We’re here with practical marketing information for your business.

A marketing strategy tells you what to say, how to say it and who to say it to in order to make more sales. Our guide to the basics.

How to market your business online - from your website to social networking, advertising, search engine optimisation, email marketing and more.

The basics you need to know about raising your business profile through advertising, and how to make sure your campaigns are successful.

Focusing on taking care of your existing customers could be much better for your bottom line than chasing new business. The basics of customer care.

No business can survive without selling. Our overview of planning your sales strategy and recruiting, training and managing sales staff.

Get the basics right - our quick guide to the main types of market research and how to get the information you need no matter what your budget.

Direct marketing is ideal for small businesses as it's highly targeted, cost-effective and simple to DIY. Our guide to how to get started.

Start here - find out how attending and displaying at exhibitions and events can benefit your business, and learn how to build your network.

PR

The basic things you need to know about PR for your business, building relationships with the media and managing the impact of publicity.

What makes a good strategic partner?

A strategic alliance is a loose partnership between non-competing businesses that can add profit to each other's bottom lines. This calls for commitment rather than investment but the right partnership can pay serious dividends.

Since strategic alliances do not have the backing of a legal agreement, it usually requires time to build up the relationship. This involves regular reviews to refine and develop the agreement. In short, partnerships are long-term strategies that also require short-term activity.

In fact, the reason strategic alliances are so often neglected as a strategy is because of the level of dedication and commitment they require.

Your mindset is also important; you do not want to think of this as "getting" something from your alliance partner. There is a powerful concept used in the BNI networks that they call "givers gain". It's best to think about how it is that you can help your alliance partner first, then you can think about how that partner can potentially help you back. Your alliance will flow much more smoothly as a result.

What makes a good strategic alliance partner?

Just as you identify the characteristics of your target customers, you also need to draw up a picture of your ideal partner.

Start by considering other firms that supply your customer base. For instance, if you are a business-to-business company, potential partners could include stationery suppliers, accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, cleaning companies, business coaches and so on. If you are business-to-customer, think about other complementary retailers, service providers or local organisations.

Once you have a long list of potential suppliers, you need to whittle that down to the strongest contenders. Here's what to look for in a potential strategic alliance partner:

1. They have a similar audience

Their audience does not have to be exactly the same as yours, but it definitely should be a similar clientele. For example, if your target person is usually wealthy, then you want to target services that are more likely to have wealthy customers, such as financial advisors or high-end retail.

2. They are not your competitors

Your service should be adding value to their customers, not competing with their services. If your product is too similar to theirs, why should they want to help you promote yours when they can promote theirs? You will get the greatest benefit from those who have a distinct service from you but a similar audience.

3. They can give you access to new customers and prospects

Ideally, you want them to have a database of clients and/or prospects that you can easily access. It could work to your advantage if they are not making the most of their database. Imagine if you could offer to help them a) build their database and b) communicate with their prospects and customers with an offer in a positive way. That, in itself, is adding value to them straight away; but it also gives you access to new prospects.

4. They want to work with you

This is an important point. If the potential partner is already satisfied with their sales and marketing and they cannot see much value from you, you should probably move on. Qualify all your potential strategic alliances the same way you would your sales leads. If they are not as excited about the partnership as you are, then it probably will not work out in the long term. They may look like a good prospect but they are just not that into you.

5. They want something you can offer

You need to be able to offer something that they want from you. Within the core products that you offer, there should be something that is valuable to your partner's customers. If you can identify that, then in the long term you can be a giver. And, as we know, givers gain.

Copyright © 2015 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.

Stay up-to-date with business advice and news

Sign up to our lively and colourful newsletter for new and more established small businesses.