You’ve established your company. You’ve hung out your shingle, printed up those marketing brochures, and launched your website. You may even have found your first few clients. Now what?
You can certainly continue to build your business through referrals from those first few satisfied customers. But that takes time because consulting and training industries are essentially relationship-driven. To leverage your contacts and build your business more quickly, consider the advantages of partnering with established companies that have already developed a solid client base, a recognized brand, and a solid product or service. Build partnerships with these organizations to give and get leads, referrals, and introductions.
At NetSpeed Leadership, we offer a consultant partner program to allow independent consultants to affiliate with us. Essentially training consultants become our partners in reaching out to our prospects and clients. We provide regular sales leads, a high-quality website, web conference demonstrations, paid search advertising, marketing and sales support tools. We coach our consultant partners through the sales process, help them prepare proposals and support them through the training implementation. Consultants who affiliate with us consider us to be their strategic partner, helping them provide a level of product and service that they might not be able to offer on their own. In return they make training delivery fees and commission on sales.
One of our colleagues is a frequently published author and a recognized expert in his field. He was approached this year by a start-up training company that wants to develop an online training program using his content. He provides the instant name recognition, golden reputation in his industry, and the content. They provide the instructional design, marketing, operation, and sales resources. He’s thrilled because he has no interest in developing an online training program but he wouldn’t mind the additional revenue stream. They’re thrilled because their time to market is significantly reduced and they get a fast start with an established client base when the program is ready.
NetSpeed Leadership occasionally affiliates with organizations that complement our product and service offerings. For example, we recently launched a customer service training program and we’re now working with a strategic partner to offer a customer service dashboard that will allow customers to identify and track their service metrics. This is an enhancement to our product that we value but don’t have the resources to develop internally. Our strategic partner hopes to gain access to our new clients, while we benefit from offering a sophisticated tracking system as a product enhancement.
In thinking about potential strategic partners, ask these kinds of questions:
What types of partners could enhance my product or service offering?
For example, a human resources consulting firm might consider partnering with a compensation expert, or an independent trainer might partner with a larger training vendor.
What does my company have to offer a strategic partner?
As a consultant you might offer to donate labor upfront to produce a product or service that would enhance your strategic partner’s business offerings (assuming, of course, that you would receive a portion of revenue down the road).
What strategic partners could extend my reach nationally?
Perhaps you’ve developed a good client base in your region but believe that you might be able to develop your business in other parts of the country. In this case, look for partners of similar size that are operating successfully in their regions and see if you can build on each others’ regional business with complementary service offerings.
What strategic partners could extend my reach internationally?
The world is growing increasingly inter-connected. There may be consultants or trainers in other countries that would be delighted to partner with you to open up their markets. You provide the intellectual capital, tested models, and operations support while developing business in a country or two that you might want to visit.
In any of these potential partnerships, you will want to ensure that your conversations are well-documented, that you sign non-disclosure agreements to protect your intellectual property, and that you conclude any agreements with solid legal contracts which spell out clearly your business arrangements. At the same time, trust your instincts. If you believe that your potential strategic partner is untrustworthy, for heaven’s sake, don’t move forward.
There is one final advantage of affiliating with strategic partners: the joy of collaborating with smart people to create great results!