Business Partners are Like Cars, Stick with the One You Have

Photo via Bruce Turner on Flickr

The loan on my car is up this summer. I was thinking of buying a new car, but my wife has convinced me to keep the one I have. Why go back into debt or risk getting a car that isn’t as reliable as the one I have?

Smart advice from my wife. Now I have some smart advice for you. Instead of rushing out to find another business partner, you should concentrate on the one you have. You’ll raise more money, and you might just find that new partner along the way.

Here’s how to turn an existing partner into a better partner.

Be Insanely Helpful

Don’t take a one and done approach with partners. Share new ideas with them, even ones that aren’t relevant to your partnership but may be useful to their business. Retweet their tweets on Twitter. Like their posts on Facebook. Tell people how great they are. Be a real partner, which means you are focused on their interests even when they’re not raising money for you.

Talk to New People at the Same Company

Too many nonprofits spend too much time dealing with the philanthropy arm of a business. That’s not where the money is. The folks in marketing have bigger budgets, but need bigger ideas if you hope to move them. If your partner has storefronts and shoppers pitch them on pinups and purchase-triggered donations. If they don’t, get their employees involved in your charity run, walk or ride.

Master Skills They Value

As many companies are still struggling with social media, position yourself as an expert that can help them in multiple areas. That means you need to know more than they do about blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. It also means you need to be ahead of the curve on things like mobile technology. Accept this fact: businesses value social media more than cause marketing. If you can help with the former it may lead to more of the latter.

Be Irresistible.

As you get to know a business, learn about what really drives and motivates them. What do they really want? They may surprise you. One former partner of mine was consistent with their annual support for my nonprofit, but I couldn’t get them to do another program until we did a promotion with—of all things—their favorite local TV show. The CEO couldn’t resist not being part of the program and signed on for a second fundraiser.

Play Leapfrog.

Your current partners are your best source of referrals to new partners. Ask them to introduce you to their friends and business contacts. Analyze their business and their key demographic so you can recruit other businesses with similar ambitions. I’ve always said that having one business partner is a great opportunity to recruit another.

How have you persuaded current partners to do more?