Like any other type of relationship, there are levels to this and strategic relationships are no different; they come in different forms (i.e. outsourcing vs informal collaboration vs sponsorship, etc). I won't go into depth about each type individually, but instead the intent is to give you an overview of what they are and how they can be used for your benefit.
Strategic relationships can help you to tap into new opportunities, markets, and clients/customers by reaching individuals that you weren't targeting (or targeting effectively) before. In addition to those benefits, building effective strategic relationships can aid in creating a long-term competitive advantage within your business area. And as an entrepreneur, a competitive advantage is something that you are always striving to achieve and often having to recreate as the market adapts to your unique advantage over time.
Select examples of strategic relationships in practice:
Starbucks-Barnes and Noble: At one point in Starbucks' history, they partnered with Barnes and Noble to provide in-house coffee shops.
McDonald's-Coca Cola: McDonalds and Coca-Cola, entered a partnership that started in the 1950's which has grown the two companies to the leading global food service retailer and the worlds largest beverage company, respectively.
Apple- (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs): Steve Jobs, the free-spirited visionary with an eye for design and business, recognized the opportunity to create something big with the help of Steve Wozniak, the brains behind building the first apple computers.
Nike: Philip Knight had originally developed a strategic relationship with Japanese shoe maker Onitsuka Tiger (now ASICS) and originally worked in distribution of shoes before building Nike with his track coach Bill Bowerman.
Microsoft-IBM and Microsoft-Apple (in the 1980's): The introduction of IBM's personal computer used Microsoft software. Also, Microsoft developed software to run on the early Apple computers.
Do you see how each strategic relationship was beneficial??? If not, give it a little thought before continuing on.
What you can do now!
Identify AT LEAST ONE business (or successful entrepreneur) that either 1) appeals to your customer, but doesn't take your exact customer so that you can offer an added benefit to your customers; or 2) a business that has potential customers that would benefit from your product/service that can then be passed on to the first business.
For example, lets say an all natural juice bar owner is looking for more customers, then maybe the owner would look to form a partnership with a local gym. In this case both companies have similar customers that are interested in health, but they are not stealing customers from each other. Alternatively, if you are the gym owner and you want to offer additional benefits to your members, maybe you seek out local massage companies to partner with that can offer massages at a discounted rate that help aid recovery from workouts.
Allow me to give another example, maybe you are attempting to be a rising thought leader on a particular topic, but you don't have a large following just yet, something you may want to consider is doing a guest blog post to someone else's audience; preferably someone with a larger audience. This allows you to get your message out into the world; reaching more people than you have been reaching before, and it helps to solidify you as an expert in your chosen niche. This guest posting strategy provides value to the audience of whomever's page you're blogging on.
**Note** Forming some strategic relationships will be easier than others, for instance informal versus formal relationships (i.e. those requiring contract agreements). So, before approaching someone with an offer, make sure you've done your research and that you are coming correctly so that you can present yourself in the best possible way. You only get one chance to make a first impression so make it count!
Once you've identified a business (or successful entrepreneur) that would be a great strategic relationship for your company, what I want you to do is COMMENT ON THIS POST and then SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
In the comments section below, say what service or product you offer to customers/clients, what strategic relationship you believe would be beneficial, and how you think it will be mutually beneficial to both parties involved. This will help you brainstorm while giving you a sense of public accountability, and also help others come up with ideas for their own unique business and who knows, you might see someone in the comments that you could partner with!