Using Strategic Alliances to Build Your Business

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One of the main issues Solo Pros struggle with is the feeling of isolation. A great way to deal with that – and grow your business at the same time – is to find others to team with.

Strategic Alliances are a brilliant way to expand your services, get exposure to new markets, and to grow your circle of influence. But some Solos are a little intimidated by the concept.


In the Old-School business structure, there was a lot of paperwork and red tape which made ‘teaming up’ more trouble than it was worth. But those days are long gone. Strategic Alliances can be fun, easy, and profitable if you approach it that way. I’ve built all of my businesses – my custom publication design service, my association and my academy as well as my coaching business – all with collaboration, partnering and joint ventures. Let me share some of my secrets here:

The Four Types of Strategic Alliances

Partnering: This is the most structured of the alliances. It tends to be more long term and to have a more rigid agreement between two or more professionals.

Collaboration: This is when two or more experts decide to work together to extend their range of deliverables to create a project, put on an event, or provide a greater range of services.

Joint Venture: Typically joint ventures involve the completed products or services of two or more experts – which they created independently – but that are marketed together for a packaged deal.

Affiliate: Affiliates are different in that there is no joint creating or delivery of a product or service, but another individual agrees to market a product or service to their list for a percentage of the sales.

Tips to Making Strategic Alliances Work

  • Start where you are: There are teaming opportunities all around you if you open your mind. Start with your business community. Is there someone serving the same target market as you? They may be a potential partner. Look at your ‘competition’. Do they provide a service that can augment what you’re doing? Get a conversation going. DO NOT limit your partnering opportunities because you think someone is your competition. There is more than enough work to go around so see how you can help raise the tide to lift all your boats.
  • Think “easy”: Your first step is a conversation – NOT a trip to the lawyer’s to have contracts and documents drawn up. Keep your agreement easy and loose. Put it in writing so everyone understands what their role is and – if there’s income from the experience – spell that out. (hint: Always stipulate that whatever the split, it’s after expenses. Then be sure to save all receipts)
  • Be generous: This isn’t the time to be the prima dona. Be flexible and give what you can to the success of the combined effort. Let the other person know that you are teaming with them because you respect them and what they bring to the table. Listen to their suggestions and opinions – they may have some new thoughts that you had not considered. That’s part of the point of teaming up!
  • Be the CEO: Remain the CEO of your own business. Don’t lose your identity or integrity to the team. (Hint: That being said – if you’re teaming on a project where the client needs to have one point of contact, be flexible with that. It’s important not to confuse the client or ever expose them to any behind-the-scenes drama or conflict!)
  • Keep your plan in mind: Be sure not to let partnerships derail your business. Make sure that every effort is in alignment with your business direction and overall goals. Partnerships should enhance what you’re already doing not divert you to a different path.
  • Start small and build: Begin your teaming adventure with something small – a webinar or teleclass or team teaching event. Don’t dive head first into the deep end. Stretch yourself, but not too far at a time.
  • Go for the win/win/win: A partnership effort should benefit everybody: You, your partner, and your clients. If it feels like it’s getting out of balance, address that feeling immediately. Do let that fester because it will sabotage your effort.
  • A word about affiliate ventures. These are a little different in that you’re essentially asking someone else to market your product or services to their list. Do NOT approach someone and ask them to promote you to their list and then expect them to come up with the details. Yes, you may be offering them a percentage on any sales that come out of that, but on the front end, you don’t want to create work for them. They represent a significant opportunity for you to get in front of a group of people that they’ve cultivated over a period of time. So be respectful of that. You come with the opportunity spelled out clearly. Have all of the material ready for them to copy and paste. Keep you message very short so you don’t take advantage of their readers (100 to 300 words is plenty). If needed, include a link where they can read more if they’re interested. If you need to include and image, give them a link where the image sits (already sized appropriately) out on the internet. DO NOT send them the image file and expect them to size it correctly, put it up somewhere on the internet and then link to it. ALWAYS make affiliating with you as easy as possible.

Barbara Saunders

I'm Barbara Saunders, The Solo Pro Success Coach and it's my mission to help Solo Pros go from floundering to flourishing! I do that as the Director of the International Association of Self-Employed Communication Professionals and as the Founder of the Solo Pro Academy where I have programs focused specifically on helping the solo pros build a profitable custom fit business. I'm also the Host of the international internet radio show Solo Pro Radio.

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