There’s Strength in Strategic Alliances

An alliance is really just a business-to-business collaboration. Some people use the term business networking when referring to alliances. Alliances are formed for many reasons. When you are a small business owner, it’s important to understand that there is a strength that can be utilized by strategic alliances, which may be overlooked in light of developing new business and developing additional revenue streams.

Small business alliances produce great rewards

Alliances between small businesses can offer additional benefits besides an increase in business. For instance, there are alliances of small business owners who proactively approach office supply corporations, internet service providers, health care providers and others on behalf of their membership base in order to secure better rates, additional services, and other benefits as the result of the alliance they’ve formed. There’s strength in numbers when you’re a small business owner, and if there are some products or services that you’re looking for to enhance your business, chances are other small business owners are looking for similar products or services too. Why not form a strategic alliance and approach the product or service provider as a group to show that there is a need? There is a market and that you are aligned in hopes of doing business with large companies who are willing to work with you.

Capitalize upon merged resources

Additionally, small businesses can combine more limited resources in order to appear in more high traffic advertising areas than what each business could afford to do on its own. For instance, one small business networking group decided to participate in a local high traffic tradeshow, on behalf of the businesses that chose to be involved. Using the banner of their combined membership, the group divided and conquered the tradeshow fees and staffing for the event, with each participating company taking a time slot and promoting his or her business, as well as the alliance that they had formed. Not only did the participating members increase visibility and gain new business, the networking group added new members that were unaware of their activities, and thereby increased the strength of the alliance by providing a larger member base to include in negotiations.

Synergetic referrals

Another business group of marketing professionals found strength in forming a strategic alliance amongst themselves in order to offer a more comprehensive service package to large clients than any of the independent businesses was able to offer on their own. While they had to deal with some service crossover, it was determined that the size of the potential contracts outweighed what any one business would give up in revenue if crossover in services did occur. To handle the situation, it was written in the alliance contract that the company who brought the business to the table would have the last say in who would work on each contract and what the final compensation would be in the event of a crossover situation. The business owners were like-minded in that they all agreed to act in the best interest of the alliance’s clients first in order to provide a service level above and beyond the large marketing communications firms with which they were competing. By operating as a virtual team of experts, this alliance was able to increase business for all of the participants; they understood the strength in approaching large clients with a more comprehensive offering than any of them could offer independently. It paid off in the end.

Leverage the strengths of a strategic alliance on behalf of your business and tap into clients and resources you may not have thought previously available.

Networking Strategic Alliances

BNI (Business Networking International) coined the phrase “giver’s gain”, which basically means that if you give referrals, leads or resources the recipients will want to repay you somehow. The problem is that as your network grows, it will become increasingly difficult to give referrals to everyone in your network.

This is somewhat counterintuitive because most people would think that as they add contacts to their network it will be easier to refer the new members of your network to each other. However, if you know five accountants it is difficult to refer to all five of them equally. One way to give back to your network is to develop a number of strategic alliances.

There are a few basic steps you should follow to help ensure that your new alliances are effective. First, be sure to think about what you want the alliance to accomplish. Are you simply trying to reach new potential customers? Or are you also trying to reduce your marketing costs? In general, think about the goals of the alliance. Here are some things you might want to consider.

– You will get access to the networks of your partners.

– You will get to associate your business with another, potentially, more established brand.

– You can decrease your overall marketing costs, while expanding your reach.

– You can learn from other businesses. What has been successful for them in the past?

Next you should think about who you want to partner with. If you are a Realtor, you might think of mortgage originators or real estate attorney’s that you could partner with. Bear in mind that your partner does not have to have the same goals are you, but they should be complementary. Here are several ways you can potentially form and alliance with another business.

– Create an alliance with a customer – Creating a mutually beneficial relationship with a key customer can strengthen the relationship and reduce your risk of losing this key customer.

– Create an alliance with a market leader – If you are a small business, you may be able to reap hue rewards from partnering with the market leader in your area. You may be able to offer a level of local penetration that a big company may have trouble creating on it’s own. The alliance may not offer a huge financial incentive for the small business but you can leverage the alliance in your own marketing program. If you are the market leader, consider partnering with a young, easer business that might be able to offer you this type of market penetration.

– Create an alliance with a non-profit organization – You might be able to create an alliance with a trade organization or local community organization, which offer not only direct rewards, but also in-direct rewards from helping a good cause.

– Create an alliance with a former employer – Your company may offer a service that complements the services offered by a former employer.

– Create an alliance with a competitor – while you have to pay very close attention to detail when partnering with a competitor, you might be able to tap into their resources to extend your reach. They might be a competitor, but may not have the specific expertise that you do. For example, many people would consider Yahoo! and Microsoft’s MSN internet portal to be competitors, but MSN recognized Yahoo! Strengths in keyword driven advertising and started featuring Yahoo! Ads with their search results. Of course, MSN is now developing their own contextual advertising system, which means the partnership is coming to an end soon.

– Create an alliance with a parelell industry – simply stated, find another business in your market but that is not a direct competitor and then team up to market to the same customer base. Each company can pitch in financially and see incremental results from their marketing activities.

Planning out exactly how the alliance will work is the next step. You and your partner should clearly outline what each party is going to be responsible for and how results are going to be monitored. Be sure to discuss the costs involved in the alliance and make sure that each party has a clear understanding of what all of the costs will be. Here are some ideas to consider.

– Ask your partner to display your literature and/or products. A Realtor may be able to display brochure from a mortgage broker in their office or include it in the packet of information they present new clients.

– Ask your partner to link to your website from theirs. An accounting firm may be able to place a link to your financial planning practice on their website.

– Include your brochure in a partners mailings. A delivery company might be willing to include your brochure in the invoices they send to their customers each month.

– Develop joint marketing materials that promote both businesses and share the expenses of implementing the plan. For example, a handyman and a landscaper may develop a direct mail piece that promotes both companies and then each company can contribute to the mailing expenses.

– Develop a “preferred partner” program that offers customers a financial incentive to buy products in tandem from two companies at once. For example, a car dealership might form a partnership with a service station and offer maintenance bundled with the purchase price of a car. A health club may offer a joint membership to a local tennis or pool club.
Develop a seminar with another business – develop a educational seminar program with a business in your industry and then market the events as a team.

– Publish news about the businesses you have developed an alliance with.

– Introduce your new partners to your key clients. Perhaps you can invite your partner to events you are involved in.

– Serve as a sponsor for events your partners are involved in.

Once you have set up your alliance and implemented your plan, it is critical that the lines of communication stay open and that you pay attention to the relationship you have formed. Check in with your partner to make sure they are happy with the way things are going.

Set up a weekly meeting or conference call with your partner and go through a progress report. You may also find it helpful to create a “report card” for your project before it begins. Base your report card on the goals you laid out early in the relationship and then revisit it over time. By laying out the goals in advance, each person involved with the project will understand what is expected of them. In addition, it is harder to ignore setbacks and bumps in the road if expectations are fully developed and everyone is on the same page before the project begins.

The most common mistakes involve failing to clearly communicate through each stage of the alliances growth. Think about the overall value proposition, where each parties goals are aligned and mismatched, the level of commitment or excitement from each party. Always think about how the alliance can become a win-win for everyone involved. If you do not think you can really add value, don’t participate because you do not want to damage your credibility. Finally, if the alliance simply does not add measurable value to your business, do not participate.

Creating these formal alliances will help you develop and strengthen the relationships you already have. Power networkers can create multiple alliances with multiple members of their network. These alliances have the added benefit of allowing you to add value to a number of businesses without having to actually give specific referrals to a number of businesses individually.

Find Used Office Furniture

Plenty of business owners are seeking used office furniture help, as discount office furniture, ergonomic chairs, computer desks, cheap cubicles, home office and second hand cabinets on are popular concerns. There exist many methods to go about locating a good discount office furniture expert. You are probably looking for affordability as well. It’s possible to reduce the price and still get good performance. There exist more ways than before to find a great deal on discount home office furniture help and still get quality.

Many people are seeking a great used office chairs expert, but how will you go about finding second hand desk help? Getting referrals from individuals you personally know and so too trust is a great way to start. The individual to talk with in your city area will include good friends and family who will refer you to a discount office desks expert. This is a ideal method to find second hand computer desk assistance because its directly from someone you do know and trust. They also directly know you and will judge if it is a great fit. Also, it’s actually possible that your referrer may have different, specific needs than yours. Remember this when receiving advice on second hand cubicles assistance from a  friend.

There exist still additional places to look for a second hand office furniture expert in any locality. Many individuals meet with great success in going through area discount supply magazines, furniture circulars, office supply ads and others. These are great because they are loaded with local info. Your ares newsletters and ads may likely include specials on discount ergonomic office chairs assistance in ads and the classifieds. This is not as ideal as finding a recommendation maybe, but it might be a decent place to start.

The Internet is an obvious but also underutilized method to find a discount office chairs expert. You may search the Internet as most special area and city directories will include links to discount office furniture websites.  Researching the Internet for “second hand office furniture expert” or “discount ergonomic office chairs assistance” will likely provide you with several choices. Since discount office furniture, ergonomic chairs, computer desks, cheap cubicles, home office, second hand cabinets are in demand, the Internet is a great area to also read experiences direct from people who have gotten great experiences with used office assistance in your area. With the Internet, be sure to use various search methods, since they also usually provide varying results.

Also, used computer desk assistance has a number of professional groups associated with it. Look at professional organizations like The National Office Products Alliance (NOPA), Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA), The Office Furniture Dealers Alliance (OFDA). Quality groups like these have high standards and may be viewed as a seal of approval. This is truly one of the ideal methods to find discount ergonomic office chairs assistance if you do not get a actual referral.

Another great area of referrals are additional related fields. Examples include real estate agents, ares furniture business owners, office contractors, office supply salespeople and others. They could know of good discount home office assistance choices in your city. These individuals also have great professional thoughts that are valuable and useful, because of their expertise. Since their reputation is on the line, their referrals are given typically with much forethought.

With discount office furniture, ergonomic chairs, computer desks, cheap cubicles, home office, second hand cabinets being so required, used chair and office assistance is in great demand. And, saving funds on discount ergonomic office chairs assistance is simple if you realize where to search. A discount office chairs expert will likely offer excellent discounts plus special deals. Again, deals may be listed in discount supply magazines, furniture circulars, office supply ads and so on. Looking through the paper again may be of assistance. Also, the Internet. Also, since the large supply of discount home office assistance, prices are actually going down in most cities.

Keep in mind: true, saving funds is a necessity, do not do so at the expense of a quality experience. This is another cause to get a great referral, in tandem with saving money. Because of the growth of used computer desk assistance, you will see deals in any location. It is now possible to find a perfect deal on discount home office assistance while also getting high quality.