Vector of a businessman doing a teamworkYou’re starting to wonder where your next refinishing project is going to come from. Then the phone rings – it’s not a past customer sending you a referral but it’s someone practically as worthwhile – one of your strategic partners. He says he’s been doing work on a small renovation project and in passing, the homeowner mentioned how they’re considering doing work in the kitchen or bathroom, but are concerned about the cost of a full-scale renovation. Naturally, your friend offered up your name as potential solution that might achieve what the homeowner wants for far less money.

How great is that? You’re well on your way to earning new business and you didn’t have to do anything to get it.

For many tradesmen, looking out for each other as strategic partners is an outstanding way to efficiently win business you might not otherwise obtain. But how do you make a strategic partnership really work for you consistently?

Start With Someone Closer To Your Business

We don’t mean physically closer but closer in terms of a person who could complement what you do. Does the bulk of their work involve repairing or improving the look of the home? They should be different enough from what you do so there’s no overlap but not so far removed that there’s little chance they’ll ever refer you business. For example, an interior designer, flooring installer, electrician and more are the kind of people who find themselves working on-site. Or a real estate agent has a vested interest in upgrading the look of the home while putting the property on the market sooner rather than later – so she doesn’t necessarily want a huge renovation project with potentially big delays if a refinishing project can mean a quicker turnaround with a beautiful result.

Contrast this with professional service people who work in office buildings – attorneys or accountants, for example. How does what they sell compare to what you sell? Night and day, right? So how likely is it that home projects may come up in their conversations? It’s not impossible, but it’s less likely than those people who work in design or with industrial tools to fix and beautify the home. The customer they serve today could be yours tomorrow and vice versa.

Share Promotional Costs

If someone aligns well with you as a complementary service and is “knocking” on very similar prospect doors to yours, explore sharing the costs of advertising and promotions. Could an ad in a local paper with both of you featured make sense? What about a guest blog post on each other’s websites talking about tips for the homeowner’s benefit? For that matter, could you have a section of your site labeled “Partners” or “Recommended Vendors” that highlights their business while they return the favor for you on their website?

Tracking The Give-And-Take

A great referral relationship, including a strategic partnership, has to go both ways. You can’t give a partner 20 qualified referrals while they barely give you one. Meeting with them regularly such as monthly helps ensure you’re on the same page for tracking activity. They mentioned they might have a referral for you two weeks ago. What happened with that? Use the time to follow up.

Teach Them (Don’t Assume They Know Your Whole Story)!

“Face time” with your partner is important so you can communicate and re-affirm who you want to meet, what you do best and what kinds of things your partner should be listening in order to say, “I know someone who may be able to help you with that!” Grab a coffee with them at least once a month for not only guiding them but also to share what’s working with each other on the new business front. What networking groups are worth your time? Which ones aren’t? Is direct mail working? Or is digital media the way to go? Compare notes with someone closer to your inner circle.

Don’t Forget To Reward!

It’s not really about spending a lot to say “thank you” for a successful referral – it’s about recognizing it and encouraging your partner to refer again. A small gift card could be just fine. One suggestion: It’s not enough for them to merely give you a name. It should be a name that becomes a real, qualified customer.

At its best, a relationship with several strategic partners can provide you with the help you need to add qualified leads to your new business pipeline. With all the hats you have to wear as a business owner, it’s good to share the load on this particular role any way you can.