Four Guidelines for Teaming Up to Offer Your Customers More
by Robert Spiegel, Spiegel Enterprises
Make Yourself a One-Stop Shop
In choosing strategic partnerships, think in terms of making your company a one-stop for customers who need anything in your field. As an example, if you sell computer networks, team up with a computer furnishings business and a computer hard ware company. You might also deliver software packages your customer needs.Another option is to work on the basis of receiving a finder's fee for direct referrals, or you can offer a catalog of products supplied by a different company. Then you buy wholesale from the catalog company and sell retail to your customer. This gives your customer a good discount while making you a profit on the transaction. It's the best of both worlds. Your customer gets a discount and you get a profit. When you are a one-stop for your customer, you have the extra burden of customer service and follow-up. Make sure you bring on reliable partners who will stick through the good times and the bad.
Team Up with Quality Players
Alliances need to meet your quality level or surpass it. Lower quality partners "lower the bar" for your company. Strive to bring in partners with slightly higher quality standards. It will lift the customer perception of your company and reduce potential dissatisfaction. You also need partners you can trust. Finally, look for companies that have longer track records. You can leverage their credibility when you make sales calls.
Make It Easy
Strategic alliances work because it is easier for customers to buy from one source. But you need to make sure the alliance provides a simple buying process. If difficult or hard to understand, the buying process will hurt your sales rather than help them. Flexibility is helpful when offering your line of products or services. For example, if you are a marketing consultant and you recommend a media package to your client, you can then offer to handle the design, production and printing of the package. If you explain that you have created a team of designers, production artists and a printer that can deliver high quality at a lower price than your customer would find on his own, the customer will choose your option. The first hurdle was defining the need for a media package. The rest was simple customer service that increased profits.
Offer Customer Support on Your Entire Package
Customer service must be seamless and easy. If you are simply offering a referral and receiving a finder's fee, make sure you are referring to a company that will provide good customer service. But if you are making the sale yourself, you need to deliver customer service directly to your customers. Don't just sell a product and later give your customer an 800 number to call when there's a problem. If a problem arises, you need to take care of it for the customer. If you don't, it lowers the perception of the entire strategic enterprise.
Can a home business deliver a fully working team that can take on a business opportunity usually reserved for large business enterprises? Don't limit yourself just because you answer your business phone in the same room that the kids play in. You can take on big, team-managed projects if you find the right partners. Strategic alliances with other companies and professionals can give the you ability to deliver the punch of a large company. There are many ways you can extend the products and services you offer to your customers. An example is an accountant who works cooperatively with a bookkeeping and payroll company to provide a complete financial package to home-based businesses. The goal is to provide additional related services or products to serve the customer and increase your profits. Strategic alliances can also increase referrals and extend market reach. An example is a remodeling company that teams up with a real estate company to present seminars that introduce options for home im provement. Another example is mutual referrals, where companies negotiate agreements to recommend each other to their customers. These alliances can provide inexpensive ways to reach new customers. The reasons for developing strategic alliances are to extend your market reach and to provide a wider range of choices for your customers as well as to increase convenience. When you develop strategic al liances, make sure the products relate to each other. A nutritional consultant who also sells gold coins comes across as an opportunist. A nutritional consultant who also provides a catalog of exercise equipment and instruction is on target. Here are four guidelines to keep your strategic alliances productive.