Growing your firm can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you don’t have any experience in marketing. One way around this is strategic partnerships: forming mutually beneficial relationships with software providers, app vendors and indeed other accounting and bookkeeping firms. But how do you go about that? Here’s your handy guide to forming and maintaining strategic partnerships.
Deciding who to partner up with
Before you launch into anything, you should define what it is you’re looking for. Take the time to sit down and think about your values as a firm and your mission.
Firstly, what are your values? What do you stand by as a firm? Discuss this with your team – it’s important to have buy-in from everyone – then try to distill those ideas into three to five keywords.
Secondly, what is your mission? What are you trying to achieve with your work as a firm? Who do you want to help? Again, have a team brainstorm and think of your three main objectives.
As Mariette Martinez says, “Values and missions are incredibly important for me in regards to aligning a strong, long lasting partnership. I'm a big believer that if I'm going to partner with somebody, we are going to create something powerful and amazing – and we're probably going to spend more time with each other than we do with our own family!”
Keeping up both sides of the bargain
It’s important to understand what exactly is expected from both parties in the partnership. “I think the big thing is you have to go into the partnership understanding each party's responsibilities and expectations,” says Stephen King, President of GrowthForce.
Working with a software provider or app vendor shouldn’t be simply transactional: you should expect willing support and advice from their end, and in return, you should make sure to adopt an open, collaborative approach over the transition period and moving forward.
Reaping the rewards
Partnerships can take your business to the next level, just take it from Mariette Martinez: “I became a QuickBooks ProAdvisor right when I first started my business. Intuit was my partner from the very beginning. They had the ProAdvisor program, they provided all the resources. They pretty much set you up for success if you take advantage of everything that they have.
“I essentially did all my marketing just through the QuickBooks ProAdvisor profile and Find a ProAdvisor. I never did any other marketing other than that, until a couple of years later when I saw how powerful online marketing was. As it’s also free, I decided to built my entire marketing strategy through online media partners. The Yelps and the Googles. Essentially my entire business has been built off of partnerships.”
How to break up
Sometimes things just may not work out. Rather than feigning blindness to the problem, it’s important to acknowledge that the partnership is not working and try to find out why. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you, either way it is crucial to nip it in the bud early and ascertain whether it’s a problem you can work out or whether you just need to call it quits.
Open communication is absolutely vital – a clear, well thought out email can go a long way. Stephen King recommends the ABC structure for emails, which comes from The Hamster Revolution. The structure is as follows:
- A brief, warm greeting
- Action Summary
- Specific action, purpose and response time
- Clear, concise and relevant
- Bullet points and numbers
- Clear, bold paragraph titles
- Next steps and niceties
Remember: a graceful exit is always more valuable than having a tantrum. You may want to work with this partner again in the future, so keep that in mind when you ‘break up’ with them.
At your next tradeshow or networking event, keep an eye out for potential partners. With this handy guide, you can start making those partnerships happen and watch your firm flourish!