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Strategic Partnerships: What They Are. And Aren’t

networking eventStrategic referral partnerships are an important way to build new business. Basically, a good strategic partner is someone in a complimentary but non-competing business who is working with the same people you are marketing to. Build the relationship properly, and you and your partners will be referring to each other on a regular basis.

However, always remember that true strategic partnerships are two-way. Both parties should be able to give and receive a comparable number of referrals. A good example of this is the partnership I had with a heating and air conditioning company when I still sold windows. We were addressing a similar need (comfort in the home), and we were doing it with different products. That gave us the ability to proactively uncover referrals for each other at a similar rate.

Now let’s take a different situation, for example a financial planner and an estate planning attorney. It’s an important relationship for a financial planner because his clients need wills and estate work. But there are LOTS more financial planners out there than estate planning attorneys, and attorneys generally get to clients once they already have a financial plan, so the referrals tend to flow one way.

It’s still an important relationship for financial planners, but they need to manage their expectations. They will be giving lots more than receiving.

So look at your relationships. Are you frustrated by some because they seem to be one-way? Examine the needs you both are serving and the point at which clients come to you. Is it a true strategic partnership, or is it more of a one-way referral stream? Knowing that allows you to make some decisions about whether to continue the relationship.

Anyone have stories to share about referral relationships that were (or were not) true partnerships?

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