One of the most powerful marketing opportunities — but also one of the most under-used — is the thoughtful linking of your business with others in co-operative strategies. Sometimes the opportunities are right under your nose, require no money (in fact may save you operating cash) and can provide immediate advantages which continue for years — even decades.
Of course, these initiatives aren’t always that successful. I’ve worked with other organizations on initiatives that looked like they would be highly successful, but they fizzled quickly enough. These failures usually occur when the project doesn’t live up to expectations. In other words, the venture or initiative produces little if any tangible results.
(In some cases, alliances can result in lop-sided return — one business reaps far greater rewards than the other. Here, two possibilities exist. First, the business that gains little from the initiative is happy enough to continue because it becomes embedded in routines. Since the shared venture doesn’t require any cash cost, it continues. Alternatively, the business gaining the most from the effort begins paying some marketing dollars or provides some sort of other support for the co-operating venture — the principal of reciprocity at work.)
Sometimes joint venture projects are worthy of publicizing (sometimes they need to be publicized for legal reasons), but often the initiatives live below the surface — and radar — of competitors. In fact, as I write this posting, I don’t sense a great need nor desire to broadcast some of my busyness’s most successful joint venture and co-operative marketing initiatives. Sharing the news here might provide good examples to back up my argument, but won’t help my business and would be unfair to the joint venture partners who might not have requested confidentiality, but certainly didn’t request publicity out of context of the actual partnership or alliance.
However, I can say that when I start individual consulting initiatives with potential clients, I explore creative joint venture ideas as one of my first marketing recommendations. I’ll share this example.
A residential contractor, saying he wanted high-end business, observed that most of his clients in the past have driven used BMWs. This provided rather important clues about the demographics of his current and potential clients; value-conscious consumers who are also either driven by status or simply like used German luxury automobiles.
Regardless, I suggested he look up the local privately owned used BMW repair shops and see if he could work out some way to develop marketing alliances with them. One idea might be to provide a free home check up or a couple of hours of handy-man service around the house as a gift to the BMW repair shop’s clients. The contractor might also agree to pay a referral commission and/or to promote or distribute some kind of service special news to his remodelling clients.
I don’t know if this initiative will work yet, but it appealed to my marketing mind because of the low set-up cost and potentially high sustainable reward Note in this case, I suggested the contractor connect with used repair shops rather than dealers with service departments. This in part is because I wanted to avoid him having to deal with dealer/manufacturer’s bureaucracies and official branding rules and guidelines and partly because of the characteristics of BMW ownership and vehicle servicing practices for relatively new cars.
Can you think of other alliances in your own business? Spend a few minutes with your staff, in a quiet retreat, or simply thinking about the products and services your clients use where you might find synergy with other businesses. If you have joint venture ideas you’ve discovered are effective, or would like to bounce some thoughts off on me, you can comment or email email@example.com.