The way people talk, you’d think there are like four customers in the world. Maaaaybe five if you look around really hard — but that’s about it.
So whatever you do, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those customers, you’d better not do anything that minimizes the income you receive from them.
You’d certainly better not share them. You’d better cut your expenses to the bone on the back end, and hey . . . if you know that a competitor is courting one of the other three or four customers? Well, then you’d better get over there and work on stealing them away.
Right now, you’re rolling your eyes at this dumb picture I’m painting. But just for fun — just to see if I’m totally off base — ask yourself the following:
- Are you willing to partner with someone if it means that you’ll make less profit per customer, but have access to more customers?
- Are you willing to pay handsomely for referrals — 50% or more in some cases?
- Would you be willing to share your business with a competitor who does the same basic thing as you do?
If the answer to any of the above is no, then you’re suffering from a scarcity mindset.
You don’t really believe there are a lot of fish in the sea. You believe there are only a few fish. Or, maybe there are more fish way out deep, but in order to get to them, you’ll need to charter a boat, which means trusting some skeevy boat captain. And what happens when you get into a boat with someone who you can’t trust? You get whacked while baiting your hook, like Fredo in The Godfather.
I’m going to suggest getting over that perception.
There are a LOT of fish in the sea. And the sooner you learn to work with other people to help you get them, the faster you’re going to get ahead.
Anatomy of a successful partnership
One of the things I do in my business is set up WordPress blogs for clients. Just a few months ago, I met Genuine Chris Johnson of Flat Rate Web Jobs. Now, Chris does something interesting in his business. He sets up WordPress blogs for clients.
So what did Chris and I do with this apparent conflict of interests? We teamed up, of course.
See, if you do business in the way I tell readers and consulting clients alike, you’ll soon realize that there are “your people” and there are “not your people.” And once you figure that out, you’ll see that most of your seeming competitors really aren’t competitors after all. Even if your services are the same, your people probably are not.
Yes, Chris and I both set up blogs, but our audiences are very different. Chris’s customers come mainly from the offline world and are learning the power of blogging for the first time. My customers usually already understand the internet and the blogosphere.
The way he finds and contacts clients (often including a phone call) is very different than the way I do (social networking and blogging, never using the phone). The questions and pain points that he addresses for clients (“What’s a blog, and how will it help my business?”) are different than the ones I address (“How quickly can I get my blog off of Blogger?”). His packages include a ton of training material. My customers don’t usually need much training, at least in the basics. Accordingly, our prices are fairly disparate.
Lastly, our personal strengths are different, and complementary. Chris is very good at sales and would rather that someone else handle customer service and implementation. Conversely, I don’t want to sell. I’d rather implement and do customer service.
We could pretty easily have decided that we were competitors. Chris could have kept selling his packages, and been bogged down each time with building sites, answering emails, and so on. I could have stuck solely with “my people,” and worked to sell each job I did.
But instead, the partnership has allowed each of us to make thousands of extra dollars a month.
Now, that’s a dramatic example (side note: it gets more dramatic when you realize that Chris dated my wife before I met her, a fact that caught both of us by surprise), but there are a few ways that you can increase your business through strategic partnerships that don’t necessitate seeking out apparent competitors.
Here are a few ways to start small:
1. Get a team
Or at least get an assistant. You can only do so much as one person, and insisting on holding all of the reins yourself ensures that not only will your business not grow past a certain point, but also that you’ll be stressed out and unable to take time off.
2. Start paying for referrals
A lot of people are reluctant to pay for referrals (or to start an affiliate program) because it means shrinking your profit margin.
That’s short-sighted thinking. If you offer commissions to people who send you business, those people send you more down the road.
Remember, a referral is business you would otherwise not have gotten. So be cool and kick a thank-you to the person who sent it your way. For services and tangible products, 10-20% is a good commission rate. For digital products, it should be 50% — or even more.
3. Bundle your products with other people’s products
If you sell your Widget Buster Extraordinaire for $50 and another person sells Widget Smashing Secrets for $50, consider making a deal to sell both products together for $80 and split the profits.
Yes, you’ll make $10 less each time you sell a Widget Buster. But the new Buster + Secrets offer is so much more attractive to customers that you’re almost certain to sell enough more to make up for it.
Don’t be short-sighted. Assuming your margins still support it, 50 sales at $40 is better than 25 sales at $50.
Getting beyond doing it yourself
There’s a certain romance in “going it alone,” especially for bloggers. But taking the DIY (do-it-yourself) mindset too literally just ensures that your business will never be able to grow beyond the capabilities of one person.
Trust me, other people are cool. Partnering with them is fun. And doing so is absolutely the way to accelerate your progress. So have a little faith and try it already.
About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is a website builder and consultant extraordinaire who wants everyone to know that he’s raising his rates on January 1st — so if you’d like to work with him, now’s the time. (Contact him now and he’ll even build you a free blog.) You can also follow him on Twitter, where he’s moderately amusing.
Reader Comments (66)
Sean Platt says
Great advice! I love the idea that there is no competition. The Internet is a big place – by doing what you do well and teaming up with other people who do what they do well, even if that is the same thing you do, you will be successful. Worrying about the other guy means you aren’t worrying enough about your own business.
I wouldn’t want to do it all alone. It’s too much. I found partners early on and it’s helped me grow as a businessman and as a person. I like doing the things I’m good at and leaving the things I’m not to others who are.
Awesome that you and Chris teamed up and made something terrific together. Kudos to you both.
Steve G says
I couldn’t agree more.. When I was doing tech work in Cali. years ago we had built a co-op working group of more than 20 independant 1 man shops.. We pooled our of our purchases through a single person to get the best volume discounts available at the time.. And when one of us was too busy to handle an emergency client issue, we got on the phone list to find someone sitting at home bored and send them out as a ’employee’ to solve the problem.. It was amazingly successful and we all made more and more money..
Then I moved to Indiana and tried to set up the same thing.. You would have thought I had asked to sleep with their mother in front of them.. It was amazing to see the mine mine mine attitude and short sightedness..
Now I have an online group that I work with all the time and we all are better off because we share what we know and freely help each other.. As you said, too many people think that there are only 4 or 5 customers in the whole world and don’t realize that there are more customers out there than we could all possibly support..
Mike Stenger says
Always love your posts Johnny. These are some really solid tips because number one, we all at some point in time, think we can do it ourselves. One of the greatest things I’ve learned is that you should focus on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. It’ll help you get better work done.
Secondly, paying for referrals are something you should think about. Just recently I opened up my referral program for copywriting and social media implementation and management clients. In a nutshell, I haven’t seen anyone else offer the kind of money I’m willing to pay others for possible clients to work with. Once everything gets moving faster, I see it helping others tremendously who help refer, who help me.
Thirdly, the number one is the loneliest number in business so when you can team up with other people and offer your products to their customers too, you can introduce an entirely new income stream. And for sure, stability is really important right now, as long as you know how to manage your money and keep investing.
Henri Junttila says
The scarcity mindset. It plagues so many in our society today. Everyone wants to do it themselves, and I am no different. Although I’ve started learning to delegate and share a lot more in the past few years.
The benefits have been awesome. It has even given be some peace of mind and allowed me to relax. Giving up control isn’t all that bad. The plane is going to crash sooner or later, right? Maybe. 😉
Dustin | Engaged Marriage says
Thanks for the great tips. I particularly enjoyed your suggestion of combining your own products with those of others to sell as a package. That hadn’t really occurred to me, but I can certainly see the marketing power that it could create.
Mike Piper says
Incidentally, I just put up a post attempting Strategy #3 today (offering my product as a free bonus if they purchase something else). We’ll see how it goes!
Joshua Black- Underdog Millionaire says
Johnny, excellent post. I agree that working with others is the way to go if you want to achieve something greater in your business. The re-packaging concept can be a great spin on something that most business owners do not take advatage of.
I have been pushing the power of networking in the Underdog Millionaire’s Guide to Networking, and there is so much truth in money-making capabilities of using the competition as a partner. Small business owners need to realize that they can make their business a BIG business just by multiplying your efforts through the power of others.
Pete | The Tango Notebook says
Johnny, the people that take the risk of approaching their “competitors” see an opportunity for something bigger. You nailed that one.
A personal friend of mine since childhood (who coincidentally was going to marry my sister) had a falling out with me several years ago over matters like this, but we recently reunited after 4 years and realized that we can help each other make money with our skills.
If you worry about pennies, you’ll make pennies. Good advice about looking out for the long run!
Thanks for all of the advice – especially the partnership (JV) advice. We have clients that are so focused on creating the entire vertical, a widget at every price point, to make sure they don’t “miss” a customer. Often times it’s easier, more effective, and more in line with their DNA to create partnerships that can fill those needs so they can focus on what they do best!
Building the ultimate “resource team” has replaced the old corporate structure paradigm for sure.
Great post! I think we all need reminding of this at times. I think I can honestly say that I used to have that mentality that you spoke of when I first started SEO Organics. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t get very far with that attitude either.
I have recognized my strengths and weaknesses and have teamed up with other companies considered my “competition” to make my clients as happy as possible.
This is great advice and I am sure all of use can benefit from this article. 🙂
Dave Doolin says
Getting the right partners is critical. Having now been in several small businesses ranging from corporations to LLCs to sole proprietorships, I’m ready to see how far I can take it on my own this time. I could see outsourcing in the future.
But not much more than that.
At least, not until I’m the one bringing more to the table than the technical ability to make stuff happen. Not going to grunt anymore for someone providing “strategic direction.” Been there done that.
I have a question for you:
I would like to speak with a person about starting an ILE off of a website that he has that already has similar content. Just needs to be made into videos, mp3, pdf’s, etc. But how do I ask if he wants to partner up without giving away my idea? He could simply say no thanks and do it himself. And he might not want to sign an NDA because it might limit him.
Do you have any suggestions of ways to approach this?
I will be releasing my ebook early in 2010, and have been going back and fourth about referrals. I think you just talked me into it, plus hunting down somebody to bundle it with. Thanks!
Quite agree with you.Affiliate network is quite important for online marketing.We pay revenue to affiliate marketer because they can bring us more customers.Not only we don’t make less money,we even make much more than before.
This is a great article,thanks for the great ideas. I will implement some of the ideas to grow my business.
Sonia Simone says
@Colt, I know it seems scary, but the reality is, ideas are cheap. And they’re everywhere. It’s execution that matters, not ideas. It’s not like this person is never going to hear of the idea to create a multimedia interactive learning site if you don’t bring it to him.
I don’t see an NDA as what you need, it would be a partnership agreement. By nature, any legal agreement is limiting, but the whole idea (and the idea of this post) is that the limits that come with partnership are beaten by the advantages you gain.
That’s how you’d approach this potential partner: outline your proposal in detail, let him know exactly what he gets out of it, that he’s going to be able to leverage his website and make lots more money without doing more work. And if he doesn’t go for it, find another site that will.
The “there are tons of fish in the sea” analogy goes for partners (almost) as much as it does for customers. It’s about what you make, not “lucking into” the right connection.
Jennifer Moline, PsPrint says
I just wrote a blog about the barter technique. It’s a great way to trade goods and services but also to network. I couldn’t resist the cliche: “It takes a village …”
Johnny B. Truant says
@Colt – Sonia nailed what I was going to say. So instead of repeating it, I’m just going to sit here and hum.
Michael Martine says
People always wonder why I link to stuff from Denise Wakeman or Chris Garrett or whatever, like I’m throwing money away. They don’t believe me when I tell then I don’t have any competition. I get the people that are right for me.
Some of my clients have been other blog consultants. Am I creating my own competition? No, because it only makes me a better blog consultant–I’m the blog consultant’s blog consultant.
Teaming up with others will completely explode your business: customers, reach, credibility, and certainly money all will multiply.
I work with Chris as well, for the same reasons: he sells, I do some SEO work. We all get paid, everybody’s happy.
Sonia Simone says
And I have a similar relationship with Naomi Dunford.
One particularly nice thing about information as a product is that customers don’t just buy one thing. It’s not remotely a zero sum game.
Naomi & I share many customers, just as we have some who are purely “her people” and don’t dig me, and some who are purely “my people” and don’t dig her. Together we’re stronger (and richer) than we would be individually.
Sonia Simone says
@Michael, another thing that occurs to me — when you “give away” business, you communicate a level of relaxed confidence that would be hard to convey any other way. You show, rather than just tell, your customers that you care more about getting them the exact right solution than you do about strip-mining their wallet.
Tomas Stonkus says
Love it because it’s awesome! I call this concept competitive collaboration. You are still competing but in such a way that benefits both parties: a win win situation.
I wrote a whole post about it. This is the only mindset that you will keep any business afloat. By doing things on your own you will limit your resources, limit your exposure and your customers.
One still has to be careful to not to get involved in lose win situations which do not benefit you, but does the other person. It’s a delicate matter, so choose your allies wisely 🙂
Thank for a great reminder to continue competitive collaboration!
Teaming up is always great. You just need to choose the right partners, so that you both can benefit.
Think win-win and you will go places!
Going it alone is a poverty mindset. Anything worth accomplishing will be reached on partnerships. I got some great takeaways from this article to build on that idea.
We looked for a way to grow our creative services business, so we promoted the competition and created a community where good work gets done. We grab a piece of business that would have never found us anyway and the best of our competition some of that too. It works.
Steve Benedict says
Everytime I turn around…there is Sonia. Like you put it, Johnny…Hmmmmmm. I blog with advice on subjects like student loans, bad credit repair and car insurance. I haven’t developed an ecommerce site yet. I’m leading up to my question, which I’m sure will get a few replies. How does a one man advice shop (newbie) develop the kind of relationships you suggest. In a former life, I owned radio stations. I collaborated with my competition all the time. I developed joint promotions with newspapers, TV stations and even radio stations with different formats than mine.
Although it makes no difference on-line, I’m 61 years old. My world was always face to face at radio conventions, trade shows and other gatherings.
In the on-line world, I’m puzzled about how to make those connections. I try to get around in many blogs to leave comments and support other bloggers. I have started using social media more. I’m learning as much as I can from people like Jon Blackburn, Jason Cohen, Brian Clark, et al. I’m in and out of WordPress Forums, ProBlogger, and others. I just wonder how to connect with collaborators and what I could bring to the table?
The stock market took a dump on me, after I sold my radio stations and this is my long term way to make a secure income. I think this is probably more info than I should share. I’m doing it because I am dead serious about improving every day. I want to be the best that I can be at this, and enjoy every day.
Much too long for a comment, but I hope to receive a reply or two..especially from you and Sonia. I respect your opinions from other posts.
Shane Arthur says
What you say about WordPress installs and there being lots of fish out there for this market (and most markets) is true. I have numbers to back that up. Check out this video tutorial I created to show people how to install a wordpress blog locally on their own computer (so thay can tinker around before jumping into a real blog online) and you will see it has 7500-plus views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wot0kkN05us
This proves there’s a huge market for this, so your partnership can only get larger as more people seek to make money online through blogs.
And I can tell you I’ve made thousands by putting my videos out there for free and seeing where it leads. DIY is DUMB!
Michael Martine says
Sonia, exactly. In one of those ancient cassette tape info products I had many years ago, Brian Tracy once said something I’ll never forget: happiness is the byproduct of a good life. In other words, the goal should be a good life, not happiness. Happiness is the reward, but it’s not the destination.
Likewise, with money and business. Money is the byproduct of helping people effectively. When you make money the goal, you lose. When you make helping people the goal, you find all kinds of cool ways to make that happen (like collaborating and referrals) and the money is just a byproduct (hell of a byproduct, though! 🙂 ).
Jason Rink says
Genuine Chris Johnson put my blog together…super fast turn around, amazing product, and great support.
Deb Lamb says
What an amazing post! I have never really thought about partnering with someone else, however, now I can see how beneficial it can be.
So now I’m off to see who I might be able to partner my writing services with….any suggestions? Would love some feedback and thanks in advance!
@Sonia—you rock girl and always love your advice!
Rare is the person who sees the big picture. Thanks for providing tips which clarified my vision.
There is only abudance. Be creative in claiming it by working with others instead of against them.
Nicholas Cardot says
That’s really a great way to look at building simple partnerships and using them to multiply your effectiveness. I think that you’re right on the money with this advice and I actually have a couple of opportunities right now where I can probably put this new found idea to work for me. Thanks.
Nathan Hangen says
Changing my mindset in the manner you spoke of is what really sent me in the right direction, from a blogging/business standpoint.
Before then, I was scared to invest, but once I invested my time and money, I bought in 100% and then I made it.
Funny how that works.
Gordon Rowland says
“You can only do so much as one person, and insisting on holding all of the reins yourself ensures that not only will your business not grow past a certain point, but also that you’ll be stressed out and unable to take time off.”
Sounds like you’re talking to me personally, Johnny. I’ve known all along that I need to delegate and/or team up with others, and your post prompts me to make that my New Year’s resolution.
Thanks for the nudge that I needed.
Annabel Candy says
Me and my husband discovered this many years ago with the web design business we had at the time in New Zealand. It surprised us at the time but now we work as a team with many people in our industry. Not only do you gain more business but it also offers a support network, news system and brilliant way to meet new like-minded people.
Now we’re setting up a new web design business in Australia we’re able to leverage the power of making our “competitors” our cohorts from the beginning.
That’s funny that Chris used to date your wife though:) Thanks Johnny!
It’s great to keep hearing the different ways in which the abundance mentality works, and these very concrete suggestions are really helpful. So thanks Johnny!
I wonder some of the same things as Steve, though, about how to make the connections that can produce these kinds of partnerships. I often feel overwhelmed by all the people there are to talk to out in the blogosphere and social media world, and tend to have one-off conversations with people that never amount to much because there are so many other people to keep track of and respond to. Although maybe I just need to learn how to tame the wild beast of over-connectivity. 🙂
I’m also more familiar with face-to-face interactions, but since I’m currently living in New Zealand, my options are somewhat limited in my field (copywriting and consulting for sustainable businesses/social entrepreneurs). Pretty far to a conference from here!
Anyway, would appreciate any advice on this. Thanks.
Tim Brownson says
I think there is value in teaming up even without the chance to make more money, and that is by getting the client the best service you possibly can.
I regularly refer clients on that ONLY want hypnotherapy even though I’m a trained hypnotherapist, because I know a guy who is better than me.
Ian Greenleigh says
Great post, Johnny. I’m happy to say I know you and the caliber of your work.
I’m equally happy to consider what this means for my new job with Chris & crew at FlatRate.
Really great to be associated with you & this blog!
Yep, that’s a very useful article !! How the DIY attitude is keeping me poor ? Cooool, Keep it up
Build Family Website says
not doing it all myself is my goal for 2010 for the first time ever i hired a company to help me with my seo and link building for one of my websites.
it’s been hard for me to put trust in anyone but me. now im surging forward and am optimistic that i will receive a much higer ROI on my own time
Great info! Awesome points about focusing on building through collaboration and avoiding the poor mentality. Thanks for the insight and helpful knowledge.
scott webb says
Well said Johnny! It’s very important as I’ve learned quickly.
I plan to work out deals and partnerships and also affiliate programs for clients to earn their initial cost back. it’s amazing really. Partnering and teaming with your clients can be amazingly powerful I believe.
I’ve partnered up with a guy in my city, and also have a partnership worked out for another person across the world (yet in the same city name – London. crazy eh!)
It’s exciting trying to think up who you might be able to team up with.
Andrew @ WeBuildYourBlog.com says
I totally agree. Living or working alone will never work out for your good and for the good of your business. It is always better to help each other. The more you give, the more you receive. Share the Wealth!
Sonia Simone says
@Steve, I’d just keep doing what you’re doing, find some bloggers and potential partners who have a similar outlook to yours and start commenting & linking to their blogs and chatting w/them on Twitter. It’s really all about being social & sharing views on the topics you find interesting.
Johnny B. Truant says
@Steve – Why am I commenting right after Sonia again? Maybe we’re the same person. Probably, in fact.
I find people very casually. I have the stupidest prospecting and networking model ever, which is, “Talk to people and see what happens.” I’ve had a ton of folks approach me with ideas that didn’t work out but which I appreciated, and a handful that worked out and were awesome.
I do business very intuitively. If I get a good feel for a person and I like them, I’m inclined to enter into ideas that sound/feel good that they have or that I have involving them.
For instance, I have this idea wherein Brian Clark hands over DIY Themes to me and in return, I say that he’s a cool guy. Well, not all of DIY Themes; just the profits. He and his team still do the actual work. I think it’s going to be a really great partnership.
Johnny B. Truant says
@Michael M – Zig Ziglar: “You can have everything in life that you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”
Heather Villa says
I couldn’t agree more with you. Partnering is part of marketing to me. If I partner with one person and we both market each other, then we have opened the door for twice as many clients. Add more partners and the clients multiply – for both parties.
Senthil Ramesh says
Good explanation. I have chosen two of my friends now as partners for my blog itself and I can see more profit by this.
Genuine Chris Johnson says
Took me a while to get to blog commenting. I was doing work Johnny should have been doing…
Lots of ideas here:
1.) Anyone thinking too hard about an NDA is crap.
2.) I *have* had opportunistic jerks take over clients. I found more clients and cut off the opportunistic jerk. I’m sure it’ll happen again. I’m still not going to NDA up anyone because clients are everywhere. Anything that slows shit down is generally a bad idea. the fast eat the slow and if you hoard your ideas, generally it’s no good.
3.) getting stuff out of my hair is what JBT is great at.
Gabe | freebloghelp.com says
Nice tips on leveraging others around you.
Bloggers who don’t have a lot of experience in all areas can also form very basic partnerships. For instance, someone who is very good at writing could offer to edit or write several articles in return for SEO advice or new logo.
Ms. Freeman says
Good advice, working as team regardless of how large will help to get more accomplished. Keep your friends close, keep your competitors closer.
Dated your wife? Small world. LOL 😉
Brian Satterlee says
I do think you need to put a value on your time and determine if doing it yourself is really providing enough value to justify the cost. If you have tons of spare time, then your time value may not be too high… but if you are like most small business people, there’s never enough time to do everything.
Web Marketing Tips says
So what your wife thinks now … as her ex boy friend and his husband are team 😉 … Jokes apart …
Will you please tell us in details which factors we should consider of our partner before entering into any kind of partnership.
Genuine Chris Johnson says
Web Marketing Tips-
There isn’t really a lot of bloated process you need. You just check in, stay wary, and try to do it without rancor, realizing that the world is big.
And look, it’s not indentured sevitiude, I use JBT for my convenience, not out of obligation. He takes my blog work and idiosyncracies in the same manner.
Genuine Chris Johnson says
The even ODDER part of me dating JBT’s wife was that she has dated maybe 4-5 people. We didn’t see the need to stay in touch.
Kian Ann says
I started on a project in late November 2009, and that was the first time I got a partner to get things done together. While I wouldn’t say our skills are totally complementary, i can feel how much faster things are getting done, not only because we stick to our timelines, but also we keep each other accountable.
So yes, it is important to work with a team!
Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes feel like you have to do everything yourself to make sure it gets done right especially when you have tried and got burned.
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