How-To Use Partnerships To Catch More Customers (The Fishnet Formula)

When I was 16 years old a few friends and I decided to start making t-shirts.

It was my first “business.”

We knew nothing about marketing, sales or even t-shirts for that matter!

But we did have some really cool designs. Here’s a few of them:

green-crow   shirt2

Not bad right?

Of course our family and friends were nice enough to buy from us, but we knew other people would want to wear our shirts too.

So like anyone starting a business, our first question was: How are people going to find us?

Little did I know at the time, but we would stumble upon one of the most effective marketing strategies ever.

The problem was, we didn’t know how to leverage it.

More on that story in just a minute

Bonus Resource: Download the exact email scripts that I used to line up partnerships with two of the biggest businesses in my industry. Swipe my emails and make them yours!

Fast Forward To This Year…

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My girlfriend and I just got our first place together in Palos Verdes. A beautiful little town near the Port of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean:

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Why’s that matter? Well one day I was watching the boats come and go I saw something interesting happening.

I noticed the small fishing boats would swarm around the big fishing boats.

Why?

Because the fishermen on the smaller boats knew that if they followed the commercial boats, they’d catch more fish.

I thought to myself:

If I was the captain of a commercial fishing boat and little boats swarmed my fishing spot, I’d be really annoyed.

But what if someone on a smaller boat had done a favor for me recently? I’d probably be a lot more willing to share my spot.

That’s when I realized:

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“Fishing is a lot like marketing. If you want to catch more fish (customers) you need to cast your nets near people who have the best fishing spots (audiences).”

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From that little lightbulb moment, I decided to shake up my approach to partnerships and create what I call The Fishnet Formula so I could cast a wider net and grow my business…

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Here’s the 4-step formula:

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Why Does The Fishnet Formula Work?

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First and foremost, you’re providing value to forge a relationship with your partners.

Second, people want to buy from people the like and trust. But building those kinds of relationships with your audience take a lot of time. When you partner with someone who already has established that relationship, their authority, influence and likability are transferred to you.

Sound interesting?

Let’s dive right in

Step 1: Identify the right partner(s).

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The first thing you need to do is make a list.

You should jot down everyone you can think of that might be a good fit for a partner.

Now let’s be clear, when I say “partner” I’m not talking about making a long-term commitment.

These are just people and businesses who have the following qualities:

  • Access to the audience you’re trying to reach
  • Established brand and customer base
  • Somewhat of an authority figure in your niche
  • They create and share valuable content
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I recommend that you start with the people you know personally in your industry and then go from there.

Here are some other places to identify potential partners:

Idea #1 – Find authors and bloggers with Google.

top-sites

This one is easy. Head over to Google and type in something like:

“top (your niche) blogs” or “best (your niche) authors”

This will give a ton of great places to start.

Idea #2 – Identify local complimenting businesses.

local

Sometime the best partners are right around the corner.

If you’ve got a business in your area that provides a complimentary product or service, they would make a perfect partner.

Using Yelp you should be able to identify a number of options.

Idea #3 – Spy on your competitors’ traffic sources.

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A more advanced way to find people to partner with is to run your competitors’ URLs through a backlink checker. Using a tool like OpenSiteExplorer you can see which websites are linking to your competitors which allows you to identify people who’d be likely willing to link back and partner up with you too.

It’s usually NOT a good idea to go after the “big players” in your niche unless you already have some kind of relationship with them.

Start by building relationships with the smaller influencers in your niche, then get introduced to more people through them.

If you’re still stuck, here’s a few examples of smart partnerships:

  • A flower shop could partner with a wedding planning business
  • An accountant could partner with an accounting software provider
  • A eCommerce furniture retailer could partner with an interior designer association
  • A dog walker could partner with a mobile dog groomer in their community
  • A olive oil manufacturer could partner with celebrity chefs
  • A pool cleaning service could partner with a pool building company
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The possibilities are endless!

Step 2: Create value for your partner.

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Back to my story from the beginning…

Since the people we were trying to sell to were skaters, we decided to do two things:

  1. We identified semi-pro skaters through MySpace (LOL) and asked if they wanted free gear.
  2. We found a local skate shops and offered to pitch in at their events for free.
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Guess what happened?

A few weeks later we had kids rocking our t-shirts in skateboard competitions and we got prime placement in a local skate shop:

air skate-shop

Like the fishermen in smaller boats, we identified and worked with people who already had the “fish” we wanted.

Okay, so what’s the catch? (not pun intended)

The chances of someone giving you immediate access to their audience are slim to none.

Depending on who you’ve decided to partner with, it may take some time to build a relationship.

That’s why fostering numerous partnership relationships is crucial to your success.

Back when I was selling shirts, I had to give away free product and volunteer my time.

Nowadays, I’m fortunate to have built relationships with people in my industry who are happy to help me out whenever I ask.

But what if you don’t have any connections or you’re just starting out?

Here’s a few ways you can build relationships with people you identified in step one:

  • Guest post on their blog
  • Provide a product or service for free
  • Be a “Poster Boy” for their brand
  • Ask for their input for an influencer roundup
  • Host an event an feature them as a speaker, special guest, etc.
  • Speak at an event they host for free
  • Create exclusive content for their audience
  • Join their basketball or softball league (just kidding)
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But the BEST way to build a relationships with influencers fast, is to do an interview (in person, Skype or podcast) and promote them to your audience like Dominate Web Media does with their podcast:

guest

Or like I do on my Advisor.TV channel by interviewing interesting business owners and entrepreneurs that I want to work with:

interview-steve

Step 3: Collaborate with your partner on a piece of content.

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Now that you’ve built a solid relationship with your partner, it’s time to collaborate!

Collaborating with business partners is nothing new.

But this step is where the real magic happens

If you want to go from a friendly acquaintance to a person who gets endorsed and promoted by influencers, you need to take your partnerships one step further than anyone else would.

How?

By suggesting that you both collaborate on a piece of content.

What kind of content?

Like step two, you should create something that provides tremendous value for your partner and their audience so the they are more likely to promote and endorse it.

NOTE: I almost always suggest that I do the majority of the work to make it super convenient and easy for my partners to say “yes”

Here’s a few ideas:

Idea #1 – Do a webinar/video or live event hosted by your partner.

webinar-example1

Here’s the truth:

Presenting a webinar or video that’s hosted by an influencer is the single most effective way to convert cold leads.

Why?

Because the authority and influence of your host is instantly transferred to you with a warm introduction. Plus, you have the viewers’ undivided attention to engage them and encourage them to take some kind of action.

Not everything has to be online though…

Live events where you can give hands-on demonstrations are extremely effective too.

For example, a BBQ retailer that I work with regularly invites their sales reps to do live tasting and demonstrations on their grills:

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It’s fun, it’s engaging and it helps them sell more BBQ grills.

Idea #2 – Create a high-quality eBook or checklist.

ebook

The eBook in the example above was created by 3 different brands (BuzzSumoSimilarWeb and Hubspot) so they were able to cross promote it to 3 different audiences. That’s a triple win!

My favorite part about eBooks and checklists? They are super easy to make.

Just open up PowerPoint or Keynote, create a nice layout, add some engaging copy and visuals and BOOM you’re good to go.

Plus, eBooks and checklists can be distributed digitally as a PDF and/or printed for in-store use.

Idea #3 – Do an original case study.

study

Case studies are another great options because they provide step-by-step instructions on how to do something that’s backed by data.

Like webinars, case studies establish you as an expert fast and piques peoples’ interest in your solution(s) to similar problems.

Idea #4 – Create an exclusive infographic.

infographic-example

If you’re a decent graphic designer or have access to one, creating an infographic is another powerful way to entice partners to collaborate with you.

In fact, this exact tactic got me featured in Inc. Magazine recently:

incy

Okay, so there’s still one thing left to do:

Make sure there’s a call-to-action that prompts people to take the next step.

That usually means subscribing to your list, scheduling a call, watching a video, downloading a resource, etc.

Here’s a great example of a call-to-action in an eBook that Workflow Max created for Hubspot:

workflow-cta

What I’ve found that works best, is giving away a highly-relevant bonus at the end of your offer.

Similar to a content upgradeit’s specific to the content you collaborated with your partner on.

For example, when John Corcoran from Smart Business Revolution presents a webinar, he gives away a bonus checklist to viewers who stay until the very end.

That way he knows the people who stuck around are interested and he’s able to continue building a relationship with them.

Step 4: Grow your business using their audience.

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This is the most important part:

Making sure that you actually get in front of your partner’s audience.

At this point since you’ve created something valuable for their audience it’s likely they will email their list and share via social media.

That by it self is HUGE.

Check this out:

When Ryan Levesque from AskMethod.com launched his new product, I noticed that he partnered with some of the top influencers in his niche to help promote it.

In the same day I got 2 different emails from influencers I follow and trust. They were both promoting Ryan’s new product to their email lists!

Check this out, Brian Moran from SamCart sent an email out for Ryan:

ask-method

Then shortly after that I got another email from Keith Krance at DominateWebMedia who was endorsing Ryan’s new product too!

ask-method2

You can bet that Ryan also had other influencers sending emails out that day too.

Like Ryan, your ability to leverage your partners’ audiences will directly affect how quickly you can grow your own business.

Here’s a few more ideas for how to squeeze every last opportunity out of your partnerships as you can:

  • Offer to spend some money on a promoted Facebook or Twitter post on their fan page (not yours)
  • Ask if they know other influencers or people who might want to share it
  • Add links to the offer on relevant pages of their website and blog
  • Collaborate on multiple offers with the same partner
  • Conduct “recap strategy sessions” to collect feedback and make improvements
  • Get suggestions of people you should share your webinar with
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Advanced Application of the Fishnet Formula:

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If you’ve followed my advice up to this point then you’re golden.

But if you’re like me, you want to optimize your marketing and maximize your ROI

The best way to do that with the Fishnet Formula is to use “1-click opt-ins.”

Instead of having your partner email their audience a link to a landing page, you can use LeadPages or ClickFunnels to create a 1-click opt-in link that when clicked on, automatically captures a person’s contact information and adds them to your email list.
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This is extremely valuable because let’s say your partner has an email list with 15,000 people on it…

Even if they only get 5% click-through-rate, that’s 750 people added to your email list immediately!

Not too shabby right?

Final Thoughts And Action Items…

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Let’s be clear, there’s no clear path to business growth.

But regardless of how long you’ve been in business or what industry you’re in, I’m confident the Fishnet Formula can work for you.

What do you think?

Let me know how you think the Fishnet Formula could work for your brand.

Or maybe you don’t think it will work for you?

Either way leave a comment below right now with your thoughts.

Bonus Resource: Download the exact email scripts that I used to line up partnerships with two of the biggest businesses in my industry. Swipe my emails and make them yours!

Brian Downard

Hey thanks for being here! My name is Brian Downard, I'm the Founder of BD Ventures, a digital marketing consulting company that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders get the advice, tools and resources they need to win online.
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