This article originally appeared in the Worcester Business Journal on April 13th, 2020.
It’s easy to look at everyone in the same industry as you as your enemy, but it’s incredibly short-sighted. You will find businesses in your network overlap with your own, but that overlap is rarely complete. It’s in these mutual gaps in your services and ideal client profiles where businesses can help one another by building a relationship of education and referrals. It is something we’ve done at Vision Advertising and have been very successful. You need to approach these relations as relationships – give and take on a partnership level.
While we pride ourselves on providing a wide spectrum of digital marketing solutions, many marketing agencies focus on one or two specific services, such as websites, graphic design, pay-per-click, or public relations.
In the past we’ve:
- Worked with an email marketing company to provide them with marketing services while testing and referring clients to their email marketing platform.
- Partnered with a website development studio, where we’ve handled the creative-heavy website design and they have handled the technical-heavy construction.
- Crafted a thought-leadership relationship between our agency leadership and another’s to allow for a sharing of best practices, solutions, and thinking through challenging issues.
These connections are built through networking and referrals, something I’m very familiar with from my years as president and co-founder of the MetroWest Women’s Network. It’s made it very clear the ones who get the most out of networking and referrals are those who are actually listening and want to help others. Additionally, I purposefully crafted a network of local, women-owned marketing professionals from large agencies to small, solo operators to allow for this kind of referral cycle.
What kind of relationship-and-referral network you have depends on your industry and array of services. The best connections are ones benefiting everyone: allows you to say yes to a client, helps a client you would normally turn away, and helps the referred business and primes them to assist you. Here are a few common scenarios:
- Referring potential clients who aren’t a good fit for you. If your business is too small or too big to help a client, ask yourself if you can refer them to your partner. This way, the client is left with a positive experience from both of you, and your referral partner can help a client you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) have been able to serve.
- Mutual education and information pacts. Everyone should continue to learn, especially when they run a business. Look toward building bridges with businesses where you can provide not just support but education to each other, from the basics on where to start to full-on cross-training.
- Looking at competition as vendors for complementary services. All industries provide a vast array of services. Do you have gaps in yours? Does another business? See about covering each other’s bases.
While there’s an inherent goodwill in these kinds of partnerships, it’s more than just building up than tearing down. We’re all stronger together than apart, and rivalries are rarely productive. Think about building that bridge instead of burning it down next time the opportunity presents itself.