7 Questions to Help you Find Great Strategic Partners for your Business

Strategic partnerships are the most powerful and cost effective way for small business owners to grow their business.

Imagine having a pool of dozens of potential partners to work with to help generate more leads, more customers and more profits for your business.

But many businesses struggle to identify other businesses  to create partnership strategies with.

In this article you’ll find seven questions to help you identify potential strategic partners for your business.

Depending on your business you will find some of the questions more difficult than others. A few of them may not fit for your business at all. Don’t worry you will still come up with a long list of business categories and even individual names for people you can approach to create WIN WIN opportunities to achieve your business goals whether they are lead generation, customer acquisition or retention, increased average dollar sale, or even cost savings.

1. Who are the businesses in your supply chain?

People typically buy for one of two basic reasons

  • To solve problems.
  • To make themselves feel good (achieve a purpose).

Ask yourself: Is there some other product or service that my customers typically need either before, after, or at the same time as they buy from me in order to completely solve their problem or achieve their purpose?

Who are the businesses who supply those other complementary products or services?

For example a web developer, graphic designer, copy-writer, photographer/videographer are all needed to solve the problem of getting a new website.

Not all of you will have complementary products or services (although don’t give up too quickly as you may be surprised) – for those of you who do these are your MOST IMPORTANT potential alliance partners.

They will constantly be connecting with YOUR potential clients and you with theirs.

These are the businesses where you will be able to create an almost unlimited range of alliance strategies no matter what your current business objectives.

So think about all of the other products or services that your potential client needs and/or wants in order to ensure that they are able to completely solve their problem or achieve their purpose. Now write a list of all the businesses or professions that provide them.

2 Who are your ideal "PROBLEM SPOTTERS?”

This question is for those of you who have products or services that solve problems.

Who are the businesses or professions who see the problems that you solve? The person with the problem may not have even realised that they had one!

A good problem spotter working on your behalf can make sure that first they let them know and secondly point them at you to solve the problem.


  • book-keeper and debt collector
  • printer and graphic designer
  • Finance broker and insurance broker.
  • Office cleaner and window cleaner

So think about all of the other businesses who are in a position to see the problems that you can solve.

And because we should be looking for WIN WIN relationships and ways to help other business owners – think about the problems that you see on a regular basis.

Who could you refer to when you spot a problem?

Again not all of you will be able to answer this question – but if you can these too are powerful potential alliance partners.

3. Who sells products or services that are of interest or value to your ideal clients?

This is the question that will generate your longest list of potential alliance partners.

But it’s also when it is MOST important that you truly understand your target market. Otherwise you will end up with a VERY long list but very little in the way of useful results!

If you are struggling with this question then it may be because you don’t know your target market well enough.  If need be go back and more clearly define your target market! You should know and understand your target market as well as you do your best friend!!!


4. Who else has captured your target market but is NOT your direct competition?

They may not be in your supply chain, or even see the problems that you solve but they have a database of YOUR target market or access to your target market and they market to them.

Examples I received my NAB bank statement the other day – enclosed was a discount voucher from Dell computers.

Get specific – name names – and yes it is possible for Small Business Owners to create partnerships with big business. One example is the book “Small Business Big Opportunity” with over 100,000 in print this was written by Rob Hartnett www.robharnett.com in partnership with Sensis!

5. Who solves the same problems you do but in a different way or for a different niche?

Yes these may be your competitors – but now is the time to be honest. Do you have the BEST solution for EVERY potential client?

It is better to send away a potential client than to do an inferior job. You will be GLAD you did!

Who solves the same problems or helps people achieve the same purpose that you do but perhaps in a slightly different way, with a slightly different solution or in a different location, or with a slightly different skill set?

These may or may not be your competitors but if they are, stop thinking competition and start thinking collaboration!


  • A full service solution versus a self help solution
  • Businesses with a different niche market
  • A business offering the same thing in a different location.
6. Who uses similar suppliers/supplies, has similar needs, or faces similar problems to you?

There is more to alliances than marketing and lead generation – what about cost reduction strategies, customer service, increased buying power, creating a support group?

Remember to think about geographic location – your customer may not be locally based but you may be able to work with other compatible businesses in your local area to resolve staffing, office space, supply or transportation issues…

This list will help you to focus in on businesses that you can work with to solve many of the other problems and challenges you face on a day to day basis.

7. Who shares something specific in common with you that you both may be able to leverage?
  •  Are you a green business?
  • Do you have a favourite charity?
  • Where do your kids go to school? Play sport?
  • Do you share a common personal interest that you could optimize? E.g. have children in the same sporting club, or share a common hobby.

When you have a clear list of these business owners you will be able to look for ways that you can leverage shared marketing opportunities such as sponsorship or loyalty schemes and member reward programs. Perhaps even develop a Community, a networking group, or write a book together! This list is likely to be far more specific than the previous ones have been.

You are likely to be able to include names, or at least business names or perhaps something like “my daughter’s’ best friend’s father or mother” or “the mechanic at my photography club”…

You will not need or want to create alliances with all of them all of the time. Your strategic plan will determine which alliances to pursue and which opportunities to act on at any given time, and which ones to ignore or put off until the time is right!

So now its time to start working through the questions which will help you identify potential strategic partners for your business.

Start brainstorming. There are no right or wrong answers – just opportunities.

As you work on your business and implement your strategic plan you will be able to refer back to the list you generated to identify who can help you achieve your goals. You may also find, as you generate your list that opportunities you would never have thought of before occur to you.