How to Identify Strategic Partnerships for Your Business

Strategic partnerships provide small businesses the opportunity to network and benefit from other companies. Do you need one?

Strategic partnerships are collaborative efforts that provide businesses the opportunity to work together for the benefit both companies. While they take many forms, these relationships are often built when two organizations have complementary offerings that can benefit each other. For example, two retailers with different products but overlapping target markets may carry or promote each other's products — think of the pairing of Barnes & Noble with Starbucks, for instance.

Your business might benefit from entering into this type of partnership. With a collaborative partner, you can use your own strengths as a company in exchange for help from a complementary business. Here are ideas for finding the right partner.

Ask Yourself These Questions First

Before searching for a strategic partnership, it's important to question why your business needs one and what both companies can gain and give in the joint effort. Here's a short list of some questions to ponder.

  • What are your company's weaknesses? Is there an organization that can provide services to fix these issues?
  • What products or services could your organization offer in return?
  • What else do you hope to gain from a relationship?
  • What's your ideal time frame for the partnership? Will this be a long- or short-term relationship?

Search for Prospects

Once you have a rough plan in mind, start looking in your local and digital community. Do you have connections to people who run complementary businesses? It's also smart to ask your current colleagues, even ones in different industries, for recommendations that might fit the kind of plan you have in mind.

Try LinkedIn to find potential strategic partners, too. Do a search using keyword phrases to describe what you're looking for. Joining LinkedIn groups geared toward your industry or complementary fields is another great way to discover new connections.

Another option is to hire a third-party vendor, like Powerlinx or Collabosaurus, to play matchmaker for a potential partnership. They may be able to find a match for you and help you navigate the process.

Make Pitches to Potential Strategic Partnerships

When reaching out to any potential partner, be concise and direct. Let them know in a short note what you're looking for in a business relationship and why you think their business is one you'd like to work with. Then, share a brief bio of your organization, so they'll get a feel for you and your business.

Do your research so that you send your pitch directly to the key decision-maker. If they're open to the idea, keep the conversation going and start working on a detailed partnership proposal.

Assess Whether It's a Good Fit

Before entering into any strategic partnership, ensure your initial communications feel right, and if they don't, don't waste your time negotiating a working relationship. Ask yourself:

  • Do both companies benefit equally from the partnership, or is there an imbalance that may create tension?
  • Do decision-makers and employees feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with each other, or are there frequent misunderstandings or conflicts?
  • Do both organizations share the same standards of business and work ethic?
  • Does one side seem to be working much harder than the other?

Aligning your business with other professionals and companies will help you grow and widen your network to uncover new opportunities. Taking the time to examine your options and choose the best partner will save you from headaches in the long run.