There is more information now about the performance and quality of suppliers, products, and services than we’ve ever had before. A simple online search can show us customer ratings, reviews, and sometimes rants about anything we are considering purchasing, and we’ll often make buying decisions based on these.

But even with all this information, buyers are still more often influenced by a direct referral from someone they know and trust. If a friend or colleague says something like, “I know this company and they do great work, and may be able to help you with… “, buyers are likely to at least check out the recommended vendor. This common behavior makes strategic alliances invaluable when growing your business.

Accelerating Out of the Turn

We’ve created a six-part blog series called “Accelerating Out of the Turn” outlining the key elements leaders need to think about in the first half of 2021 to capitalize on the upcoming economic relaunch. Today we’ll be continuing onwards with step 5 of 6 acceleration steps being covered:

referral partners1. Acceleration Plan– Create a business plan to accelerate out of the downturn.

2. Stand Out — Stand out from the competition in the eyes of your target customers.

3. Stay Visible — Remain active and easily accessible in the marketplace.

4. Retool for Growth — Adapt and improve systems, processes, and people.

5. Referral Partners — Create a network of strategic referral partnerships.

6. Lead with Health & Hope — Adopt and encourage healthy team behaviours.


If you haven’t read the fourth step, we recommend reading Retool for Growth By Updating Your Business Process [Accelerate Part 4] before continuing on with step five.

Growing Through Strategic Alliances

Taking advantage of partnerships with other, non-competing organizations is called referral marketing and requires two ingredients:

  • A long-term commitment to providing a superior customer experience that creates raving fans.
  • The development of a referral engine that encourages people to refer them to others.

Let’s assume that you are already providing a superior customer experience so we can focus on the second ingredient, the referral engine. A referral engine is a conscious set of activities undertaken by your team that will generate an ongoing flow of referrals.

Customer referrals are the most obvious type, and you can make it easier for customers to refer you by:

  • Setting the expectation that you will ask them for referrals even before you start providing your product or service to them.
  • Creating easy opportunities for customers to introduce you to others like events where they can bring a friend, or sending useful content that can be electronically forwarded.
  • Clarifying with your current customers the exact type of prospects we are looking for.
  • Simply remembering to ask.

“A thrilled customer is the most potent marketing asset your organization can leverage.”

– John Jantsch

Not all referrals need to come from customers. A referral engine strategy should include other referral partners (sometimes called Centres of Influence). Referral Partners are companies and people who provide products or services to the prospects in your target market that you don’t currently serve. For example, if you run an accounting firm, your prospects will likely be served by corporate law firms. Or maybe you’re a luxury home builder and your prospects would be current customers of high-net-worth financial planners.

The good news about referral partners is that if they could be helpful in referring people to you, the reverse is likely true as well; you could be introducing new prospects to them. Thus, there’s an opportunity to develop a mutually beneficial referral relationship that cross-pollinates your trusted networks.

Building referral partnerships doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to target and foster these relationships. Get to know and appreciate your partner’s offerings and target market, and at the same time always maintain a ‘give-first’ approach to authentically helping them be more successful.

As we turn this corner and begin again to look for new growth opportunities, make sure a referral and strategic partner element is included in your plans.

strategic alliances

Acceleration Readiness Assessment

  1. Does your firm have formal measures in place to measure customer satisfaction and their likelihood to refer you?
  2. Is a referral strategy part of your overall marketing plan?
  3. Are there easy ways for customers and referral partners to introduce you to new prospects? 

Next Steps

Are you ready to leverage your strategic alliances in 2021? We can help! Book a chat with a member of our team for professional advice to improve business strategy and execution.

Eager to learn how to accelerate out of the downturn? Gain access to all 6 steps by downloading our free guide to the 6 Essential Steps to Accelerate Out of the (Down) Turn.

free accelerate business guide