Building a partner network is a great way to grow your business and setting one up can be really quite simple.
What is a partner network?
A partner network in a business sense is a network of individuals or businesses that are comfortable in referring and sending leads for your products or services.
In basic terms, they trust you and your business to take their client’s requirement and solve it for them with trusted outcomes from you and your team.
So how can I build a partner network?
The best place to start is to work out what you need from a partner network and what you can also give back to it. As it’s all about give and take, not just take!
LinkedIn is a good tool to start on, using the advanced features that allow you to sort and filter the industries you’d like to promote into.
Once you’ve done this, make a list of good business contacts who you’re connected to and then prepare a simple note to get in touch.
“Hi Ben, hope all’s well. I have a new business and I’m keen to grow in your industry. Any chance of a coffee one day soon? Cheers Llew”
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to make contact and get in touch.
You can also approach a first degree contact on LinkedIn and ask to be referred to one of their contacts that you’re keen to partner with who might be a second or third degree contact to you. These introductions will open up your networks even further.
Formal or informal partner networks?
From my experience there’s two different types of partner networks.
Ones that are formal and require your attendance at every event. These are the ones that often ask you to bring someone along to the meetings each month. And then there’s informal ones.
I prefer the latter, as it’s more flexible for both parties and is based on your reputation and experience combined with trust.
And there’s no pressure of time or dates to have to recommend anything to anyone. When people are relaxed in a networking environment, they’re more likely to refer you to someone!
Make sure though that you maintain the partner relationships closely and allocate time and resources to doing this.
This means it’s not about sending the odd email or making an annual phone call. Rather it’s about getting to know partners who match your personality type and becoming good business friends with them over time.
Don’t force it though, people will easily see through artificial attempts to build a network.
At the end of the day, building and maintaining a partner network involves two key things – it’s all about relationships and trust.