There are people and other businesses who already work with your audience. You can multiply your marketing effort by collaborating with them, cross promote your services, organize events together.
Today we will talk about how you can find local businesses to partner with, how to approach them and how to build the network and relationship where you will work with each other for a long time.
In this episode, Pamela Slim shares how to partner with local businesses to cross promote your business.
Pamela is an award-winning author, speaker and business consultant who has been an entrepreneur for twenty years.
In the last 13 years, she helped hundreds of people to start and grow successful businesses. She built a powerful online presence at Escape from Cubicle Nation, a site designed for corporate employees who wanted to make the shift to entrepreneur.
At Escape, Pam developed and taught business building courses for thousands of entrepreneurs.
In this episode, we will cover:
- [00:22] About the episode and Pamela Slim
- [01:50] Pam shares how after leaving her full-time job people started reaching her out for teaching them how it is to be an entrepreneur
- [03:59] What to start with if you want to partner with local businesses
- [06:08] How to find the right business to partner with
- [06:51] Why it’s a bad idea to partner with people who have a different business approach
- [07:55] You make want to have a better salesperson on your team, but not always will like to partner with the hardcore selling person
- [09:27] How to connect with people who you want to partner with
- [10:23] How to build the relationship with a local business
- [11:55] What to do if you partner with someone, finished your part of the collaboration, but another person doesn’t want to do their job
- [14:53] How to collaborate with businesses instead of competing
- [17:02] Pam’s experience of collaboration with the same business
- [18:47] The ways to partner with local businesses
- [20:59] How Pam partnered with events and local retreats
- [22:09] How to maintain the partnership community so you can constantly help each other
- [24:13] The difference for Pam in having the small and large groups of people for collaboration
- [25:47] What Pam’s networking events focused on
- [26:10] The important steps that will help you to partner with local businesses
- [28:12] Where to find Pam online
- [28:35] For the show notes go to marinabarayeva.com and subscribe to the Marketing for Creatives show
3 Steps to Follow If You Want to Partner with Local Businesses
- Step 1: Choose what ideal client profile you want to start to build partnerships around
- Step 2: Think about would be some of the natural types of partners that that person would need
- Step 3: Reach out businesses that serve those needs of your ideal client and offer the partnership
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Download podcast transcript [PDF] here:
- How to Partner with Local Businesses to Cross Promote Your Business
Resources from this interview:
- Learn more about Pamela Slim on pamelaslim.com
- Check out Pam’s Escape from Cubicle Nation
- Take a look at the work of Charlie Gilkey
- Stop by Spark Freelancer’s Union in Phoenix
- Learn more about Susan Baier
- Read Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- Follow Pamela on Twitter, Facebook
Connect with Marina Barayeva:
How to Partner with Local Businesses to Cross Promote Your Business – Interview Transcription
Please tell us about yourself. What is your entrepreneurial journey? So many years behind. How did you start working with small businesses?
I have been working for myself for 22 years since 1996. I left my last real job at Barclays Global Investors then. The first 10 years of my journey I was a consultant to large companies and mainly in Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area, which is where I grew up. And I really loved it.
I loved working always on the human side of business doing a lot of team building and strategic planning, executive coaching, change management and things like that.
I worked with many companies throughout the decade all around the country. Then in 2005, I wanted to take a turn. I had moved from California to Arizona where I live now.
I wanted to be off the road because I’ve been traveling so much as a consultant. So I started the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, which was a blog designed for people who wanted to leave the corporate and start a business.
And really the genesis of that was that when I was in corporate consulting, so many people would ask how it is that I quit my job and I started my business. I realized that many people who had grown up in a corporate environment were not sure at all what the path was to entrepreneurship if they had never done it before.
They had a lot of anxiety about it, and they were worried about giving up the stability. Understandably having a corporate job. So that’s really the genesis of how I started working in early-stage entrepreneurship.
Once I begin to do the work, I just realized what a joy it was. I love to help grow and build businesses.
That’s fantastic. Today we need your help too. As you grow your business, probably you know that one of the ways to market your business is to partner with other local businesses.
What would you recommend us to do? How would you help us, to suggest us to choose what businesses to partner with? Where to find them? How to connect with them?
What to start with?
The way to start is always when I refer to as an ecosystem map. That is taking whoever you consider being your ideal client and recognizing that you could have a few different ideal client profiles.
Some people work in different markets or have different types of clients, which is fine. For each of those ideal clients, you would want to imagine that they were in the center of a circle. Then surrounded in that circle in this ecosystem are other people who are helping them to solve whatever problem it is that you’re helping them solve. So
I’m a business coach. What I do is help people strategize about their business and look at what are the best structures for their business model or what kind of marketing strategies they’ll use.
I’ll tell you that in working with those clients, they need a lot of things. Sometimes they need financing. They need a website. They need somebody to write web copy. They might need certain technology to run their business. They might use apps, things like FreshBooks or Dropbox or Google docs, all those things.
Basically, when you begin to examine the service providers or events or organizations or technology, all these things that are surrounding your ideal clients, that is the place to look for partnerships.
It’s like symbiosis. In nature where you can have a tree that has likened to it. So, there’s this type of plant that really feeds off of the tree, but they ended up creating this very mutually beneficial kind of relationship. And that’s really what you’re looking for.
Based on who you’re working with, who naturally would they need to work with in addition to you? I think that’s the place to start.
When you find those businesses or maybe find one or two, how would you get in touch with them? How would you get in touch with local businesses? What would you tell them? Or what do you write them? Or you just come to use these services?
I think the one piece I would say, and it’s a part of getting to know somebody, is that there are many people who might be serving your ideal client, but of course, you want to be choosing to partner with somebody who really shares values.
Because there are so many different approaches that people have to do business. If you have a certain way that is attracting clients, you want to make sure that other people do that as well.
So if you’re more of a relationship person, you’re not pushy at all in your selling process, and you’re very collaborative. Of course, you would not want to be partnering with somebody who was really hardcore selling. That was more transactional.
Because you are going to be a really alienating. Usually, the client who you’re attracting, there’s a reason why it is they like your approach. It’s not that everybody has to be exactly the same.
You can have people who have different personalities and different styles, but from a foundational perspective, from values and ethics perspective that’s what it is that I think you need to share with partners. Because otherwise, for example, you could be working with a client and have a really good relationship and then send them into the arms of somebody who might not have ethical practices or maybe the person is going to have no consideration for their actual financial health and will just be trying to sell them things all the time whether they need it or not.
I mean I see it a lot and unfortunately in my space. So that’s why I am very rigorous with how it is that I choose and select partners where I feel really good knowing that that person is going to be treating my ideal client the same way that I would treat them.
That’s interesting, because some people say, “if you are not too pushy and selly person, it’s better to find someone who can sell, and you would just provide a service. So why don’t you use it in partnership?
There’s a difference. There’s selling. But then there’s the way in which you do selling. So that’s what I’m talking about.
Every business needs to be in sales. I sell all the time, but I definitely do not use manipulative sales tactics. I talk about whether or not somebody is financially healthy for them to make the investment. There are all kinds of things that you can do within the sales process that can be in integrity with your values.
Again, people can have different personalities and styles, but there are definitely certain people who I would never partner with in a million years because we have different ethical foundations. They’re not going to be treating my clients the way I think they need to be treated.
In the context of our own business, we could find that our strengths might be in doing the operational work.
In that case, we could choose to hire somebody in order to do the selling. I’ll still make the argument and every day that the person who we choose to represent us in our business to sell, should be sharing similar values, could have a little different style, but it has to be from a similar value perspective.
With that in mind then, the way that you approach them would be starting the way that you would do with any kind of business relationship. You can reach out and make an introduction if it’s a local business.
I would always prefer to do it in-person. I would stop by in person, introduce myself, maybe go to local networking events where I can meet other people that do work and just begin to have the conversation. Invite a person for coffee and sit down and talk to them.
A lot of the questions that I’m interested at first in order to get to know the person and to know really the foundation of their thinking and how it is that they do business is just really to ask them more about:
- What do they do?
- What drew them to the work?
- Who are ideal clients?
- What do they believe in?
And through that conversation then you can start to understand that this might be somebody you’re willing to do a little bit of work with.
After that first meeting, how would you build the partnership with a local business?
It’s kind of like dating, although thank goodness, I haven’t had to date in a long time, but you want it really take it slow. You want to really get to know somebody. And you don’t often know who somebody is until you have really done some projects with them before.
I always recommend starting with a very small project or a small referral where somebody has a need, and you might refer them to somebody just to do one small project. That’s the way that you get to know how is it to work with a person, what’s the experience that they have in working with an actual client and then to get some feedback and then through that experience to begin to do more work.
That’s always been something that’s been a really successful thing for me. It keeps it nice and clean and clear because you always like to have good relationships with people. There can be people who you really, really like personally, who are just fantastic people, but they wouldn’t be ideal business partners because the characteristics of ideal business partners can be very different than somebody who’s really fun to have as a friend.
Maybe they don’t follow through, and they’re not responsible. Maybe they do sloppy work. There are all these different things that can impact your ability to partner with them. That’s the way that I’ve found to be really successful.
Spend some time, do a small project, see how it goes, and then you can start to talk about doing bigger things together.
As you said, it sometimes can be tricky to work with other people. There can be the situations when you complete your part of the project or collaboration, whatever it is, but your partner changes his or her mind and doesn’t want to do their part. Didn’t you date a lot? (laughter)
What would you do in this situation? What was wrong?
There could be many things wrong. Life is so interesting. People and relationships are interesting. Sometimes there can be a unique situation where somebody just goes through a difficult time. They could have a personal challenge or a financial challenge, some things going on that means that they’re not really representing themselves in a way that they normally do.
And again, when you really get to know that person over time and know their reputation. That can be one consideration where for example, in general, you hear really good things about the work that they do and you know, people who have worked with them and had really good experience.
Then you might say, “You know what? Maybe this is just something that’s going on.” That’s when you really want to have an open, honest conversation. That clear communication is the foundation for partnerships.
Whenever you have somebody who’s afraid to talk about difficult things, if they’re afraid to really talk about the financial arrangement that you have, if they’re afraid to ever sign any kind of legal documents, that clarifies your roles and responsibilities, that to me is always a really big red flag.
Because somebody who’s a great partner is going to go in with eyes open. They want to make sure that clients really well are taken care of, and they want to make sure that both partners are really safe and protected. And the way to think about it from the legal agreement perspective is that you always want to plan for the worst-case scenario, which is actually not the worst case when it’s planned well.
That would be what happens if one partner is unable to deliver or what happens when one partner decides that they want to get out of the relationship.
When you create a path right in the beginning, when you’re still really on good terms, then it means it makes it easy for you to do. So you can have in your agreement if you’re for some reason unable to do the work, then I will hire somebody else to complete that portion. And of course, that person wouldn’t be paid for that portion to work if they didn’t complete it.
Or let’s say you have a longer-term partnership. You agree that if some person chooses to leave for whatever reason, you have an agreed upon process for how it is that you might buy that other person
These are things that I end up maintaining a positive relationship and making sure that everything is really clear as you go along. But one of the challenges in life, again, I came to dating is that not everybody always ends up being the person who they appear to be when their are on their very best behavior.
A lot of people consider other businesses more as competitors, and today we’ll talk about partnership. Can you give us some ideas of how to collaborate with local businesses instead of just competing with each other? Even if we serve the same clients, how can we partner with each other?
There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of competitiveness, and it can be where that there’s somebody else who was really smart, who had the great business model, who’s really good at what they do and that can push you to be doing really good work as well. I always liked you can have respect for certain competitors that are doing really well in the field.
Depending on the situation, if somebody really has like a direct competitive offering and there’s not enough people in the market are not enough opportunities that might not be somebody that you want to collaborate with. You can have a great respectful kind of relationship.
If you’re too busy, you could even refer other people to that person, but you may not actively choose to be doing a partnership because, in more of a collaboration, it’s where both of you see that there is more benefit to both of you if you’re doing something together rather than if you’re just doing it individually.
When I’ve seen a lot within the consulting world, that I’ve been in for so long, our consultants that collaborate all the time, so I might have a project where I’m doing some type of coaching for small business owners, and maybe an opportunity comes up where there are far more people than I could coach myself.
That would be the case where I would look to other great colleagues within that space, and I could pull them into the contract so that all of us could work and we can really meet the needs of the client. So those sometimes are certain situations where you can have a really collegial relationship. And in past experience, often those people will do the same thing with me. Put me into projects where they need extra help.
The other thing is to look for some really unique opportunities and that can be the case I’ve had multiple times in my work life where, for example, I collaborated with my friend Charlie Gilkey, who’s a coach just like me who focuses a lot on creative entrepreneurs like I do, but we discovered that we each have a little different approach.
I think we’re about 15 years apart in age. He’s a male. I’m female. He’s much more of a maven and like loves digging in deep on systems. I’m much more of a connector. So we found that we had really complimentary skills even though we both serve a market.
Very often people will be talking to both me and him as for coaches that they want a higher when it comes to individuals, but we partner together for a period of about three years and brand retreat called Lift Off, which we held twice a year. It was a fantastic collaboration. It was amazing to have such a partner as Charlie.
Sometimes you can make a decision that because of complementary skills, you could really do something great in collaboration. But I also encourage you to think. There’s nothing wrong sometimes where you say, “This is a really formidable competitor, and I’m not necessarily going to put tons of my marketing energy and descending other people their way.”
Again, you can still respect them and value their contribution. That’s where you have to decide really what kind of partnerships you want to have.
From your experience of working with different creative entrepreneurs and small businesses, can you share with us a few successful marketing ideas on how to partner with local businesses?
Yeah. Going back to our ecosystem map, that’s probably the best way that you can start to think of really positive collaborations for referrals.
You might know based on what it is that you work on with your client:
- What are things that they need before you get started working with them?
- What are things that they need after you start working with them?
In my case, people often need an accountant. They often need a lawyer. They need a WordPress developer. They need a copywriter. They need somebody to do the ongoing marketing and social media if they don’t want to do it themselves.
These can be really natural places where you can look for collaboration, where you would step some type of an agreement. And you can have paid referral if you want to. That’s definitely one option.
Or you could just have it where you select a key number of preferred vendors, and they would be doing a similar thing to what you’re doing and that when they’re working with a client and let’s say they’re done working with them.
If it were a lawyer and they just helped somebody get all of their business structure set up and all their legal agreements in place, then they could recommend that that client works with me if they want some support in the actual design of the business.
So this to me is the very best way that you can be collaborating on an ongoing basis. And again, it’s always centering on the experience of what your client needs. How can you be relentlessly helpful in finding them the very best partners to do what they want to do? So that’s one way that’s really clear.
Then the other way is where you look at things like events or retreats that has been really successful for me, and that’s where you might identify a particular audience that you could serve with some partners, and then all of you leverage your communities, your unique communities to bring them together which can be beneficial for all the partners. And again, in follow-up and often can mean that they can choose to work with you as service providers after.
How did you partner with the events or those local retreats?
That would be where you created. So, in this case, you would choose to put on an event, or you would choose to design a retreat so that you would do with somebody. You would create the design.
That’s what I did with my friend Charlie Gilkey for Lift Off. I designed a program with my friend Michele Woodward who’s an executive coach. She and I created a program where we were working with coaches that wanted to have more tools working with people in career development or an entrepreneur development. We called it Career Intervention.
We partnered together to create a curriculum where we would teach and share tools that coaches could use for coaches that wanted to help people get jobs and grow within a career path in a traditional organization.
Michele shared her tools for people who wanted to coach people who wanted to leave and start a business than I shared my tools.
That was something that we created. We sold it together, and we delivered the program together in a virtual setting. That’s one way that you can look at doing the partnerships.
Working with people, how would you recommend to maintain a partnership community of supportive entrepreneurs so you can continually work together and help in marketing? It’s not only one-time partnership but keeps working with those people, and maybe you can build a network of people around of this.
That’s about how it is that you’re really choosing to nurture. You can look at a number of options. It could be anything from locally having more of a mastermind. That’s a group that I’ve been involved with just two other people, one is my friend Susan Baier, and my friend Chris Lee and the three of us have been mastermind partners for three years now.
We meet every two weeks for two hours, and we’re helping each other with our businesses. That’s one very intimate circle of friends, and we each have very different areas of expertise. That’s part of what keeps us connected.
You could do it in a less formal setting where you might host gatherings at a coffee shop or at a restaurant or something like that where you could be bringing people together.
I have a local brick and mortar learning laboratory where I live in Mesa, Arizona and that’s a place where I often host all kinds of gatherings of freelancers.
We have what’s called the Spark Freelancer’s Union in Phoenix. It’s actually a national organization in the US. But there are all kinds of gatherings of freelancers that come together, learn different topics and network with each other.
You can also do it online where you might have a LinkedIn group, or you might have a Facebook group where you can really keep in touch.
For me, for a lot of my long-term dear friends and partners, it’s having phone calls. It is just taking the time every couple months depending on how busy everybody is to catch up and find out “What’s going on with you? What kind of projects do you have going on? How can I help you?” And this is the kind of thing that can keep everybody connected.
From your experience, would you recommend to keep it in as a small group or to spread the world and to bring more people in?
To me, that depends on your capacity. I call it your wingspan. For me, for example, I’m a big time connector. If you’ve ever read the book Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, I love, love, love big networks of people. I have really big networks on social media. It’s easy for me to maintain the connection with many people. Of course, I have a smaller circle of really, really dear friends, but that’s really natural for me.
There are other people that are just not comfortable at all and so having more of an intimate network that smaller is something that’s going to be better. So I think you need to know what your own wingspan is and what you want to do.
The good thing to remember is if you don’t necessarily like to have a huge network yourself, you can choose to drop into watering holes and that just place in person and online where there already are gatherings of large numbers of people.
I know a lot of folks do that locally. They know that I love to host a lot of people. I have lots of events, and they can drop into one of my events, have a great time, connect with people, and then that’s it. They don’t need to be maintaining the connection over time. I’ll do that because that’s what I love to do.
When you organize an event, what is this about? Is it a networking event or you clearly focused on local business owners or entrepreneurs?
For me, in my particular case, we have a learning laboratory so we focus on solving core business problems. And so there’s a whole series of different things that we do. We do experiments testing and trying different ideas. We have people coming in visiting. We have classes sometimes. There’s just a whole range of different things that we do. So it’s just opportunities for people to meet and connect with others.
Pam, that’s very interesting. And what would be the first three steps that you recommend to our listeners to do if they want to partner with local businesses?
First, I would choose what ideal client profile that they want to start to build partnerships around.
If you serve a number of different types of clients, choose one that you want to start with.
And the second thing would then to be to assess and evaluate what would be some of the natural types of partners that that person would need. And it’s really in the context of this specific problem or challenge that you were helping them solve.
If you’re a copywriter, then you know you’re trying to help them solve the problem of converting clients into paying customers by having really compelling web copy. In order for them to do that, they probably need to do things that would bring people to their webpage so they need help in marketing or they might need other good graphic design in order to make sure the page looks really good.
Whatever it is, that’s the core audience that you’re serving, that’s defined by the problem that you’re helping them solve.
Then look at who are the natural partners around that.
And then the third step is to begin to reach out.
I gave the example where you are local, where you can reach out in person, get to know somebody, shake their hand, invite them to coffee.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to be reaching out via email. I’ve done it many times. Where I’ll just reach out and introduce myself and say, “I came across your work. It sounds so interesting what you’re doing. Would you have 15 minutes or so just to catch up on a video call and just to get to know each other a little bit better. And I might share what it is, and I’m working on.”
I’ve had hundreds of those kinds of catch-ups in conversations throughout the years. And that’s another perfectly great way to get the ball rolling.
Thank you, Pam, for a lot of great tips. Please share with us how can we connect with you and find more about you.
Great. I am at pamelaslim.com.
And your social media? That’s it?
It’s all there. You can find out my handles. The simplest way.
Perfect. Thank you so much. It was great to have you here.
Thanks for having me.
Marina Barayeva is an international speaker and coach who helps women entrepreneurs become recognized experts and confidently sell their services. She is also a TEDx speaker, has presented to audiences in Asia and North America, and has been featured in such media as ArtPeople, CCTV, China Radio International, and others.