I would probably say that developing strategic partnership for client referrals has been the single biggest game changer for my side hustle. The leads come to me semi-warm, which is always a good thing, and it maximizes my time which, as a sidepreneur, is limited.
What’s the deal?
The idea here in a nutshell is you team up with businesses/freelancers/consultants that are complementary, but not competitive, and they refer their clients to you that are interested in your services. The strategic partner gets a referral commission, you get a client, and the client gets put in touch with a trusted vendor without having to go through the time-sucking process of finding one.
I love this form of growing your side because because it truly is a win for all 3 parties. And yes, you’re giving away a percentage of your revenue every month, but your strategic partner is essentially handing over a new client to you warmed up and ready to get started. Once you start prospecting for new business to identify opportunities outside of your immediate circle, you’ll see how time consuming it can be and consequently how acceptable that referral commission truly is.
Finding Strategic Partners
If I look at my situation, and the 4 key strategic partnerships I’ve had that have really grown my business, this is how it happened:
- One was a friend
- I found one on Twitter
- One found me on Google
- I found one on Craigslist
So it was a combination of me reaching out to people that I thought would be a good fit…and some that just came into my life. But here’s the thing, if you want to attract more strategic partners into your life, you have to be clear as to who you want…and then keep your ears and eyes open.
For example, the one partner that found me on Google…they are actually a WordPress web design company that came to me for help with their website marketing. After a month of working with these guys, we just clicked and I knew there was something there beyond just a client relationship. And now we refer business back and forth to each other. But see my antennae was up for opportunities like this and I after I realized this was a good fit, I took action to put the ball in motion.
Here are some places where you might be able to find strategic partners to reach out to. It will vary of course because I don’t know what your side hustle is, but this will get you started:
Get clear on this
You first need to get very clear on who you want as a strategic partner…who is a good fit for you and vice versa. This information will obviously steer the ship as you being the process of connecting with potential partners.
If I can give you my 2 cents, I look for a partner that:
- Complements my business
- Is not competitive to my business
- Is active in their marketing
- And someone that I can refer business to as well
I think if someone, or some company, checks off all these boxes, you have a recipe for a very healthy partnership. You’re both referring business back and forth to each other. And your partner is an active company that is looking to grow…and complements your business nicely.
To give you a real world example, I look for USA based web designers that specialize in WordPress websites.
Always be nurturing & cultivating
Why? Because things can and WILL change.
My first ever strategic partner referred a lot of business to me. He was making a good chunk of commission every month and I was happy as a clam.
And then he decided to bring SEO and blogging in house and it all went away. This was my first intense experience that being a sidepreneur — and essentially any type of business owner — is full of challenges and obstacles that you need to figure out, learn from and come out the other side stronger.
I ended up replacing the business by just working hard and getting new clients…and I also found a new strategic partner that started referring even better clients to me…but it taught me that, as part of my new business efforts, I need to always keep by ears and eyes open for new partners. And cultivate the partnerships I do have by making sure they are happy and that I’m taking good care of the clients they are referring to me.
OK guys, so we’re at the end of this blog post and I want to give you a quick summary of what we discussed, how you can quickly get started and some additional advice.
- As a starting point, try to find one strategic partner that will refer you business in exchange for a commission. Better yet, it’s someone you can refer business to as well. Their services are complementary to your services and not competitive.
- As far as how much commission to give them, that depends on your business model. My services are billed monthly and so I give out a monthly commission because I want my partners to be actively looking for opportunities to send me.
- When you reach out to these people with your offer, be a real and authentic person! Even though it’s a win win potentially, you still have to sell yourself. Be approachable and put yourself in their shoes.
- Once you have that partnership going, nurture it like crazy, but also keep your eyes and ears open for new partners. Because like I said, things will change. For example, I had one really strong partner that ended up getting a job and closed up her web design business…you just never know what will happen.
Good luck and I’d love to hear your thoughts or feedback – connect with me on Twitter.