3 Counterintuitive Ways to Reach a New Audience Through Partnerships

business partnerships

Traditional wisdom teaches small businesses to partner with people whose services complement their own. If you’re a wedding planner, partner with a caterer. If you’re a landscaper, partner with a house painter, etc.

But to truly stay ahead of the competition, small business owners need to think outside the box by initiating partnerships that dramatically increase the value that they offer their current and prospective clients.

Below is a guide to implementing three counterintuitive strategies that will expand your business reach and let you tap into new market segments through business partnerships.

Reach a New Audience Through Business Partnerships

Strategy #1: Go Where Future Clients Are Already Fans

In 2009, Chicago-based insurance company Aon signed on as the new sponsor of England’s celebrated Manchester United soccer team. Commentators questioned the connection.  Aon is strictly a business-to-business company, and the most visible part of a Manchester United sponsorship would be the addition of the company’s name to team jerseys.

But Aon stood by its decision. After all, millions of soccer fans wear those jerseys and the sponsorship would effectively turn them into what the company’s chief executive called “walking billboards.” Even better, Manchester United boasted a large fan base in Asia, one area where Aon was looking to grow at the time it secured sponsorship rights. This partnership allowed Aon to flood its future target market with its name, thus building brand recognition.

How to Make This Strategy Work For Your Small Business

Looking to expand into a new market? Join forces with a business that’s already serving that market, and you’ve got a friendly introduction to the people you want to serve.

One effective way to do this is to sponsor an event (such as a trade show, lecture series, workshop or conference) where a lot of your potential clients will be in attendance. These potential clients will be open to engaging with you because, in that context, you are not trying to sell to them. You can have an honest conversation and learn where their pain points are, which is information you can use to tailor your services to them down the road.

Strategy #2: Find a Partner Who Embodies Your Company Values

Last month, Insureon, the online business insurance agency of which I’m CEO, launched a partnership with Women’s MMA Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey. As with Aon, some people questioned the connection between a professional fighter and a company that sells small business insurance.

But to us, it’s clear. Like the small business owners we serve, Ronda Rousey works hard every day, often by herself, to be the best that she can. Though Ronda has only recently gained major media attention for her success in the ring, she has been toiling at her sport for years.  She often faced significant setbacks, including injuries and naysaying from league insiders who claim women have no place in professional MMA.

As a product of sheer determination, commitment and talent, Ronda has overcome these setbacks and is changing the face of her sport in the same way that America’s small business owners are transforming the face of the U.S. economy.

The partnership with Ronda has helped reinforce our commitment to supporting hard-working business owners in their grueling and often lonely journeys.

How to Make This Strategy Work For Your Small Business

Find a values-based partner to boost brand recognition by sponsoring a local little league team, charity event or community group. Associating your business name with people and events that reflect your values helps you build your image among potential customers and establish yourself as a valuable part of the community.

Strategy #3 Share Your Rewards Program

In 2012, Chase Bank and Southwest Airlines announced a partnership that let Chase cardholders transfer their points into Rapid Rewards airline miles with Southwest. The partnership came on the heels of a similarly structured Chase-United partnership the year before.

Why did this joint venture make sense for both companies? Because Chase and Southwest saw that their respective products (credit cards and flights) have massive target audiences and that their products and services are, in some ways, indistinguishable from what their competitors offer. In that context, increasing the value of a product or service is essential to maintaining customer loyalty and winning new customers.

Chase and Southwest did exactly that, and by doing so made it that much more appealing for potential customers to use their products.

How to Make This Strategy Work For Your Small Business

Just because you’re not a major corporate player doesn’t mean you can’t offer a major rewards program. Make this strategy work for you by setting up a system where clients can work toward a discount or freebie (you’ve seen this dozens of times as punch cards at ice cream shops), then increase its effectiveness by letting clients get credit for purchases made with your partner.

You’ll both benefit from increased loyalty and customer satisfaction.

How do you reach new audiences? Have you ever launched business partnerships to reach a new target audience or customer base?

Manchester United Photo via Blackberry


Ted Devine is CEO of insureon, the leading online provider of business insurance to small and micro businesses. Prior to joining insureon, he was President of Aon Risk Services and a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company.

6 Reactions
  1. Ted,

    Thanks for these great ideas.

    It’s so important to create synergistic partnerships these days.

    Web traffic-which can equal opportunities to do business, can be hard to come by at times. But, with a partner…you can increase it, usually.

    Again, thank you for these ideas.

    The Franchise King®

    • It seems that it is now more important to create relationships than creating links or promotion strategies. Ultimately, it is about who you know.

  2. Partnerships are one of the best and fastest ways to grow your audience. That’s why we have guest posting in the blogosphere. It benefits both parties. Thanks for sharing this info with us.


    • I personally find tracking customer pathways to be interesting. It seems that customers are no longer stagnant and your offer should evolve with them.

  3. This is unique. I have never thought about the evolution of clients and going to future clients and engaging with them. That is definitely a new idea for me.