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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The (powerful) advantages of alliances

Our alliance with Tree Canada means that we plant many more trees than we consume. In return, Tree Canada receives publicity and promotional support to encourage other businesses to be friendly to Canada's forests.
Increasingly, we are using our marketing leverage and relationships to develop profitable business alliances. Chase deserves much credit for this work. The recent agreement with the Ontario General Contractors' Association follows on our relationships with Tree Canada, Construction Links, The Green Building Festival and associations including the Niagara Home Builders' Association and the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association. All of these relationships have some common characteristics. Little cash trades hands, but much mutually valuable economic benefit is achieved. We lend our marketing and publicity support to the other organizations; in turn, we achiever credibility, brand recognition and in some cases, the opportunity to develop and market new products and services to highly qualified audiences.

Of course, as a media business, we are well equipped to provide value in these relationships and alliances, but the marketing principal applies equally -- if differently -- in your own enterprise. The key here is to think creatively, remember what you have to offer is of value and utility, and then look within your marketplace to develop intriguing and effective co-operative mechanisms.

Some suggestions:

Look within your trade associations for mutually synergistic relationships.
This isn't the plastic 'networking' at association events, or the routine visit to your association's plans room to find upcoming projects. It works at a deeper level -- perhaps within committee or educational programs, where you can share your knowledge and bests practices (and maybe some business leads) with your peers.

Consider involving yourself in charitable and non-profit organizations. The less obvious ones may be the greatest value.
Habitat for Humanity is excellent -- and can be of value -- if somewhat obvious. But consider the non-profits within health care, social services, and community development; ones which could really use your skills and support.

Connect with the media.
Obviously, we are big into alliances ourselves, so you may find you can link with us. The key here is to frame it in a manner that transcends your individual business (otherwise we'll rightfully simply sell you some advertising). But if you tie in with the associations, non profits and community service aspects, we'll be happy to give you personal and business recognition -- and support your favorite cause.

Note when you do this work you must not think in terms of immediate business development and lead generation; or (on the surface) measuring the value of your efforts. While the rewards can be substantial and deep, they are not going to be instantaneous. If you need cash, fast, to keep your doors open, you may have to do some things like canvas and cold call. But if you've paved the way with respect, recognition, and solid community spirit, you may find that even in the toughest of times, people, businesses and organizations return the favor with opportunities and lifelines for your business.

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