Creating Partnerships Is the New Marketing

12/18/2015 05:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Marketing is a hot word for small business owners everywhere. It's often thought to be the end-all-be-all in terms of how to rake in new business. Just think about how much your company spends on marketing per year. For a lot of small to medium-sized businesses, it's a hefty number. A survey conducted by Search Engine Land, found that 16% of small businesses are spending more than $1,000 on marketing per month. And it's easy to see why. Getting your brand out there makes perfect sense when the goal is attracting new customers. However, companies are often so focused on the more obvious forms of marketing (commercials, radio ads, SEO, online advertising, etc.) that they put their focus on partnerships to the back burner.

But partnerships are a great marketing tool.

Here are two key ways to form partnerships that'll help your business gain more customers:

Don't underestimate the power of cross-blogging.

Blogging is one of your greatest, cheapest marketing tools. Hubspot recently released a couple of very impressive blogging statistics:

• B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not.
• Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
• By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human, meaning your consumers will be more likely to do their own research about your company before your first point of contact with them.
• Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website.
• Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.

When you swap blogs with a partner, the deal gets even sweeter. All that exposure you get from blogging on your own blog and marketing with your individual efforts can more than double when you're sharing your content with a new audience- an audience that, hopefully, wouldn't normally be exposed to your brand. Even if your business hasn't exactly been partner-friendly in the past, I urge you to get on board with cross-blogging partnerships. It doesn't cost you a thing, and you're getting great exposure to a whole new audience.

Try out an in-house partner.

We recently dove into a partnership that's been yielding some very positive results for us. I can't help but think that it's partly due to the fact that we put a lot of our time, energy and focus into ensuring that this partnership succeeds. A big part of that was inviting one of the company's employees to come work directly inside our office. In terms of communication, it's made things a lot easier than having to play phone tag on a regular basis. In terms of sales, it's helped to make the partnership look extremely credible to our customers.

This is a huge move, and I don't recommend doing so without a trial period first. We tried it out for a couple months before we made things permanent, and, as with everything throughout the partnership, we kept up a sense of communication and understanding with our partner to ensure everyone was on the same page.

Small business owners are constantly looking for their "next big move." What's going to be the defining moment that pushes their business over the edge? This coming year, that big move is focusing on partnerships.