It’s been a difficult year for most small businesses. COVID-19 has crippled local economies and required restrictions that have been challenging for many businesses to adapt to. However, one significant silver lining has been the spirit of togetherness and community spirit that has resulted from our shared difficulties. We’ve learned that we’re always stronger when we’re working together!
Small businesses are in a special position to apply this spirit of collaboration and mutual support. By partnering up, businesses can help keep one another afloat and reach wider customer bases while cutting their individual marketing costs. Read on for our best tips — from one small business to another — to finding the right partnerships and making them pay off.
When thinking about who to reach out to for potential partnerships, consider two main categories: relevance and geography. For the first, think of businesses that complement yours (without competing). Some examples might include florists and wedding photographers; landscapers and contractors; cafes and art galleries; craft breweries and restaurants. In terms of geography, look into businesses that are located in your immediate area, such as others in your shopping plaza, or on your block or business district if you’re located in an area with high foot traffic.
Make a list of all the potential businesses you could partner with in either category, then start the process of reaching out. It’s okay if you don’t have a full plan to present to them — you can always start by introducing yourself and asking if they’d be interested in sitting down for some coffee and brainstorming ways that you can help each other out.
Be sure to do a little vetting before making your pitch. Check out their reviews online, and if possible, patronize the business yourself to get a sense of the quality of their product. Partnering with a business that has a poor reputation in your community might backfire on you and cause you to lose the respect of your existing clientele.
What are the benefits to partnering up? Both of you will gain access to the other’s existing customer base. In addition to visibility, you’ll also gain higher quality leads in the sense of increased interest and trust. Say you own a coffee shop and you start displaying paintings by an artist with a showcase at a gallery down the street that you’ve partnered with. Patrons of the gallery will learn that they could see more of this artist’s work by visiting your cafe. This gives them a reason to check out your business, even if they already have a favorite coffee shop in town. They’ll also likely have a sense of respect for your business right off the bat because they know you are supporting the arts in their community, which they care about.
Likewise, a recommendation for a complementary business will go a long way. If a family has been pleased with their landscaper’s work and trusts them to provide quality service, they’ll be happy to skip the work of researching professionals when they need their fence repaired. They’ll gladly work with the contractor who has been vouched for and recommended by the company they already know and respect.
In some cases, offering kickbacks will help sweeten the deal between you and your partner (ie, you’ll get 5% of the profit from every job they get from your recommendation). It could also be in the form of a discount — a small craft brewery might offer their product at a steep discount to a popular restaurant that will sell their beer and earn them name recognition. Sometimes the benefit of cross-pollinating your customer bases can offer enough value on its own. Whatever the case, be sure that you come to a mutual agreement before you embark on the partnership, and get it in writing to prevent any souring of your relationship down the line.
Now it’s time to start getting the word out! If you start working with other businesses in your shopping plaza or business district, a co-op direct mail campaign is a great way to get the word out and save money on marketing. Split the costs of designing, printing, and sending your mailpiece equally, then share the advertising space on the mailer. Every Door Direct Mail® is a great tool for businesses that are close together, because you can target the postal routes surrounding your location and reach every address.
Handing out coupons or flyers with purchases is another great way to drive joint revenue. Offering a coupon for a free slice at the pizzeria next door with every purchase from your boutique is an incentive for people to patronize both of your businesses. You could even print on your business card that anyone who purchases a tailoring service from your shop can get 10% off their next drycleaning order at your partnering business (and vice versa). Displaying signage inside your business can grab your customer’s attention, and even be a convincing factor — if they’re on the fence about making a purchase, but see on a poster that they’ll get a free or discounted item from another business they’re curious about, it could seal the deal.
Whatever you do, PostNet is here to help support you and help your partnership flourish. Your local PostNet center can design and print the materials you’ll need to get the word out and help both of your businesses thrive. Stop by today to learn more about the services we offer to help you succeed.