Small businesses and startups are being launched at an incredible rate in the U.S. They represent more than 99 percent of employers nationwide, and over one-third of the country’s GDP. They may start small, but it’s clear that together, they make up a lot of weight.
As a startup or small business, it’s important to be able to stay afloat first, and grow second. Once your business is up and running, the next step is to expand, branch out and become a more established and trusted entity. One of the best ways for a startup to grow its network is by developing partnerships and affiliations with other companies that compliment and can support your own.
But how can you go about establishing affiliations in a way that will really work? Below are some strategies to employ when thinking about partnering up:
What Kind of Partnership?
There are three main types of business partnerships: general partnerships, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. Each has its benefits, and you will have to find the partnership that works best for you.
General partnerships mean that each partner has equal responsibility when it comes to risks. For example, two small-scale media agencies – one digital and one television – may join forces to become one larger, multifunctional media agency. This joint venture provides equal partnership and shared liability for business risks and anything else that comes their way.
Limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships allow each partner to only assume risk for what they’ve put into the partnership. For instance, a hardware manufacturer joins forces with a software development company for cross-endorsement. Each agrees to promote the other’s products and services, but remains an independent entity and is only responsible for their side of the partnership.
Complements Go a Long Way
Your partners should always complement your business’s offerings, and vice versa. In order to maintain your customer base and develop the potential to increase it, find a business in your industry that supports the core offering of your company and is willing to work with you on cross-promotions, sales and other joint ventures.
Avoid companies that are too similar to yours – you want to make sure that their products and services will augment yours, not compete with them. You should only enter a partnership if it is mutually beneficial, so make sure that you can bring as much to your partner’s table as they can bring to yours.
Set up an Affiliate Program
Affiliate programs are agreements between two or more companies that provide one company with compensation or rewards for driving customers to the other. This is hugely prevalent in online and e-commerce businesses. If you run an e-commerce site, consider partnering with another company to either increase your Web traffic or earn extra money for theirs.
By running an affiliate’s advertising on your site, you could supplement your revenue by earning commission on the Web traffic your site provides to them. Just be sure to clearly communicate the details of your affiliate program on your website.
Start a Brand Ambassador Program
Depending on your core product or service, a brand ambassador program can help your brand gain exposure and a reputation within your industry. Businesses like social media sites, apps, e-commerce brands and brick-and-mortar stores can all benefit from having thought leaders out in various communities and exposing your brand to the public in a positive way.
A brand ambassador sheds light on your product or company by employing tactics from in-store demonstrations to trade show giveaways and even joining in on social issues – all with your product or service at the forefront. Even though these ambassadors aren’t actively making sales, their interaction with potential customers will get you increased awareness and sales in no time.
No matter what your strategy is, the right partnership can help your business go a long way. The bigger your partner network, the more efficiently your startup or small business can grow into something even greater.
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