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How Partnerships Can Improve Small Businesses

Do you spend time worrying about your competition? Are you struggling to reach new customers? It might be time to think about collaboration and partnerships to help grow your business.

Creating collaborative partnerships, also known as co-branding, can be a powerful way for businesses to improve brand affinity, extend their customer reach, and provide better services.

In the tech industry, companies often form alliances with other organisations to develop software and tools that cater to similar audiences and could integrate with one another.

Indeed, collaboration can be as effective as competitiveness when it comes to driving business.

Rather than treating each other as competitors, businesses in any industry can create complementary partnerships to build a new product or service together or cross-promote their existing products or services.

And a partnership need not be for life — short-terms partnerships to test the waters might include:

  • Co-sponsored events, webinars, and marketing campaigns
  • Joint negotiations with various vendors to cut overheads
  • Shared advertising and media buys to save marketing spend

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The advantages of collaborations and partnerships

The possibilities for partnerships and collaborations are endless — they’re only limited by the kinds of organisations you choose to partner with. The best partnerships will be mutually beneficial, and both parties can expect to see some or all of these advantages coming their way.

Increased efficiency

Partnerships can make it easier for brands to deliver products and services faster with better quality control standards, at a more cost-effective price. Shared resources, expertise, and supply chains mean that all parties get a boost in efficiency and productivity.

Reduced costs leading to higher margins

Collaborations allow you to minimise research and development costs, negotiate better deals throughout the supply chain, and appeal to more investors. By sharing the risk, you also minimise any potential costs further down the road.

Additional expertise

Whether you work with another company in your own industry or one from an entirely different discipline, you can access their personnel and expertise. This allows you both to offer products and services that you would otherwise struggle to produce.

New customer reach

If you each promote your partner’s business to your respective customer bases, both parties will reach an audience they otherwise may not have access to. To widen that reach even more, you can create joint advertising and marketing campaigns.

Improved sales pipeline

If your collaboration is more permanent, you and your partner can consider sharing your sales pipeline. And if your sales teams are working together to bring in more business, everyone’s bottom line benefits.

How to get the most out of collaborative partnerships

Your business is unique, but there are partners out there for any business — the key is finding one that works with the same target audience as you, but provides different value. Of course, alignment in purpose and values is also desirable.

For example, an entrepreneur who offers classes and consulting to help small business leaders with financial matters might partner with another expert who helps that same audience build business growth strategies.

They could leverage each other’s platforms and networks, offer classes together, share referrals, publish together and co-host events.

Here are a few broad guidelines that will help any business create valuable partnerships:

  • Consider each business’s market reach. Both companies should understand the reach and limitations their partner offers. That makes it easier for participating brands to set and manage expectations. In most cases, organisations can hope to see modest, steady growth from a well-executed partnership.
  • Compare company culture and mission statements. It’s important that your values align. For example, a company that prides itself on eco-friendly solutions may not want to partner with an organisation that profits from fossil fuels. When partners share the same values, your teams will be more excited about working with each other, and you’ll be more likely to produce something that you’re proud of.
  • Research each party’s unique market positioning. Both partner organisations will have their own specific market positioning. To make sure your co-branding efforts are successful, conduct market research to determine how to best position the new partnership in a way that elevates the status of both brands.

Create a detailed partnership agreement

Setting the legal parameters for the partnership – including what happens at the end of it – helps both parties define their investments of time, resources and money. This helps to crystalise each company’s responsibilities and aids in the planning, launching and running of the partnership from start to finish.

A brand partnership agreement should include:

  • Specific goals
  • Duration of the partnership
  • A timeline of promotions and events
  • Termination clauses
  • Licensing provisions for brands, logos, copyrights and trademarks
  • Exclusivity clauses
  • Market data sharing agreements
  • Liability of each partner
  • Capital contribution of each partner
  • Delegation of tasks
  • Nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements

Collaborations offer a way to reach new leads and continue to innovate for loyal customers. The best of these co-branding efforts results in long-term partnerships that allow both organisations to expand across markets, better engage existing audiences, and increase profitability.

We spoke to more than 2,500 SMB owners and leaders about their motivations, challenges, and goals, uncovering the obstacles they face and the strategies and tactics to overcome them.

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