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
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.
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. 
In choosing where to shop, many people look first at prices, then location and then the name of the store, with little thought given to the importance of supporting small, local businesses. Small local businesses provide advantages to the surrounding community that large big box retailers cannot offer. Understanding those advantages can encourage customers to support their local merchants.
Shopping at small, local businesses can have a significant impact on the local economy. Businesses pay sales tax to the city and county where the business is located. When patrons make the choice to leave the area to do their shopping, they are supporting areas outside of their own. Large businesses also pay sales taxes to the local government.
The money paid to local governments by small, local businesses is used for many things, including the financing of roads, public schools, sidewalks and parks. In addition, those tax dollars help to fund additional public service workers such as police officers and firefighters. Many cities subsidize youth sports leagues that are sponsored by the parks department. The money used to fund such activities comes from taxes, which are paid in part by small local businesses as sales tax revenue.
Each year, cities calculate the amount of sales tax revenue that they anticipate receiving from their local businesses. That revenue estimate is used to forecast the following year’s budget needs and the budget gets decided. If the revenue does not match the estimate, the city goes over budget, which can cause financial issues. Local businesses that are able to maintain positive growth through sales tax revenue each year help meet the city’s financial needs. In addition, the city is able to project the following year’s probable revenue figures based on the local business’ revenue the previous year.
Small local businesses provide job opportunities for local residents. This can be in the way of part-time help, or full-time management. Local jobs keep the residents in town during their shift, so the advantages extrapolate outward as the employee spends money at the local restaurant during meal breaks, gasses up at the local station to get to work and stops at the local grocery store on the way home at night. The advantage of a small local business employing local residents creates a domino effect that helps the community as a whole. In addition, small local businesses typically provide better customer service than their large, corporate counterparts. The small business owner often lives in the community, worships, plays sports and socializes with community members, and cares about the individuals who patronize his business. Because of his personal involvement with the community, he will strive to provide the best service possible to customers.
Aside from providing local job opportunities, small, local businesses support the area through their everyday needs. Small businesses open accounts at local banks, hire local CPAs and attorneys and when they need supplies they can step down the street to get them quickly. Running a small local business provides automatic advantages in the daily operations.