April 17, 2014

Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida business

Marketing strategies that won't break your budget

Ron Stein | 12/2/2012

Identifying effective marketing strategies and tactics that will not break your budget can be a challenge. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring in new customers. The bad news -- if you’re not careful, you will end up spending too much time doing things that may or may not produce results.

Yet, the rewards will far outweigh the risks when it’s a marketing strategy that leverages the power of working with other companies to help you reach more prospects.

There are many time-tested ways to drive new business that cost (almost) nothing. One that will work for any size company in just about any industry or market segment is a strategic alliance program. The goal is always the same -- to minimize risk and maximize your leverage and profits.

Relationships like these with other companies come in many forms and can be very effective for all the players involved. Alliances range from informal affiliations with simple agreements to more elaborate joint ventures.

Only your imagination -- and time -- affects the level of success. Just think through what you want to accomplish and the details of the plan before you dive in.

Here is what you can do to build strong relationships with other businesses to grow your company.

Target the right marketing partners. Brainstorm the kind of companies it makes sense to build a business relationship with. The ultimate goal is to cross-promote products or services in some way with an expectation that business will increase for each partner. Usually, you’ll have audience profiles in common. Ideally, your target partner will allow you to touch prospects that are normally beyond your reach. Non-competing partners that have complementary offerings are a clear choice. Think big and different; my partnering with a regional bank that focuses on small and mid-sized business clients is an example -- I offer mini-workshops and talks at the bank’s functions which differentiates the bank, and I get lots of potential clients in my target market see me in action. It’s safe to say that we are not direct competitors!

Partnering framework. Generating meaningful results involve work and require commitment by each partner. Effective partner relationships entail shared risk and reward of course, but also some degree of mutual resource use. And having common values is a must. The potential business models and their variations can be simple or complex. Try bundling a trial sample of your product or service with a partner’s offering -- they add value for their customers and you’re exposed to thousands of potential new customers. Consider wholesaling your products under the partner’s label (with a “powered by your brand” tagline) and drop ship to your partner’s customers -- they expand their offering and you get a new channel to previously untouched markets. Create a link exchange alliance where partners agree to promote the others on their websites and in newsletters -- cap the number of participating members to help attract quality players by making the program more exclusive and strategic for each participating company. The promise: the program is exclusive, strategic, and high-quality!

Details count. Alliances can as informal or formal as you like. But because the potential reward must fit the risk -- of you and your partners -- even an informal relationship needs ground rules. Aside from the time needed to make it work, think about what level of support is required for maximum success. Can a package of tools you develop for partners to use help spur everyone’s revenue? Will sales and commissions need to be tracked? Are there costs tied to the program either now or down the road that will add up? Have a simple agreement that defines the role for each partner for realizing mutual objectives. Describe key steps that each alliance partner will take. If there are budget contributions, agreed timeframes to compete tasks, or commission payments -- spell them out. It’s important to make sure that all partners are aware of what is expected to hold up each end of a successful partnership.

Piggyback marketing works! Strategically use alliance partners to accelerate business generation for your company. While you can bring in new customers with zero or little up front expenses, understand the time commitments and make sure partners share the risks and the benefits fairly. With a well thought out approach, teaming up with other businesses can accomplish a lot without breaking the bank.


Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's business coach, Ron Stein
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com

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