business owner, their reply was that they hadn’t since the first meeting.

My next question was how much business had they generated from each relationship and the answer did not surprise me – no business whatsoever!

Building a Strategic Partnership with the right business can be incredibly powerful.

But choose the wrong business to partner with and you’ll question everything about why you EVER thought it a good idea to work with a business owner who ‘just doesn’t get it’.

From my experience, when you find a good business to partner with, it more than makes up all the challenges you had to work through.

The reason I think more small business owners don’t use this fantastic business building strategy is they:

  • Don’t know many other business owners, nor do they invest the time in reaching out and getting to know other business owners in groups such as BNI, Toastmasters, and the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Run into a problem with their Strategic partner, get frustrated, and ‘give up’ continuing work on this strategy. You must be patient with the process of finding and developing good relationships. If you are fortunate and develop an ‘instant’ connection that’s great, but most of the time it’s going to take a bit of time to get to know, like, and trust someone.And then even more time to establish a strong working relationship that supports the growth of both your businesses.
  • Think they lack time. But that is no excuse, it’s up to you to organise and structure your business in a way that you CAN devote the time it takes to develop strong strategic partnerships. This involves shifting your mindset from someone who is the technician in their business, to someone who owns and runs a business.It’s the classic battle of you are either working IN your business or working ON your business.Hint: as a business owner, you need to be spending 80% of your time working ON your business if you want to succeed!

So, what makes a good strategic partnership?

  • A business that serves your ideal prospect profile
  • Has established credibility in your marketplace
  • Actively markets internally to their customer/client base (this is a MUST)
  • Has both online and offline contact information for their customer/client base
  • Has both a quality relationship with their customer/client base

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What makes a BAD strategic partnership?

  • No database of customers/clients
  • No credibility
  • No money
  • No marketing plan
  • Completely disorganized
  • Doesn’t appreciate or understand the value of marketing and building win-win reciprocal relationships (i.e. they just don’t get it)

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What are some good potential categories for your strategic partnership?

In a nutshell, it’s any business that serves the same target market as you but is not a direct competitor.

When I had my fitness business, for example, the types of businesses I looked to partner with

  • Hair Salons
  • Cosmetic Dentist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Beauty Salon/Day Spa
  • Natural Foods Store (such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc.)
  • Exercise Equipment Retailers
  • Massage Therapist
  • Nutrition Store
  • Financial Planner
  • Chiropractor
  • Makeover Specialist/Image Consultant
  • Running store
  • Accountant
  • Specialist Travel Agent (e.g. Travel Counsellor)

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Where can you get lists and find people to that are candidates for these positions?

  • Chamber of commerce directory
  • BNI directory
  • Toastmasters and other business networking group relationships
  • Your own Clients
  • Don’t forget Google!!
  • And of course, your own local knowledge will play a big role here!

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Here’s your shortcut to your success with building your Strategic Partnership Program:

STEP 1: Join your Local Chamber

British Chamber of Commerce

First off,  I encourage you to join your local Chamber of Commerce. Here in the UK, you can search for details of your local Chamber at the British Chamber of Commerce website

When you join you’ll get a ‘directory’ of other members (and their business category) in the community. This will become the ‘hit list’ you start working from.

Each Chamber also has a president and what’s called ‘ambassadors’.

These people work for the chamber members and it’s their job to help introduce you to other members of the chamber and overall have a positive experience in working with the chamber.

I suggest that you invite these people to lunch or make an appointment to get together. They are highly influential within that Chapter and will be very helpful in introducing you to the right people, thereby ‘shortcutting’ your time in meeting the right strategic partners.

You should also look to attend Chamber events, and invest time in meeting the other business owners there.

This is called networking.

Have fun with it.

It’s an investment in the growth of your business.

And remember…

it’s not WHAT you know, its WHO you know that counts.

SIDE NOTE: Inquire about advertising opportunities in Chamber publications, such as their monthly newsletter, and website or email marketing.

These are often VERY inexpensive media targeted at high impact professionals and a good market for your services!

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STEP 2: Check out your local BNI Groups

BNI is a great place to find potential strategic partnerships
Business Networking International (“BNI”)

Next up, I encourage you to visit a few local Business Networking International (also known as “BNI”) groups.

I do recommend you take your time with this and don’t just pick the first one you find. Instead, find a good Chapter with a high number of members that you ‘connect’ with. This is crucial as the first Chapter I joined focused more on pushing me for referrals for more people to join the Chapter and not on helping each other.

Attend the free training workshops they have and if you have time, take on a leadership role serving in the group. But only do this if you do have time as the danger with this is that you end up spending more time on your BNI leadership role each week than what you do on your own business!!

But overall, joining your local BNI makes a lot of sense as it means you can cultivate not only a great referral network, but also meet potential strategic partners who ‘get it’ and want to do marketing with you.

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STEP 3: Spruce up your speaking skills

Toastmasters is a great place to find strategic parternships
If you lack confidence, then becoming a Toastmaster can help you overcome this fear.

Toastmasters is another organisation that you’ll not only learn how to do public speaking from, but meet other business professionals who are there to do the same.

Again, much like BNI, I recommend that you go and visit a few in your area and join one you click with.

Often you’ll not only attract new clients, but also find great SA partners in these groups, not to mention you will learn a new skill – public speaking that will come in extremely handy even if you do not intend to hit the speaking circuit.

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STEP 4: Build your Strategic Partnership Matrix

Now open up a spreadsheet and create a “Strategic Partnership Matrix” and start filling it up with as many candidates as possible in each category using your Chamber List, BNI group list, Toastmasters group list, and any other associations you have.

These are your TARGETS. Here is a screenshot of one I used to use…

strategic partnership list

Your column headings should be…

  • Sub-group,
  • Business Name,
  • Address,
  • Website,
  • Email,
  • Phone,
  • Contact Name.

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STEP 5: Schedule some meetings

Strategic Partnership meeting

Start out by leveraging your existing relationships and look to book one-to-one meetings with each potential strategic partner.

The key here is to find ones you ‘click’ with and that you can begin working with.

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STEP 6: Build a list of potential cross-promotion ideas

Discuss potential marketing opportunities you both can begin with.

This is called a cross-promotion.

The possibilities here are endless, but good first steps are what are called rather grimly, “host/parasite endorsed” direct mail and e-mail campaigns.

These are simply where you write to your list endorsing the other person’s business and presenting their offer to your list (eg “A Special Free Gift For You”) and vice versa.

Or you can look to run a workshop or presentation at each other’s place of business.

One successful campaign I ran with a hair salon was a “Beauty Body Makeover” challenge where both the hair salon and I promoted my Fitness Boot Camp.

Participants in the challenge had a month of training and the person who achieved the best results over the month won a 3-month membership to my sessions and a cut and blow-dry (from the salon owner).

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STEP 6: Rinse & Repeat

Rinse and repeat until you have at last 3-5 strong strategic partnerships who you are running multiple promotions and campaigns with.

Get this right and you will end up with a steady stream of referrals to your business.

So, there you go – your 6-Step Guide to building a strong strategic partnership program for your business. Get this right and you will find you have a steady stream of good quality leads for your business.

If this post has resonated with you but you still have some questions and might be in need of help in finding ways to boost your revenues, then why not take advantage of a free strategy call? You can book one by clicking here


About the author, Andrew Wallis

From two decades in the corporate world to finding my freedom in fitness, I'm known as Braveheart—a Personal Trainer turned marketing maestro for Fitness Professionals. I'm all about unlocking potential and empowering Fit Pros to grow their businesses. 'Finding Your Freedom' isn't just a mantra; it's a collective journey I embark upon with my clients.

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