Who’s on your island?
You may be familiar with Survivor, a long-running television show. (Since I’ve been television-free for over 10 years, I had to Google it, but that’s beside the point.) Since the idea is for “castaways” to outwit, outlast and outplay each other to win a $1 million prize, it’s obviously highly competitive. It’s also extremely artificial.
In the real world of business, the survivors and – especially – the thrivers are NOT those who seek to cast people off the island. Rather, they’re the ones who very intentionally choose who to invite onto the island: high-value strategic allies as well as ideal clients.
Since I spoke a fair amount about ideal clients in earlier posts, let’s focus today on strategic allies.
Your success – or failure – rides on your choices.
In my opinion, the most important criterion for establishing strategic relationships is the degree of mutual benefit which can be gained for an acceptable expenditure of money, time, and effort.
In other words, neither of you should be out strictly for what you can get from the relationship; the focus is on what you can do for each other. In a highly effective strategic alliance, the more each of you does to propel the other toward success, the more successful each of you in turn will be.
You also get to consider the return you get for what you put into the relationship. If you’re spending a ton of resources on nurturing this alliance and have only gotten one low-end client from it, the return does not justify the investment.
So what sort of people might you seek out as valuable strategic allies?
Yes, competitors. After all, not everyone in your field defines “ideal client” the same way. What might be a PITA client for you could be the most perfect client imaginable for someone else – and vice versa.
To take advantage of this:
- get clear on who you do and don’t want to work with
- identify an industry colleague whose work you respect and who enjoys working with the type of client you wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole
- establish and maintain a connection with your new ally so that you can feel confident referring your not-a-good-fit prospects to her
- identify another colleague who shudders at the thought of working with the type of client you find totally delightful
- establish and maintain a connection so that you’re top of mind when she’s frantically searching for someone to whom to hand off that icky (for her) prospect
- meet periodically to congratulate each other on making such a smart alliance
For example, I worked with two award-winning career professionals. While Jeri most enjoyed working with technical and creative types, Darlene’s favored target was sales and marketing professionals. So when Darlene was approached by a graphic artist needing a new resume, she’d send him to Jeri. Likewise, when Jeri connected with a marketing manager wanting to change jobs, she’d send her off to Darlene.
Can you say “win-win-win”?
Professionals who serve the same target market as you, but with complementary services.
The classic example here is the residential real-estate agent who allies with a home mortgage lender. Both offer vital services to consumers wanting new homes, but neither can provide both services. By allying with each other, they better serve the client AND take advantage of an additional, effective marketing channel.
This is another way to share the wealth with people who serve a market with interests similar to those of your target market.
When you bring on the right someone as an affiliate marketer, you get indirect access to their mailing list, since they will promote your products to that list. You gain by offering your products to a wider audience. The affiliate gains because they get a percentage of the sales.
Joint venture partners typically require more up-front investment than affiliate marketers. That’s because, in a JV relationship, both of you contribute roughly equal amounts of time, energy, and money to a new project requiring both your areas of expertise. Because of this greater investment, you’ll want to very carefully vet your prospective JV partner to be as sure as possible that she’s reliable and a person of integrity. (Naturally, she’ll be doing the same to you.)
For an easy-to-understand explanation of the similarities and differences between affiliates and JV partners, see Dean Vella’s article.
One of my personal favorites.
A big advantage to working with your ideal clients is this: When you produce fabulous results for them, they’re typically delighted to talk about you to other people. This leads to happy dances all around:
- More and more people are coming to rely on personal recommendations when hiring any type of service provider, so getting a good review from a trusted friend or colleague is worth its weight in gold for both consumer and provider.
- Your delighted client gets to talk about her successes, which further builds her confidence and her effectiveness.
- You get to connect with a warm prospect who’s already predisposed to like you.
The only catch is that you need to make sure your delighted clients know how much you would appreciate them sharing the word about how valuable they found your services. In other words, you get to ask them to connect you with people who are currently facing the same challenges you addressed for your client. (Next week we’ll play with effective ways to – Gasp! – comfortably ask for referrals.)
What are some of the most effective types of business-building connections you’ve developed? How did you create them? What results have they produced for you and your strategic allies?
Or do you sometimes wonder what in the world you have to offer to clients, much less strategic allies? If you’re struggling to figure out what makes you special and how to share that message with the prospects who need to hear it, we may want to talk.
My specialty is showing entrepreneurs who are in huff-and-puff mode how to get rid of distractions, stop procrastinating, and start focusing on what they need to do to take the next steps to building the terrific business they know they want.
While I’m good at this work, I don’t know if you and I would be good for each other…but I do know I’d be interested in finding out. There’s an easy way to do that: a 30- to 40-minute get-acquainted call in which we both ask and answer questions to determine if we’re a good fit for each other. If we’re not – no harm, no foul. If we are – look out, world, here we come!
If that short investment of time sounds like it would produce a good ROI, just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “Alliance?” in the subject line. We’ll set up that no-cost, no-risk, nothing-to-lose, potentially-lots-to-gain get-acquainted call.
(By the way, thanks to Edgar Barany C for posting his island image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in business development and tagged marketing, promotion. Bookmark the permalink.
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