Strategic Partnerships – Part II

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Strategic Partnerships (Part Two of a Three Part Series)

Improving the Profitability of Your Professional Alliances

Networking is a powerful and effective way to promote your services. But in this series on strategic partnerships we’re talking about a networking approach that is even more powerful and more effective than your father’s brand of networking. We’re talking about professional alliances, or maybe more aptly named Networking on Steroids. Last week we discussed what, exactly, a strategic partnership is, and who makes a good strategic partner. This week we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty: how, when, where and why you build professional alliances. It’s an approach that’s bound to change the way you do business.

WHERE and WHEN do you establish these partnerships?

There are countless places you can meet these potential partners. Chamber of Commerce meetings are a great place to start, especially if you are a small, local business owner. There you can build relationships with like-minded professionals who are interested in building these valuable partnerships. At one of our executive’s initial Chamber of Commerce meetings, he met with the President of that Chamber. The result was that we created a strategic partnership through which we offered a free tax review for every Chamber member. Eventually that relationship grew to include a special offer for all new Chamber memberships. In fact, the executive volunteered to be the Chamber’s ambassador, and he delivered the welcome basket which included his offering to those businesses.In addition to these formal networking opportunities, consider all the people you currently interact with, including family, friends, associates, neighborhood businesses, and establishments you frequent. The next time you meet these individuals take the time introduce this idea of strategic partnering; you could well be on your way to more profitable relationships.

HOW do you pursue a strategic partnership?

A handshake.Email and phone correspondence have their place, but when establishing a strategic partnership you should meet in person. Make an appointment and have specific objectives in mind so that your meeting is focused with a higher likelihood for success. It is important that you first demonstrate what you could provide them and their clients before asking if they are willing to give something back in return. By the end of your exchange you should reach an agreement on how your strategic partnership will work. When and how often will you meet to grow your partnership and develop a collaborative strategy?David Sherwood followed this model when growing his own accounting practice in Utah. In his first meeting with a strategic partner, a local banker, he offered a free accounting management seminar to those clients the banker was willing to refer. In the middle of this meeting, David’s new strategic partner sat down at his computer, pulled up his database of clients, and called each of them with a personal invitation to David’s QuickBooks seminar. During his first 6 seminars, David was able to get 21% of the referred businesses to become clients.

WHY would you want to build strategic partnerships?

There are countless reasons why these relationships are well worth the investment of your time and energy. Most obvious is the fact that it enables you to build your practice. The referrals it generates will increase your clientele and ultimately your income. But in addition to that you widen your area of expertise. As you interact with these partners – bankers, lawyers, financial planners, web designers, and the like – you will learn more about those industries and will be able to consult your clients on issues that extend beyond accounting. And when you refer your clients to these partners you’ll find they generally receive more attentive treatment because your strategic partners realize that if your clients are dissatisfied they will return that information to you. This increases accountability among partners, which in turn, increases the quality of service your clients receive.Shannon Beck of Professional Accounting Solutions believes there’s great profitability in forming strategic partnerships, or as he calls them, alliances. He explains, “It’s like the big iceberg that the Titanic hit. They saw the top above the surface but they didn’t see how big the iceberg was underneath the water. And your networking groups are typically what you see on top of the surface; it’s your alliances that you typically don’t see the potential of until you become a part of their group as a whole. You’ll usually get three to six new clients a month, through those alliances, per alliance.”Return next week when we wrap up this series by talking about how to make your professional alliances even more effective by creating Mastermind Groups.

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