Business partnerships are one of those things that sound super simple in theory, but when it actually comes down to forming those partnerships AND knowing what to include as part of the exchange, a lot of pet business owners struggle. What ends up happening? They end up shying away from the partnership OR end up forming an unhealthy or unbeneficial exchange.
So, here are all the details you need to form your best pet business partnerships.
Who Should I Even Partner With?
When it comes to deciding who to partner with, it really boils down to the people you'd be working with. For the most part in all aspects of business, it's not necessarily WHAT you're selling so much as it is WHO is selling it. You want to make sure that the business you're partnering with is someone you can work with on a personal level. See if you enjoy their company - go to lunch, exchange a phone conversation, ask them questions outside of just the partnership details (i.e. why did you start your business, do you have pets, what's your favorite part of owning your own pet business, what do you do for fun?).
Make sure the pet business is reputable. Nothing is worse than partnering with a pet business that gets sued for animal abuse, has terrible reviews, or even just doesn't fall into alignment with what your business represents. Take the time to do your research on what pet businesses have similar target markets, similar strategies, and similar business models.
Sometimes partnering up with pet business owners that offer the same services as you can reward you with even more loyal & high-paying customers. For more information on this, feel free to read my article on partnering with your BIGGEST competitor (I know, weird).
Here's a good one: Think about which type of pet businesses would ADD value to your own business. For example:
- Daycare centers: You can bring a dog trainer to your daycare center for a puppy social (mutually beneficial - the trainer can get more clients & you can get puppies into your business who are well-behaved and doggie-friendly.
- Veterinarians: You can partner with a daycare facility regarding the benefits of daycare. It's extremely important to dog's well-being, social skills, and happiness (especially for pet parents who work all day).
- Groomers: You can partner with a veterinarian to talk about the importance of vaccinating your pets or the importance of expressing anal glands or regular nail trims. If a reputable groomer is talking about those sort of things to your clients, you'll be more likely to be trusted as an expert who knows more than just grooming. You'll also ensure the safety and well-being of the pets in your care, which I'm sure clients would appreciate.
- Pet sitters/dog walkers: You can partner with a rescue by walking a foster dog or a dog available for adoption and share it on social media. One: this makes you more genuine & generous as a business owner. Two: You're also helping the rescue adopt out more dogs. And three: The rescue will be more likely to refer to you if new pet owners are looking for a dog walker/pet sitter. The rescue can include your business cards in their new adoptee paperwork - maybe even add in a coupon code for their first walk/pet sit with you!
- Pet photographers: You can partner with any dog business that has events in your community. Be the photographer for the event and make sure you're on the marketing materials as the official photographer - you can probably also have a booth at the events as well marketing your services.
There are SOOO many pet business partnership ideas/possibilities that I could go on forever!
However, please note: Don't necessarily just partner up with friends you have in the industry. Your business models need to be consistent for a business partnership to work.
What Should I Offer?
This one really depends on your time & needs. My suggestion would be to start small and then grow from there!
'Small' ideas of a partnership: Exchange business cards or marketing materials with one another and display them in your lobby if you have a physical location. If not, you can promote one another on your social media pages and websites. Begin regular communication with this partner and start tagging one another in social media when you see a follower interested in their service.
As you grow your partnerships, you can start to offer packages together, offer discounts with one another, putting on events together...the possibilities are endless!
- One of the easiest & profitable exchanges I've seen are offering deals for one another that MAKE sense for their business. For example, as a trainer, try partnering with a local rescue. Help train one of their dogs available for adoption and then ask the rescue to give your business information in all new adoptee paperwork.
Again, make sure the partnership works. It has to make sense for the normal client process - it's normal for a pet owner to want training for a new dog they get from a rescue, so take advantage of that and offer your services.
How Do I Approach A Prospective Partner?
Start by sending an email to the prospective client so that they do not feel pressured into agreeing with you and saying yes. You only want a partnership that works both ways, otherwise you'll be referring to them, but maybe they won't be doing the same thing back for you.
Make sure when talking to a prospective client that your NUMBER ONE focus is on making sure the partnership is mutually beneficial.
Let them know that you are already a fan of their business and that you have similar missions. Talk about what importance their service or specialty could have on your audience and visa versa.
Get a date on the calendar to talk via phone or in-person.
Final Tips When It Comes To Partnerships
Don’t form TOO many partnerships. It comes off as insincere & it’s really hard to manage so many partnerships in the way that they need to be nurtured. I would say the maximum amount of partnership is one partner PER business type; however, this also depends on your business and your individual situation.
I know I've mentioned this multiple times already, but it is SO important that BOTH businesses benefit from the partnership.
Partnerships can be a wonderful and profitable source of referrals and customers, but you should still never count on it as a reliable and consistent form of income because you can’t rely on other businesses putting in the work to help your business. People move, things change, relationships evolve, etc.
I hope this has been helpful for you - partnerships are such a great and easy way to create business friends, expand your network, gain more customers, you name it.
Once you've started to expand your network and build partnerships in the community, it's time to focus on other areas of your marketing. Just because you have partners and might be getting some referrals and benefiting from word of mouth, doesn't mean that will generate all the income needed for the evolution and growth of your business.
Happy partnering, folks!