101 Ways for Small Businesses to Work Together: The Ultimate JV Swipe File

JVs (Sometimes known as Strategic Partnerships, Joint Ventures or Alliances) are one of the most powerful ways for small business owners to achieve their business goals.

Put really simply they’re a a strategy or activity two or more business owners implement TOGETHER to achieve a shared objective.

The opportunities to create JVs are limited only by the imaginations of the business owners involved.

In this SWIPE File you’ll find 101 ideas, hints and tips to help you achieve your business goals by working effectively with other business owners.

101 ways for small business owners to work together

The Ultimate JV Swipe File

1. JV Tip: A Host Beneficiary gift is where one business owner (A) provides another business owner (B) with value add gifts that they can pass on to their clients. Generates new leads for business owner A and makes business owner B look great to their clients.

2. 5 complementary businesses each created a short hints and tips video. Outputs: a series of 5 videos on YouTube PLUS a DVD that they all give to their clients and prospective clients as a Thank You gift.

3. A hairdresser, a manicurist and a beauty therapist have a “Make Me Gorgeous” voucher book. Every time a client uses any one of their services they gain points towards a glamour photo session provided by a local photographer. Who provides complementary services to you that you could work together with to foster customer loyalty?

4. A bicycle shop sponsors a school running a “Safe Ride to School” Program by providing a bicycle as a prize in a competition running over the course of the school term. Who can you sponsor who can actively promote you directly to your target market in return for products or services instead of cash?

5. A cafe distributes “buy five get one free coffee” cards to local business owners to give to their staff. Every time a card is fully redeemed the business is profiled on the cafe “Friends of the Cafe” Notice board. What other businesses could encourage their staff or clients to support your business in return for recognition of some other form of reward?

6. A group of 10 businesses sharing the target market of work at home mums have a topical “question of the day”. They take turns posting the question on their Facebook page and then they all spend a few minutes each morning getting the conversation going around the topic. Keeps the topic in front of their fans for longer.

7. A group of business owners without office support set up a shared telephone answering service.

8. A group of graphic designers promote themselves as one business and share the work based on particular specialities.

9. A group of home based businesses in this suburb have an arrangement with a local coffee shop. They get access to a quiet meeting room and great coffee. The coffee shop gets an endless stream of referrals.

10. A group of independent butchers from different shopping centres set up a shared promotion across several local papers.

11. The online toy shop gives the parenting coach birthday gift vouchers to give to their new e-zine subscribers. The vouchers can only be redeemed by joining the Toyshop’s birthday club.

12. JV Tip: Make sure your business is ready. Credible business owners want to partner with credible business owners. Make sure you have all your ducks in a row before approaching someone for an alliance.

13. The chiropractor provided his associate the smash repairer with gift certificates for a full spinal assessment to pass on to clients as an incentive when booking their car in for repairs.

14. The coffee shop gave the other shops in the shopping centre thankyou cards with an offer of a free coffee that they could give to their new customers as a “Thanks for shopping”.

15. The cleaning company gave their clients a gift certificate for a massage every three months as a thanks for their business. The massage certificates were provided at cost to the cleaning company by their associate the masseuse.

16. A lawyer, an accountant and a financial planner run regular “advertorials” in each other’s newsletters providing information of relevance to each other’s clients. Who shares your target market that you could advertise in their newsletter and them in yours that would add value to both of your databases?

17. JV Tip: Before you can expect someone to give you referrals you need to earn their trust.

18. A National trade magazine exchanges advertising with industry and professional organisations, trade fairs and expos in return for one time introductions of the magazine to the organisations data-base.

19. A number of businesses with children as their target market including a dance school, gymnastics centre, drama school, dancewear company, educational consultant and child psychologist all have a “Business Referral Board” on display in their high traffic waiting areas which promote the other businesses in their “Referral Network”. Who could you work with to create a “Business Referral Board”?

20. JV Tip: Your brand will be associated with that of the other business in any alliance. Make sure that you are 100% happy to be associated with them.

21. A number of different baby product businesses have gathered together to create gift baskets which they all sell on all of their websites and also in maternity hospitals and baby-ware stores. Who could you put together a gift basket with? (Hint: it could include gift vouchers for services not just products)

22. A parenting coach produces a CD on dealing with a different parenting challenge each month which is distributed free of charge at a number of her local childcare and after school care centres. She also has a “feedback” box where parents can drop in their questions, challenges and the results they have achieved.

23. A plumber, electrician, pest controller and heating maintenance contractor got together to create shared fridge magnets which all of them hand out to all of their clients. Who could you create a fridge magnet, calendar, or other shared promotional tool with?

24. A personal trainer who runs an online coaching program promotes her program on the website and in the newsletters of a number of nutritional product distributors. The nutritional product distributors receive ongoing affiliate payments for any of their database who join the coaching program. Looking for additional income for no more work? Who provides products or services which would add value to your database on an ongoing basis? Looking for more exposure and more clients? Who could promote your products or services to their clients in return for ongoing residual income?

25. A pool chemical company and a pool cleaning contractor send a shared “Get your Pool Clean for Summer” promotion to both of their databases. Who could you share a promotional opportunity with that would enable you to expand your database of highly qualified leads?

26. A printer and a graphic designer co-brand themselves as a complete design and print and ongoing fulfilment service. Who could you work with to ensure that your clients’ needs in relation to the problems that you solve are met from beginning to end without having to leave your circle of influence?

27. A real estate agent, mortgage broker, settlement agent and housing inspector have put together a – “Steps in buying a house book” for first home buyers. When they are talking to a client or prospective client they don’t wait to be asked – do you know a good… they hand over the book as a gift and say “you might find this book useful, and when you need a good….. I can highly recommend ‘name’ who wrote the chapter on …”Who can you create a supply chain book with?

28. A tele-summit is a great way for a group of professionals to expand their reach and generate new leads. An alternative to a tele-summit: think about putting together a group of PRODUCTS into a package deal that all the contributors promote.

29. An author of a book on baby care offers an online baby clothes store the use of her book as an “add on” sale at the end of the shopping cart process. (Would you like fries with that?”) The online baby clothes store receives a commission every time a shopper purchases one of the books. Who could you work with to add “fries” to their sales process OR who could add “fries” to your sales process?

30. Launching a new product? Product launch tip: Invite your affiliate partners to promote your product and add a sweetener to the deal that is attractive to their database. It’s a WIN-WIN.

31. B2B? Exchange testimonial and endorsements with your referral partners and put them on each other’s business cards.

32. JV Tip: The three most important thing in any alliance are shared values, shared target market and compatible goals. Don’t proceed with an alliance without all three.

33. Business BOOMed for ten businesses in the same supply chain when they sponsored regular ‘social’ evenings at a local hotel and invited all of their contacts, clients and potential clients.

34. Collaborative alliances can be hard to spot. After all the whole point is to appear larger or more “full service” than you are. This is the perfect way for home based and micro business to take on the “Big Guys”. If you need office space or rooms why not consider doing it as part of a collaborative alliance, then you can pool all your front office and signage marketing expenses? (Just make sure you have a VERY solid relationship first!)

35. Completely free host beneficiary gifts work far better than discounts and gift certificates. To work out what you can afford to give, make sure you know your lifetime value of a customer. Then be prepared to wow them so they keep coming back.

36. Create your own directory – a group of independent photographers from different geographic locations pooled their marketing resources to create shared online AND offline marketing material.

37. Do you have a strong personal network? People you can call on anytime to help you solve a business problem or seize an emerging opportunity and to do it faster and better than your competitors. You need three types of people in your network: People with information and knowledge, People with resources, and People with connections – if your own immediate network fails you, do you have strong connectors in your network – people who can connect you to the people with the information, knowledge and resources that you need? Take the time to look at your personal network and start to create alliances that will help you fill in the gaps.

38. Ever thought of doing radio advertising? A window cleaning company, a domestic cleaning company and a carpet cleaning company got together to share the cost of radio advertising a “Super Spring Clean” with a discount for a multi-booking. Who could you team up with to share the cost of advertising that you may not normally consider doing?

39. JV Tip: Don’t chase bright shiny objects. Make sure that any alliance you are considering will help you to achieve your business objectives.

40. Four life coaches with different specialities team up to support each other on social media by commenting, re-tweeting and ‘liking’ each other’s pictures and comments.

41. I was staying in a bed and breakfast a while ago and in my room was a cute little gift basket from the local lavender farm. Of course having used the products from the basket I was tempted to visit the farm for more! Where can you give away a sample of your products or services that will attract a steady stream of new customers?

42. If you have a one off product or service think about who you can team up with in your supply chain who offers repeat services. Offer a free trial of their services as an add value gift to your customers and negotiate an ongoing affiliate payment.

43. If you want someone to donate a host beneficiary gift as a prize in a competition make sure that you support them properly and build in lots of opportunities to make sure your competition entrants are linked back to the host beneficiary gift donor. One way to do this is with lots of promotion of the donor business both before AND after the competition closes. Plus suggest to the donor business that they provide gift certificates/discount vouchers to all competition entrants that will encourage them to visit their business. Remember you are looking for a WIN-WIN-WIN.

44. Is your target market high school seniors? Look for alliances with businesses in the following areas: Study skills, career choice services, graduation events and ceremonies, driving schools, fashion, entertainment, etc.’

45. Joint marketing idea: team up with 3 or 4 other businesses in the same shopping precinct who share your target market and hold an “invitation only” shopper evening.

46. JV Tip: Make sure all parties to your alliance strategy are agreed on how the expenses and the profits will be divided up. If money needs to be spent make sure everyone has agreed up front.

47. This mortgage broker has an alliance with a massage therapist. Many of the massage therapist’s clients link their stress to financial problems that the mortgage broker can often help them solve! (And a gift of an annual massage is a great reminder that your mortgage broker is thinking of you!)

48. Launching a product or service? Look for other business owners who share your target market to help you launch with a bang! Remember to thank and reward them for their efforts.

49. Look through your expenses and work out all the things that would be cheaper if you could buy them in larger quantities, or if you could share resources – office supplies, advertising, office space, tickets to networking events, business education. Next look for other businesses that you could create a cooperative with that would enable you to either buy in bulk or share resources in order minimise your expenses.

50. JV Tip: Make sure that you have a clear exit strategy on how to end an alliance if things are not turning out as expected.

51. Need office space but not ready to carry the rent and the cost of a receptionist alone? Canvas other business owners in your local networking groups who may be in the same position as you. Then get together to form a cooperative. Hint: don’t rush this strategy – you need to be able to fully rely on all the members of your “co-op”.

52. One common internet based joint venture strategy is to get together a group of experts, all with a common target market but a different spin on a particular problem: e.g. marketing, generating web-site traffic, bringing up kids, different styles of cooking, etc. Each of you creates an audio or video on your particular take on the issue. These are then put together into one compilation product. They then put up a shared webpage which is promoted to ALL their databases and they also share a key word optimisation strategy. Profits from sales are shared amongst contributors.

53. JV Tip: Looking for businesses to create alliances with? Write a list of all the other businesses who see the problems that you solve.

54. One removalist gave local real estate agents a “Handy Guide to Moving House” to give to clients when they listed their homes for sales. 12 others sent letters after the house was sold. Which one got the job? Are you marketing proactively or reactively?

55. One way to generate additional income AND grow your database is to “sponsor” a series of webinars using guest experts as speakers. Preferably the guest experts have products which they can sell which will motivate them to speak for free. You win three ways – you receive a commission on any sales the experts make; you receive implied endorsements from the experts who are willing to speak on your “show”; you get the contact details of participants on the webinar to add to your database. Who could you interview on your own “SHOW”?

56. JV Tip: Most alliance strategies don’t need legal documents but do make sure that you have the key elements in writing. Who will do what, how it will work and how to end it if necessary.

57. One way to run an affiliate/referral program is to give your affiliate partners Gift Vouchers that they can put in mail outs, on their websites etc. when the gift voucher is redeemed the affiliate doesn’t receive a payment but if the new client goes on to make further purchases a percentage is credited to the affiliate partner.

58. JV Tip: Make sure that you are really clear up front on all the action items involved in an alliance and that everyone is comfortable with what they have to do.

59. When working out how much to pay in affiliate/referral fees calculate how much you would have to pay in traditional advertising to obtain the same customer.

60. Remember the key to successful alliance partnerships is finding the WIN-WIN-WIN. A win for you, a win for your alliance partner AND a win for your clients and customers. But it’s the 4th win that absolutely guarantees success! What causes are you and your alliance partners passionate about? Add a win for them and you have your 4th Win!

61. Set up a resources section on your blog or website and generate an additional income stream by providing affiliate links to products or services that you use and are happy to recommend.

62. Sign up for this business coach’s newsletter and get taken to a Thank You page where you are invited to receive a complimentary website audit from his associate the SEO consultant (just complete the form to receive your audit). A clever double act.

63. The 20 members of a networking group each contribute $10 per month to provide a $200 Karma Currency gift voucher to one lucky shopper each month. Who could YOU team up with to help make your customers feel good?’

64. The book-keeper sends all her invoices at the end of the financial year with a gift of a free financial health check from her alliance partner the accountant. Who could provide you with value add end of financial year (or any other appropriate opportunity) gift for your target market?

65. JV Tip: Never make assumptions about what other people are looking for. If you want an alliance with someone you need to find out what the other person wants. Not everyone is looking for leads or money!

66. The financial planner gives everyone who refers business her way gift vouchers for http://www.karmacurrency.com.au/ where they can donate the gift voucher to THEIR favourite charity.

67. The florist supplied the commercial cleaner with flowers to put in the office of each new client. They then followed up with the client with the offer of fresh flowers every week at a special preferred customer rate. Who shares your target market that you could provide a great gift for that would enable you to generate a client for life?

68. The hairdresser gives her clients a gift voucher from her alliance partner the fashion boutique on every fifth haircut. How can you reward your repeat customers for coming back with a gift from an alliance partner?

69. The hairdresser who had set up shop in a business district threw a “hair-cutting” launch week and invited employees from local businesses drop in for a hair-cut during lunch or after work. He had food, drinks and movies to ease any waiting times and sent each happy customer away with discount vouchers to pass on to their colleagues.

70. A group of natural therapists run a weekly “Ask your health professional” radio show and post the Q & A on a shared blog.

71. A nutritionist and a personal trainer use their daily tips and recipes to create a 90 day health blueprint which they use as a give-away product.

72. JV Tip: If someone you barely know asks you for referrals would you say YES? If not then don’t expect others to do it for you. You need to build the relationship first.

73. A plant nursery produces a monthly “Things to do in the garden this month” To-Do list which they publish in a newsletter for their own clients. It also contains links to specials of the month. They provide the monthly “To-Do” list to their alliance partners – gardeners, garden maintenance contractors and landscaper designers to use in their newsletters and mail outs. All sales are linked back to the alliance partners who then receive “bonus points” which they can redeem as plants and gardening products, and pass on to their clients as gifts.

74. The SEO marketing specialist gave his referral partners a “website health check” on-line tool that they could pass on to their clients as a value add gift.

75. The shops in a local shopping strip combine together to run an advert in the local paper promoting a “special promotion week” for the whole shopping strip. Who could you run a shared advertising campaign with?

76. These five home based businesses share a full time REMOTE virtual assistant. She works one day a week for each of them and each of them pays one fifth of her salary.

77. The tyre store gives his clients vouchers for a mechanical health check from his alliance partner the mechanic.

78. The web designer gives all of his new clients a three month trial of an email marketing system supplied by one of his alliance partners and fully integrated into the signup form on the new website. Of course once their newsletter system is up and running the client is very unlikely to cancel the service. The web designer looks great and the email marketing system supplier is happy they have a new client. The web designer gets a life time commission on the ongoing fees for the email mailing system turning his clients into residual income streams… Who could you create a host beneficiary with that would go on to become a great affiliate income stream as well?

79. JV Tip: Good referral relationships need THREE things: a strong relationship built on mutual trust, the same target market AND the tools to make it easy to give referrals. If you are missing any one of the three then the referrals won’t happen.

80. These two web-designers one building $10K plus websites and the other servicing the $5k or less market teamed up. No more clients slipping through the net because theirs budgets were out of scope.

81. Think you have a business that doesn’t lend itself to generating content to share with alliance partners? Here are a few ideas. The florist writes a regular tip on flower arranging. The gardener does a monthly gardening tip. The green grocer has a seasonal vegie recipe of the week.

82. This group of local businesses sponsors needy children at a local primary school: excursions, books, uniforms, Christmas and Birthday gifts… all covered!

83. JV Tip: Who are the other businesses who typically see the problems that you solve? These people are your perfect referral partners.

84. This mechanic has an alliance with a local car wash company. All his full service customers receive a complementary car clean as part of the service and the car wash company leaves a buy four and get the fifth clean for free voucher on the dashboard of the car. Who provides an add value service that would be appreciated by your customers?

85. This mortgage broker includes special offers and discounts from his alliance partners (local businesses) in his monthly newsletter. We know who they will refer new home buyers to!

86. This party plan lingerie consultant has an alliance with a local limousine company. The limo drivers give gift vouchers from the lingerie consultant as a “thanks for travelling with us”. The vouchers include a special incentive for texting in a party booking request from the limousine. How could you use fun & excitement to create a WIN-WIN and attract more business?

87. JV Tip: Who are the businesses who come before you in your supply chain? These people are your ideal referral partners as they see your potential clients just before they need you!

88. This printer works closely with a graphic designer. The graphic designer routes all their design work to the printer and the printer refers clients needing design work to the graphic designer. Who are businesses in your supply chain that you could build strong referral relationships with?

89. Tip for coaches: instead of trying to be all things to all people why not specialise and team up with other coaches with different specialities (either different niches or different steps in the problem solving process). You and your clients will all end up the winners.

90. Two catering companies operating in different states both have a link to the other’s website for people searching for catering in the other state. Who could you work with to provide a cross promotional strategy?

91. Trying to get a foot in the door in a large bureaucracy which shares your target market? Consider becoming a sponsor for a support or lobby group which supports that target market. That way your potential clients will help open the door for you. E.g. if you want to “get into” schools or hospitals offer to sponsor a not for profit group that supports them. You will gain a powerful lobby group in the process.

92. Two marketing consultants with different areas of expertise get together to create a video based information product which is co-branded and sold from both of their websites. Who could you team up with to create an information product that will generate residual income for your business?

93. Two consultants with different areas of expertise got together and ran a series of workshops which they video and turned into a product which they both sold from their websites.

94. Two SEO specialists offer different levels of service catering for different target markets. When advertising in a national magazine they share costs by only running a combined advert under the name of a third business entity. Leads which come from the ad are then qualifying leads as to which business is the best fit. Who could you work with to share costs and appear to be bigger than you are?

95. JV Tip: What problems do you see on a regular basis? Create a referral wheel of trusted associates who can solve these problems for your clients.

96. When the pest exterminator who had just emerged from crawling round under my house handed me the account he said “Look you might not be aware, but while I was under there I noticed that your heating ducts are dragging on the ground and there is some sign of rodent damage. It would pay for you to get that checked out. If you don’t have a regular contractor here’s someone I can recommend. You’ll find he’s very reasonable and reliable.” And he stapled a business card to the front of his invoice. Think about it… Who sees the problems that you solve and would be happy to staple your business card to their invoice?

97. When you sign up for this marketing consultant’s free report (and newsletter) you get the opportunity to select a free gift from one of his alliance partners as a thankyou (helping of course to grow their databases as well). Who could you offer a thankyou gift to that would help grow your database?”

98. Writing for other people’s newsletters and magazines is a well-known strategy for building brand recognition and generating new leads. However this can be ineffective if your target market is not well enough matched. Make sure that you are submitting your articles where they are being read by YOUR exact target market at the time they are in need of YOUR products or services!

99. JV Tip: Alliances are like any other relationship – it needs to be built on mutual trust and respect. Start with something easy and low risk and work your way up as the relationship develops.

100. A group of professionals in the maternal health sector set up a support group for new mothers. Experts in lactation, sleeping, post-natal depression, personal care, stress management etc. They have all combined together to create a website, answer questions, provide both online and live meetings and send out monthly help packs with CDs and gifts for the new mums. (The gifts are sponsored by other businesses whose target market is also new mums!)

101. Another great internet marketing joint venture strategy is to use gifts and offers from your alliance partners to improve your opt in or conversion rates. One way to do this is at the point of sign up. Rather than offering only one incentive to opt in to your list you can offer a bundle of incentives supplied by your alliance partners. Your new subscribers then have the opportunity to opt into the list of your partners as well. If they reciprocate on their website you both have the opportunity to significantly increase your opt in rate with no additional effort. You can also do this at the point of sale by using gifts and incentives provided by your partners to package up an offer that is too good to refuse.