Partnerships can help small businesses thrive | Column

In my last column I discussed building a sustainable business community by doing business locally. It is a topic I am extremely passionate about because there are so many easy ways to do it and it helps keep our local business healthy while supporting our city’s economy.

In my last column I discussed building a sustainable business community by doing business locally. It is a topic I am extremely passionate about because there are so many easy ways to do it and it helps keep our local business healthy while supporting our city’s economy.

As a business, partnering with other local businesses is perhaps one of the most effective ways to increase your sales and build a more sustainable business community, especially in a challenging economy. After all, most business people have limited budgets and that means less money for advertising, marketing, sponsorships, events, etc.

But you can’t stop doing any of them if you want your business to thrive and grow. There is power in numbers and partnering with a like-minded business person can be a powerful boost to your company’s success.

One of the most effective ways to leverage your advertising dollar is co-op advertising. This means combining your financial resources with other businesses that are a natural combination with yours to advertise in your local paper, magazines, on local television, or even on the Internet.

If you are a service business, like mine (Marketing, PR and Video), you may want to team up with other companies that also provide services needed by most new or existing business such as bookkeeping, computer and IT support, office supplies, banking, and legal services. But dig further and you may find that event planners, travel agents, catering services, staffing agencies, and even retail stores that carry great customer gifts can be natural partners as well.

Imagine creating a dynamic ad (full page at this point) that highlights all of your services together? Not only is that compelling, but is a comprehensive business resource that local businesses can tap into. They may not need you today, but the odds are good they will one day. And if they are anything like me, they will keep this ad knowing that the time will come and you’ve just made it easy for them to do business locally.

One word of warning: Don’t just throw up a bunch of business cards – design a unique ad!

Another great way to partner with other businesses is through developing package deals. Again, you are presenting complementary services, or products, at a value-added rate. Think about Comcast’s success with “bundling.” Buy three of their services together and you get a better deal right? Yes! And they get more sales. And when money is tight because gas prices are up and real estate is slowing down, people want value.

If you are a restaurant, the easy package is a movie and a meal. But why not be more creative. How about a manicure, or massage, and a meal? Call it something clever and you’ll pique interest for sure. Sell it to customers who already use your service and you can be sure they will come back again if they see they can get more value for their money. Remember, a repeat customer is the best kind to have. They already like what you provide and they are a great referral source for new customers too.

Last but not least, be a great referral resource. I recommend finding complementary service organizations near you and keeping their business cards on hand to pass along to customers who may need their services. I can’t tell you how many referrals I get because I give several of my business cards to other businesses who have customers I am confidant, at some point, will need my services. I do the same for the business people I know. Passing on a good referral is a gift and it will give back to you again and again.

So spend a little time tapping into synergistic business relationships that can help you build your business while at the same time creating a sustainable business community around you.

Susan Burnash is the owner of Purple Duck Marketing in Kirkland. Visit her Web site at Contact her at (425) 896-8959 or

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