Yesterday I shared recent statistics that lead us to a question: If strategic alliances with referral partners are considered the most effective way for consultancies to pick up new clients (only coming second to receiving direct referrals), why not even half the firms try this out?
One of the main reasons for this to happen, in my opinion, is the stage those businesses are in. Partnerships require clarity and effectiveness. Most advisory practices and boutique consulting firms are not there yet.
But first, what are partnerships? The term has been used so much, by so many people, to discuss so many different things, that it has become fuzzy. Almost to the point of being useless.
My definition of a commercial partnership is "a strategic relationship that benefits everyone involved." Consultants who develop the ability to structure and maintain these strategic relationships outperform their peers in business development. They make it rain, bringing more opportunities, money, and visibility to the firm.
The basic idea behind a partnership is to multiply impact. Instead of competing for clients and resources, strategic partners work together so that both win. This is how skilled consultants think of it:
- Instead of building an audience from scratch, you can partner with someone who has a strong brand and large reach in your field.
- Instead of learning complementary skills you might need to deliver client work, you can partner with independent consultants or firms that already have this expertise.
- Instead of inflating the number of services you offer and diluting your positioning, you can partner with other people who have products or assets that your clients would be interested in.
It's a win-win. But coming back to my initial point, I believe a big reason why most consultants don't even try to implement strategic partnerships is that they're not ready for it yet. There are countless ways, strategies, and paths you can follow to grow your business - but the journey, or the sequence of activities that generate that growth, matters.
You can't just jump into a lucrative partnership if you have a poor positioning, no credibility, or a broken business model.
If you try to create an offering but don't know in which market you're in, it will never sell. If you try to build an audience without sharing or publishing any of your ideas, you won't go far. And if you don't know how to price your work, how exactly would you benefit from selling more?
Still, this week I witnessed a "data-driven" marketer blaming consultants for ignoring the numbers and putting written content and networking first: "You are not prioritizing the best performing channel!" I laughed out loud. It was clear he had no idea what he was talking about.
Strategic partnerships can bring huge growth to your consulting firm, but they won't succeed until you have the other pieces of your business in place. Sometimes you need to forget about the numbers, investing in marketing initiatives that seem less effective in the short term. These are often stepping stones to future growth.
Before considering strategic partnerships, focus on having the right foundations in place.