In many ways, there has never been a better time to start a small business. Interest rates are low, the economy is doing well, and technologies that can make your work more efficient and effective are getting less and less expensive. Still, even the best-run and best-funded small businesses could use a little help in the revenue-generating department. Depending on the industry you’re in, a partnership may go a long way in shoring up your bottom line. Here are five options to consider if you’re looking to increase your chances of success.
1. Reseller Services
Becoming a reseller is a great way to meaningfully pad your small business’s bottom line whether you choose to become a certified Cisco partner or you chose to resell Kaspersky antivirus software. Resellers buy products — most often tech-related — in bulk from other businesses, but instead of using them, they resell them to the businesses that need those particular solutions.
Usually, resellers add value to what they’re selling. They do this by offering additional training or warranties or bundling the product with other complementary products and services. It truly runs the gamut. This type of partnership can be a great benefit, because it doesn’t just give you another way to generate income, it also allows you to borrow the good name and brand of the company that makes the products you’re reselling.
2. Cross-Marketing Opportunities
Cross-marketing partnerships — if they’re chosen well and executed properly — can work wonders for your small business. Find another business that offers a product or service that isn’t in direct competition with you but whose offerings could conceivably be purchased by a similar demographic. From there, you can get as creative as you want. Refer one another in emails, newsletters, and on the phone. Guest blog for one another, and highlight why your partnership is beneficial for customers. Promote one another on social media. Place one another’s products in your respective image-based ad campaigns. A cross-marketing partnership gets your brand in front of more eyes, which makes it a win-win for everyone involved.
3. True Trades
Some partnerships don’t generate money; they cut costs. These types of partnerships involve good old-fashioned trade. If you own a small marketing firm and you need some electrical work done in your office space, try and find an electrician or company that will do the work for free in exchange for some marketing services.
If you’re at the helm of a small e-commerce boutique, and you need new branding, search for a graphic designer who loves your clothing, and figure out a way to trade clothing for a new online look. Trading services and products is a simple way to lower expenses, and lowering expenses almost always yields greater chances for success.
4. Referral Programs
Referral programs create a partnership with the customers you already have. Famous examples include PayPal’s friend referral program that literally paid people to refer friends to the service and Dropbox’s referral program that gave both the referrer and the refer-ee free storage when the friend signed up. Basically, for a referral program to work, you need to convince the customers you already have to do a bit of marketing and sales work for you.
Namely, they need to be incentivized to tell a friend about your business. Those incentives can look very different depending on the industry in which you’re working. The goal is to offer something of real value whenever a current customer refers someone to you. Whether the value offered is a discount for future purchases, a free item, or a raffle of some kind, make sure your existing customers can’t wait to shepherd their friends your way.
5. Complementary Partners
Some partnerships are simple and straightforward. Product-based ones rely on natural marketplace complements. An example: If you sell small batch-roasted coffee, a partnership with a chain of local donut stores or diners is a match made in revenue-generating heaven. Cause-based partnerships don’t need as much on-the-surface symbiosis as a product-based one, but they can still be very effective at generating more sales, while also allowing you to do some good.
Team up with a local nonprofit, and find ways you can support one another. Schedule promotional days where a percentage of your sales is donated to your partner, and let them help you market. Even though you’ll be giving away some of your profits, you’ll see an uptick in business, you’ll be making the world a better place, and the donations will make a nice tax write-off come tax time.
So go out and grab a partner, already. From trades to reseller programs, having someone in your corner can make all the difference in your small business’s world.