An extremely lazy question I get asked often: “What’s the ONE THING I should do to _______?” The blank is always a complicated, difficult-to-obtain outcome that requires a sophisticated answer, not a simple “hack.” I get it – no one wants “complicated” when easy will do, and the bank doesn’t give you extra credit on your deposits for degree of difficulty in getting the money.
However, when it comes to marketing, there is actually one strategy I prize above all else. It’s not easy, but it is powerful, and it is the way I initially launched my business while neck-deep in debt without a list, a website, a product, a mentor or business partner. That is, the JV (joint venture), more appropriately named the strategic partnership or promotional partnership.
Essentially, it’s where you get another noncompetitive entity or individual to promote you and your services to their list, members, affiliates and customers. My first such partnership was with CompTIA; I convinced them to allow me to do a free teleseminar (which were the “webinars” of the day 20 years ago) to their list. That resulted in landing a handful of clients and a longer-term engagement with them. That led to other partnerships with ASCII, ICCA, ConnectWise, Kaseya, good old Harry Brelsford and SMB Nation, Microsoft and half a dozen others. Within a year, I generated just shy of a million in revenue, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Promotional partnerships are powerful for many reasons, but the biggest benefit they offer is that they act like referrals on steroids. When an organization or person recommends or endorses you to their audience (list, members, associates, clients, etc.), you are positioned FAR better than if you approached that same prospect cold via your normal outbound marketing.
TMT Members can access Expert In Residence Fred Sagester’s: How To Secure A 5900% ROI Using Joint Venture Partnerships Q&A Session Here.
Second, if you play it exactly right, the cost of acquisition can be ZERO, or you might even get PAID to be promoted to their list. In the case of CompTIA, I sold them on having me do a free educational teleseminar to their list. I made absolutely certain it was an extremely valuable session so I would get invited back, but I didn’t wait for that to happen. I used that success to then sell them on hiring me to deliver a six-month program on the topic of marketing to their members, which they bought. That engagement landed me dozens of clients, even though I didn’t overtly sell in any of the sessions. I simply invited attendees to download additional free resources, templates and tools at my website and encouraged them to sign up for a free one-on-one consultation with yours truly (at the time, I was a one-woman show).
Essentially, I was getting paid to get clients, but the critical element to getting ALL of these deals done was my ability to deliver an impactful, interesting, engaging session on my subject matter (marketing). Now, before you go running off dismissing this because you can’t talk your way out of a wet paper bag, stop right there. It’s a skill you can learn. When I started, I didn’t have years of public speaking experience under my belt either. EVERYONE starts out bad and practices to get better. In fact, I had ZERO experience in public speaking when I started and had high anxiety over it – but I didn’t let that fear stop me. I also had zero experience in writing reports, eBooks, articles, etc. They’re all skills I decided to learn.
You can also offer to write articles or provide eBooks, research papers and free reports – again, we have templates for you to start with. However, SPEAKING to an audience is far better than written materials because you have the added positioning of being a speaker and the audience gets to “meet” you and know you in a way that cannot happen with an eBook or free report. Now, here are the steps to using this strategy:
Step 1: Make A List Of Potential Partners
Make a list of the most influential people in your niche or market area, as well as people who would have big lists of similar customers and are non-competitive with you. I suggest you start with at least 25 and go up to 100. Below is a short list of questions to spur your thinking. I also encourage you to talk to your clients about who they use for payroll, bookkeeping, insurance, legal, etc., and ask them to make an introduction. Since you share one client, there’s a natural connection to refer business back and forth.
- Who else is selling OUTSOURCED SERVICES to my clients?
- Who has a lot of influence over my clients?
- Who else benefits when I make a sale?
- What associations or peer groups do my clients belong to?
Again, getting your clients involved in this thinking process is key, but you should be able to come up with a handful on your own. Some potential partners would include:
- Trade associations, peer groups (like EO), networking groups, etc.
- Your vendors (your CPA, landlord, bank, financial advisor, insurance rep, etc.)
- Commercial real estate brokers, landlords, property management companies
- Other OUTSOURCED services firms (CPAs, HR and payroll, web design, etc.)
- Companies selling phone systems and office machines (but not IT services)
- Prominent consultants who work in your niche
- Your clients’ vendors and suppliers
- Insurance sales professionals selling cyber liability or crime insurance
- Trade associations (a MUST)
Don’t overlook your current clients! They might actually be the BEST referral partner for you.
Step 2: Research Your Partners
What can you do, deliver or offer that will provide value to your strategic partner? Sometimes it’s as simple as offering educational material on a hot topic (like compliance or cyber security). For example, a local bank may welcome your webinar on how to keep their clients’ accounts safe. Another partner that should be on your list is insurance professionals. Right now, getting crime and cyber liability insurance is becoming harder than ever, and companies must verify they have certain security protocols in place before a policy will be issued.
But before you do your initial outreach to the partners on your list, do a little research to become familiar with them and what might entice them to do business with you. Here’s how:
- Go on their website and read their blogs (if any) and other content.
- Look them up on LinkedIn to see who you might have in common as connections, as well as to find other information about their organization.
- See if any of your clients know them (and can then introduce you).
- Follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Subscribe to their company newsletter online.
- Download their press releases for the past three to six months and read them.
- Read their investor portfolio.
- Research what their mission is.
- Subscribe to Google Alerts on their name and company.
- Attend events they are holding.
- Read articles and reports they publish.
Step 3: Brainstorm A Partnership Strategy
The key is to attempt to find a way to HELP them. Ask yourself, can I help them:
- Get more clients or members? Example: insurance companies will appreciate you putting a little fear into their clients about the realities of ransomware and cybercrime.
- Retain more customers?
- Be more competitive by adding my services to their mix?
- Make money from the clients they have without adding to their overhead or marketing expenses? If you pay a percentage of sale, you are giving them a way to make PURE PROFIT on their existing clients without any overhead or risk.
- Get a leg up on their competition?
- Support a key initiative or goal they have? Banks want to keep their clients’ accounts safe and will often welcome your free seminar, webinar or tools to help their clients.
Step 4: Reach Out To Get An Initial Call
The purpose of this step is to simply get a CALL. Do NOT spill your guts in the initial communication. You simply want to pique their interest. Below is an example of a template I used that was very effective in getting partners on the phone using an article, award or other newsworthy item that I would read about on their website or in the industry publications. (HINT: If you are in a niche, be sure to subscribe to and READ the trade pubs for such opportunities.)
Attend our next Livecast to learn how to get your marketing on autopilot PLUS we will show you the four systems you must have in place to get 12-24 new managed services clients this year.