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8 min read

How to partner with local businesses

The pandemic highlighted the resilience of the small business community, with many businesses pitching in to help each other out. But it doesn’t just have to be in times of need when working closely with other local businesses makes sense. Often it can be mutually beneficial – whether that’s increasing brand awareness and sales through free business advertising, or helping to build helpful connections and share knowledge. 

And it’s not just local businesses that benefit – but the whole community. Local collaborations have a ripple effect, with successful businesses more likely to reinvest in their communities and hire people in the area. It’s a win-win for all involved.

Do research in advance

Avoid outreaching until you’re clear on what you’d like to achieve from your partnership/s. It’s important to get your ducks in a row from the very beginning, to ensure an effective outreach strategy that’s in line with your partnership goals.

Start by considering your products/services is there anything you feel is missing that your customers would benefit from?

List the types of local businesses you would like to work with. Do you have any existing relationships with them?

Not just as a small business owner, but as a customer? Why do you like shopping there/using their services? Think about how you’d pitch a partnership opportunity.

Collaborate with businesses that complement yours and add value

Successful partnerships need to make sense to the customer, just as much as the businesses involved! If partnerships are a mismatch, they will not only be ineffective, but you risk confusing and frustrating your existing customers.

Ensure your partnerships add value to your offering: 

  • What would your customers be most interested in?
  • What would be most helpful to them?
  • Could you solve a problem for them with a local partnership?

Complementary businesses will likely share similar industries and/or target audiences for example, the wedding industry encompasses many business types, from bridal boutiques to florists, events companies to caterers, photographers to hair stylists. Think about the industry (or industries!) your business is part of, then research complementary local businesses that you could reach out to. For example, a florist might offer a discount to any bride who’s purchased their dress from your boutique, and vice versa.

Partner with more than one business

Broaden your horizons by exploring partnerships with more than one local business. This is a great way to test out new partnerships to see which are most effective. It’s also a great way to add further value to your existing customers.

Is there a special group package you could offer your community? For example, a Holiday Preparation Package that includes local discounts that helps customers get organised before going away. Hair and beauty treatments, gym classes, clothes shops, book shops, house sitting services, travel to and from the airport via your local taxi service, even your local cattery could get involved! Start with your customer and build your ideas from there.

Don’t be shy in incentivising your customers to shop with your local partner/s

Spotlighting your local partners not only strengthens the effectiveness of your collaborations, but tells your local community that you’re actively supporting it. Incentivising customers doesn’t always have to involve a discount you’ll be surprised how receptive customers can be when being encouraged to check out and support more local businesses. Sometimes, customers might not be aware your partner’s business exists. If you feel it could be a good fit for them, why not mention your partner’s business? See whether your partner might want to leave some samples with you, some leaflets for more information and business cards should your customers like more information. You could even go a step further and display some of their products e.g. a florist could create a beautiful shop window display for a bridal boutique to showcase their skills, while promoting the bridal gowns.

Double your exposure and leads with partnership marketing

By sharing your resources, both partners can target each other’s audiences on a reduced budget. Collaborating your marketing efforts with your partner/s, guarantees exposure in front of their customers. Your exposure is immediately doubled, encouraging leads that, with good communication and strong customer service, will hopefully convert into new customers and more revenue for your business.

Work with a well known local business to build your brand authority

Just starting out? Looking to get your name out there? Partnering with a popular, well established local business with a loyal customer base will help you gain quick exposure, and a good reputation via association. From a customer’s perspective, if a company they love and trust is recommending another local business, it must be worth a look!

Promote your partnership/s in person by hosting an event

Hosting an event at one of your premises is a great way to reach your community. By making it an official event, you can promote it amongst your community, while inviting local press who might like to learn more about and promote businesses that are on their readers’ doorsteps. Could you theme it or tie it in with a seasonal event, which might appeal to your target customer’s interests? Could you offer an event discount, that’s only available on the day? Think of ways you can grab attention to encourage attendees.

Connect, support and collaborate via social media

There are a number of ways you can leverage social media to help you plan and promote your partnerships with local businesses. For example:

Get to know your community better by joining local Facebook groups. What do they tend to talk about? What’s concerning them at the moment? What makes them happy? What subjects get the most engagement? Are there business owners that are positively engaging with the community, who might like to connect with you and share some insights? Could you suggest going for a coffee to discuss some ideas on how you could partner together? Does the community ever mention ideas for what it’s currently lacking, which you might be able to solve? E.g. is there a farmer’s market? If not, could you start one? A community that feels listened to and supported by local businesses will be willing to show the same support back.

You can also join industry-specific Facebook groups, which offer support and ideas from business owners who have been there and got the t-shirt! It’s a great way to connect with likeminded people, who might be happy to share examples of positive partnerships they’ve had amongst their local community, which could inspire you with yours!

Speaking of groups, is there a small business Facebook group for your local community? If not, could you start one?

While there are a number of ways you can utilise social media to promote your business locally, you can also use your social media accounts to promote your local partner/s. For example, the #FollowFriday tactic encourages your followers to check out another business that might be relevant to them.

Support community events

Can you join forces with a partner to sponsor or contribute an item or service to a community event? Could you create a specific package for an event? Keep a close eye on local events, add them to your calendar then discuss with your partner/s on how you can market your businesses in a way that fits with the event and benefits the community.

Consider partnering with a local charity

Donating a portion of your sales to a local charity could be just as effective in raising brand awareness while giving back to your community, than if you were to join forces with another local business. For example, could a portion of the Holiday Preparation Package mentioned previously be donated to a local homeless shelter?

Start a local business directory or newsletter

If there isn’t one in place, consider collaborating with local businesses to build a directory or newsletter that shares information about their services with customers, who might not know which business to support, particularly if that business doesn’t have an online presence. Can you turn it into a website, which you can share on social media?

Join local business associations

Local associations are an invaluable resource for small business owners. A quick Google will help you discover ones nearest to you, which share useful resources, experience, advice, knowledge and skills. You can make some amazing local connections this way, whether you’re looking to expand your network, lay the foundations for potential new partnerships, or get specific business advice from experienced entrepreneurs.

Consider seasonal partnerships

Depending on your business, you might find that an ongoing, year-long partnership isn’t the right fit for your business right now. Seasonal partnerships are a useful way to trial partnership relationships. For example, is there a Christmas campaign you could collaborate with a local business on? E.g. A Christmas Shopping Package festive nails, coffee and Christmas gift discounts amongst participating partner shops. If you run a book/gift shop, could you provide Father Christmas’s gifts to children in your local community’s grotto? Could you share a stall with your partner at the local Christmas market? Valentine’s Day could your local restaurant offer a special discount voucher to redeem at your business, which is supplied alongside the bill at the end of a customer’s meal?

Make sure your partner is reliable

It goes without saying, but it’s important to highlight how important it is that you trust your partner/s to hold up their side of your agreement. Are they promoting your business, as much as you are theirs? Working with an unresponsive partner can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and wasted time. When meeting with potential partners, make your requirements clear before agreeing to anything. You’re looking for trustworthy, attentive partners that have the same shared goals as you and are willing to put in the time and resources to help make the partnership a success for both businesses.

Get it in writing

Any business partnership should be in writing. This protects all parties involved. Agree in advance how you will promote each other, the beginning and end date of the partnership, and what both parties will contribute.

Does your local community run a shop local scheme?

Save yourself some time and effort by researching if there are any organisations locally that are already set up to support local businesses and encourage the community to shop and support local.

For example, for £2.99/month or £24.99/year, The TN Card rewards members for shopping locally at over 600 independent businesses across Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks. 10% of every membership sale is donated to its charity partner, West Kent Mind. High Street independents join the scheme free of charge, but as a way to thank members for supporting them, offer a reward or special offer that’s exclusive to the TN card. The organisation encourages local employers to get involved by purchasing memberships for their teams as a staff benefit, while supporting the local economy, building a sense of community and raising funds for West Kent Mind. Don’t forget to consider these types of organisations as a potential local partner for your business to get involved with.

 

These are just a few examples of the different ways you can partner with local businesses. By collaborating with fellow business owners, you’re not only creating new promotional opportunities and offering further value to your local community, but you’re establishing relationships close-by that are designed to support, encourage and inspire in the long term.

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