Partnerships is something big brands do really well and ultimately benefit from: “Nike+ boosted the Nike experience with integrated Apple technology. The music brand Beats by Dr Dre partnered with musicians and other celebrities to develop co-branded products, generating huge commercial value and reaching new audiences via these collaborators,” explains Robin Gads, Building Partnerships: Why Collaboration is Key.

The good news is you don’t need a big budget to make a partnership like this work. As a small, local business, partnering with another organisation in the region is a great way to boost your brand and connect with the community, at little to no cost to you. Whether you’re collaborating on a marketing campaign or hosting a joint charity event, you make one another’s brands stronger, while tapping into a new market and building trust.

The key is finding a business that compliments yours. For example, if you’re a women’s clothing retailer you might want to partner with a hair salon, which also caters to women who likely shop locally. This makes sure that you don’t step on each other’s “territory” and instead are able to provide support.

Before you choose a partner, however, you have to know why you’re partnering. Here are three reasons why you might want to do that along with some tips for how to make it work.

1. Build trust by association

Reason: You’re building brand equity

It’s hard to build your brand, especially as a new business with plenty of competition in a small community. When partnering with someone else, you gain the strength of their brand equity.

At an event, for example, people may not know you, but working a booth with a well-known business in the area gives you immediate “trust by association” credit. The customer trusts your partner, by working together, your partner shows that they trust you, so the customer is likely to also trust your brand.

In a situation like this, where one brand is stronger than the other, or one business is more successful, be upfront about what you hope to achieve together. If you went into it with a goal in mind, be clear about that and be ready to give back what you get. To make this partnership mutually beneficial, both sides need to make their goals and needs known to one another.

“A strong relationship between partners and absolute trust that each partner is looking out for one another’s best interests drives maximum impact in building an eco-system that brings value to each organisation. Such a relationship requires open, honest, and fearless communication between partners,” says Ben Cornett, partner marketer at Kount.

2. Foster creativity and innovation

Reason: Innovation is lacking

As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in your business, falling into the same routines and having the same “big picture” strategy talks over and over. This is especially true if you work with a small team or alone. Partnering with another local business is a great way to get fresh ideas along with the courage you need to take a risk that can help both businesses reach the next level.

This type of partnership can be both short- or long-term. Both businesses can take turns hosting monthly brainstorming sessions, or better yet, set-up an quarterly summit where the teams gather in a mastermind style group for eight hours of feedback, innovation and idea sharing.

Working together in this way also boosts accountability. If you had an idea at the last meeting, someone is likely to ask you about it at the next one: Did you end up doing X? That sounded awesome! Thanks to the group, hopefully your answer is some version of “Yes!”

3. Get more marketing bang with less buck

Reason: You want to branch out to new audiences

A marketing partnership is one of the most beneficial because you have a lot to gain, including new customers, while spending less. “Collaborating on your marketing efforts is a fast, easy way for both organisations to slash costs, expand each other’s marketing lists, gain referrals, and eventually generate new sales,” says Darrin Rayner, EVP of Sales and Client Services at Xpressdocs. There are many ways for businesses to partner on marketing, including:

  • Dual product/service launch
  • Product collaboration
  • Referral program
  • Co-hosted community event
  • Co-sponsors for charity event
  • General email and social promotion

To make it work, agree to market one another’s brand equally. It may be helpful to create a loose social schedule, specifying where you’ll share what and when, along with how much you both agree to spend, etc. With everything on paper, you can hold one another accountable and determine the bottom line value when all is said and done.

Partner up

If you’re ready to work with another business, make a list of where you could use help to determine who would be best to work with and in what capacity. When contacting them, be specific with your ideas and keep an open mind. If the first one works well, look for more partnerships in the future – there are always opportunities, you just have to find them.