How to Create Powerful Strategic
I truly hate networking.
Really, I do! I hate it because, in my experience, it hasn't brought me
anything substantial in return. But wait a minute, hear me out. Networking
isn't a bad concept; far from it. With today's highly competitive
environment, networking can be a fantastic marketing tool. Referral-sources
can become potentially effective in bringing you business.
However, here's the
problem. Having a network and having a networking system are two entirely
separate things. When you're only networking, more often than not people
will want something in return. They will stop sending you leads if you don't
take the time to recognize their efforts (and, if you're like me, that's if
you have any time left at all). So, how can you reward your network? How can
you do so on a consistent basis? And even better yet, how can you turn your
network into a networking system? The answer is by developing and
establishing a network of strategic marketing alliances.
I'm sure you have heard of
many ways to set up strategic alliances in some form or another.
Essentially, there are as many different forms of systematized networking
opportunities out there as there are businesses, and I strongly encourage
you to vigorously seek them out. But in my experience, I have found that
they mainly fall into three major categories, namely the info-network, the
auto-network, and the intra-network. Let's take a look at each of these and
how you can apply them to your situation or business.
The information network is
one in which a strategic alliance is created where information is exchanged
in some form or another between parties. Basically, that information
includes qualified leads that both you and your alliance share, or
information about each other that is promoted to each other's market. As
long as your alliance logically shares a same target market without directly
competing with you, there is an immense potential for you to consider.
For instance, free reports
and especially newsletters are great marketing tools. Advertising space
within them can be sold at a nominal cost in order to pay for their
distribution, or it can be offered to alliances that might be happily
interested in being directly promoted to your market. In turn, you should
seek out ad space in publications of mutually beneficial alliances. But if
you publish your own newsletter, the obvious advantage is that it can save
you money by "swapping" ads with another newsletter also catering to your
This also refers to mailing
lists where you and your alliance can exchange each other's prospect or
client lists. Mailing lists seem to have increased in popularity these days
and, if used properly, they can produce pretty good results. For example,
mailing list brokers sell or lease mailing lists that they've compiled and
with which you can use to conduct direct mail and telemarketing campaigns --
lists of people that fit into your specific demographics.
A more effective approach
is to use, rent, buy, or exchange a strategic alliance's list of prospects
and clients. Most of them will approve especially when you trade your lists
with them. But if you have to rent or buy their list, the cost will
definitely be far less than that of one coming from a broker -- they're not
cheap! And most strategic alliances are not accustomed to the idea of
sharing their lists and will therefore be happy with just a few bucks.
(Realize that this segment refers specifically to offline mailing lists, not
Auto-networking is the
process of creating referral-sources that automatically supply you with
quality leads without having to lift a finger. Brochures, posters, flyers,
coupons, and business cards can be set up at the offices of potential
referral-sources. However, auto-networking doesn't mean to simply give out
cards or literature and then hoping it will produce something in return. It
means setting up a system between both of you where, since you are catering
to a same market, you have made an arrangement to constantly and
systematically supply each other with materials and information.
A drycleaner who discovered
that the largest clientele of a busy restaurant near its location was
mostly made up of executives having "power lunches." The drycleaner, knowing
that her greatest clientele was made up of executives who bring their shirts
or dresses to have drycleaned saw it as an opportunity. Together they formed
a strategic marketing alliance.
Coupons were handed out by
the restaurant's waiters and waitresses along with their clients' food tabs
offering a 5% percent discount on dry-cleaning services. The coupons could
be accumulated up to a maximum of 25% -- of course, they were valid for a
limited time only. In return, the dry-cleaner handed out coupons (clipped to
the garment bags of their clients' dry-cleaning) offering a free appetizer
or dessert at that particular restaurant -- good for one per person per
lunch -- with every load of $30 worth of dry-cleaning.
Another form of
auto-networking is, as the saying goes, "You can't teach an old dog a new
trick but you can surely teach a new dog to cook you breakfast!" Trying to
create networking systems with referral-sources who either have been
approached by competitors or are implicated in other commitments may be a
difficult task. So what can you do? You get them while they're starting out.
Since, in this highly competitive age, many potential referral-sources may
have already been the target of a competitor,. the key, therefore, is to
approach them before they do become potential targets.
Here's an example. I teach
hair transplant doctors to become known among the hairdressing community and
possibly set up strategic alliances with them by, among other things,
setting up brochure stands in their salons. Many of these hairstylists may
have already been approached by other doctors or have a fixed idea in their
minds of a doctor to whom they would refer their clients for cosmetic
surgery. Consequently, I help doctors to set up presentations or to become
guest lecturers at local hairstyling and beauty schools.
Schools love it since it's
part of their curriculum to teach future hairstylists the mechanics of hair
and hair replacement. Some provinces or states also make it an essential
part of their licensing requirements. However, the effectiveness is this
approach is the fact that, by giving a lecture or presentation, the doctor
not only gets his name inculcated into the minds of these future
hairstylists but also created an almost impenetrable barrier against
competitors. By being part of their schooling, doctors naturally became a
part of their minds!
This technique can be
applied in almost every industry, with trade schools, business schools,
community colleges, government services, unemployment insurance subsidized
courses, and so on. A government software programmer can give a small
computer presentation during courses that the government provides to
recently-hired purchasing agents. A wedding planning consultant can give
small courses to church groups offering prenuptial courses (often referred
to as "marriage preparation courses") for engaged couples in their parish or
community. An accountant specializing in corporate taxation can give small
seminars to young entrepreneur workshops (most chambers of commerce offer
this type of service). And the list goes on.
An intra-networking system
simply means two or more parts of a whole that are independent but at the
same time interdependent. This is the old bartering system that goes back
since the beginning of time. But in the context of intra-networking though,
it is not a direct exchange of service for service or product for product
(or even product for service), but an exchange of a service or product for
information, clients, referrals, or promotions.
For instance, a restaurant
owner makes an arrangement with a local gas station to offer coupons to each
client that comes to pump gas. They were given the permission to hang
posters in the station, leave menus at the counter and place fridge magnets
on the pumps. For every ten coupons the restaurant received, the employees
at the station were given a free meal. A freelance writer edits trade
association newsletters that target her market as well (corporations). In
exchange for her editing services she will have her articles and ads
published for free in the newsletter.
What kind of product do you
offer from which a potential referral-source may benefit? Think of ways of
being able to offer your services for free in exchange for free promotion,
pre-qualified leads, or, as mentioned in info-networking, promotional
efforts. Intra-networking can also become powerfully effective if you were
lucky enough to stumble onto another company that offers products or
services that complement your products or services well, while at the same
time sharing costs, leads, and clients as well as referral-sources.
info-networking, auto-networking, and intra-networking are powerful tools to
help make you create good referral-sources that work and never stop working.
The idea is nonetheless to network but to do so wisely as to be able to
create as many leads and clients as possible with the least amount of
effort. Don't network. Make your net work for you!
Small Businesses and the Power of Strategic Alliances
Strategic alliances are opportunities for small businesses to accomplish things that would otherwise take much more money or staff time. This article explores several ways small businesses can collaborate with other business entities.
Joint Ventures Can Help You Reap Big Profits
Joint ventures are one of the most effective marketing
techniques being used by Internet marketers today. Joint
ventures are where different parties pool each others marketing
resources together to achieve a profitable outcome. Joint
ventures usually benefit both parties more than if each party
had attempted to do the marketing campaign on their own.
Faster Sales With Joint Ventures
What is the quickest way to making fast profits on the Internet?
Setting up joint ventures with established Internet marketers
could be your key to real profits.
Michel Fortin is a master copywriter
and consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Get a
FREE copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," and
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