You already know the importance of determining your target market (and if you don’t, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered). You know just what it takes to hit the bulls eye, and you’ve got your metaphorical arrow nocked; but what do you do when you approach your target only to discover that someone else’s arrow has found the mark first? Well, if your life is anything like a Disney movie, you gather your wits, take a deep breath, and shoot your own arrow straight down the middle of theirs. This seemingly impossible move was made famous by a certain heroic outlaw (known for his tendencies to steal from the rich and give to the poor) in the 1938 movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” The shot has since been recreated countless times, in countless movies, until even Mythbusters had to have their say in it (busted! …for now). But all those archers in all those movies seem to have forgotten one important detail; the shot, while impressive, won’t result in a win, but a tie. And a tie (depending on how you look at it) means you both walk away victorious.
I am, of course, talking about referral partners; businesses that share your same target market, but aren’t necessarily a member of your competition. By sharing the bulls eye with these businesses, you can both benefit from the “win.” For example: If your target market is polished women between the ages of 20 and 50, and there just so happens to be a hair salon nearby, you might want to consider partnering with that salon. All you have to do is approach them with an offer to promote their business if they will, in turn, promote yours (the ol’ “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” technique). But there are a few guidelines when it comes to ensuring that your new partnership remains mutually beneficial.
First of all, sharing the same target market doesn’t necessarily mean that your new referral partner is a perfect fit. By entering into this partnership, you’re allowing them to become an extension of you—and if they don’t share the same values, goals, and objectives as you do, you might come to regret the union. The last thing you want to do is refer your clients to an unworthy partner—it’s bad for them, and bad for you—so take your time to decide before taking the plunge.
As with any partnership, communication is key! Your referrers should know all there is to know about your company—starting with your values. After they’ve been thoroughly educated about your business (and you theirs), agree to stay in touch on a consistent and frequent basis. They should know about any new services or products you’re offering and be able to speak to any promotions you’re currently running. They should be the first to know when you’ve hired a new staff member or acquired a new piece of equipment—remember; the more they know, the more they can refer. (Psst! The fastest, easiest, and all around best way to keep your referral partners in the loop, month after month, is to send them a copy of your monthly print newsletter!)
But remember; this partnership is supposed to be mutually beneficial. So while they’re busily promoting your business, you’d better be doing the same for them. Prove to your referral partner that this union is more than worth their while by providing them with worth at every opportunity. Don’t just share referrals, share resources. Did you come across an article that you found helpful? Chances are your referral partner would find it informative as well (remember, they’re playing in the same field as you). Is there a networking event coming up that you think might benefit their business? Do the right thing and extend an invite. Something as simple as a thank you note or gift basket can solidify your partnership and keep those referrals flowing for a long, long time. When it comes right down to it, you should treat your referral partners (and, consequently, their referrals) in the same way you would treat your very best customers—because, in a way, that’s exactly what they are.
As far as we’re concerned, arrow splitting is all too real (take that Mythbusters!), at least, when it comes to hitting your target market. And it’s not nearly as impossible as it seems. When done correctly, sharing the center circle can result in a big win for both parties…and who doesn’t want to be the Robin Hood of the marketing world?
Need ideas? Why not…
…exchange coupons to hand out to respective clients.
…offer to “spotlight” one another in your respective blogs or newsletters.
…share leads (with monetary incentive—if it’s not a fair trade).
…cross promote via email list.