Rebel Alliances? Galactic Empire?

I’ll take alliances every time…

In business today, we share information rather than withhold it. We put people together who can help each other without expectation of reward. We have open ears to opportunities that may benefit our allies. Call it ‘Business Karma’ if you like.

So… Alliances.

What do we mean by that and why is it the second most effective way to create business?. Bested only by the golden chalice that is the ‘Referral’.

Well, in the same glib way that people will tell you that ‘people buy from people’ and that is certainly true, how many genuinely understand what that means and how to make the most of that fact? How many actually practice what they preach in that regard? I wonder sometimes.

Likewise, when the subject of forging business alliances comes up, people gathered round will always say ‘Oh yes… I do that’. So, I ask them what that looks like to them. It’s usually followed by a few sputters and some vague reference to a networking group that they once attended. One they attended with a friend I might add, where they proceeded to spend the entire event looking on from the wings whilst chatting to the friend with whom they originally came.

Forging strong alliances is almost as easy as referrals. And almost as lucrative. And like referrals, requires a marketing budget of big fat zero.

For me, forging alliances is about Expansion. It is about Trust and it is about Communication.

Let me explain:

In the course of my networking [I do a lot of networking] I begin to see which of those people I have come to know will make potential alliances. These are people who fit the following criteria:

  1. I rate them. They do a good job and I would have no hesitation in recommending their services to anyone.
  2. I like them. They are people I have genuinely warmed to and I want them to do well. I would happily go for a beer with them. In short, we get on.
  3. They are people who feel the same about me and what I do.
  4. There is no conflict of interest in the work we both do and if you have chosen wisely, your two businesses will actually compliment each other and dovetail together seamlessly.
  5. They understand that if we do this right, we can ALL benefit from this relationship – The Client, my Alliance Partner and myself. In essence, Win/Win/Win.

So what do I mean by Expand/Trust/Communication or “EX-T-C”

Once you have agreed with your new Partner that this will now form part of your strategy, the following happens:

  1. Whenever you are in conversation with a client or a prospect or in fact pretty much anyone with whom you deal in a professional capacity, you are now not only listening for opportunities for your own business, but for your Partner’s too.

For example: I recently had cause to phone a client with a question. I had checked their website and despite trawling through pages of photos and biogs of employees, Directors, Partners, etc. It wasn’t clear to whom I should direct my question. So, I phoned the office. They happily directed me to the right person, but in the course of the conversation she said ‘Oh yes, sorry about that, we are looking seriously at having our website redone because we know it’s a bit hard to navigate’. ‘Really?. Oh that’s interesting. Where are you in the process with that?’ ‘We are at discussion stage. Nothing decided yet.’ ‘Well, perhaps I can help you with that. I know a really good web guy who has done wonders for my site. Would it be okay if I got him to give you a call?’ ‘Yeah sure, that sounds good.’

And there it is. Without spending any cash/time/effort but just by listening to a wider conversation, I was able to feed a great lead to my Partner.

In short you have ‘expanded’ your auditory field. You are now listening not only for the narrow vein of opportunities which is just for yourself, but for a much wider spectrum of opportunity encompassing all the Partners in your squad. And guess what, they are all now doing exactly the same for you.

  1. Communication – Businesses change and evolve all the time. You need to have at least a basic grasp of what is happening with your Partner’s business. They may have launched a new product, may have discontinued an old service. In short, a once a month catch up over coffee, will allow you to bring each other up to date, talk about prospective new business and to widen your alliance network by introducing new people who would benefit from and add value to your existing network.
  1. Trust – Now, many people setup reward tariffs for leads received and that’s fine if it works for you, but for myself, a reciprocal good quality lead is of much more value than a few quid and a thank you. As a consequence, I would encourage wherever possible, a group ethos that ‘leads are rewarded by leads’. That way, not only does everyone get what matters most to them, but just as importantly, this encourages the message that this is what we do. And it’s habit forming. Leads beget leads. All members of the group need to be on the same page and they need to try to be as active as each other wherever possible. The monthly meetings will also ensure that there are no people involved who are only interested in one-way-traffic.

Allies will come and allies will go, but creating a habit of feeding alliances so that they feed you back, is an excellent way to generate high return, free of charge business leads.

Darth can keep his Galactic Empire if he wants, Alliances work for me and my Partners waaaay better.

And just in case it was troubling you, no Ewoks were harmed in the writing of this blog… Honest.