Business Alliances: The Pros, the Cons and the Payoff

Strategic partnerships, alliance relationships and cross-promotion efforts – all different terms with the same goal. They aim to enhance a company’s marketing efforts and allow them to expand their customer base and their marketing reach by partnering with another business or businesses.

Marketing alliances allow access to another business’s customers – potential new customers to whom you can then market your services.

Smart marketers

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It is important to realize that your customers – patients, referral sources and others – are not just “customers in a vacuum.” They have needs and wants beyond the services for which they come to you.

Smart marketers know that the more relevant value-added services you can provide serve to enhance the ways in which you connect to your customers. Strategic alliances are all about maximizing your position in the marketplace by enhancing your existing marketing efforts in the most cost-effective ways possible while increasing the relative value of the services you provide.

Linear alliances

A good strategic alliance is based on an arrangement between two companies to combine resources that will help both gain a greater share of the market. Good strategic alliances result in wins on both sides. They are often formed when one business alone is unable to fill a gap when providing services. The most obvious examples would be linear — a prostheses-only practice forming a strategic alliance with an orthoses-only practice or a pediatric practice forming an alliance with an adult practice.

Vertical alliances

When brainstorming for potential partners, consider forming alliances that are more vertical. Think for a moment about the types of businesses that your customers use every day. Do your patients require modifications to their automobiles? It might be worth forming a marketing alliance with a company that provides that service. How about a homecare service provider or a shoe store?

Forming strategic alliances can save time and enable companies to be more efficient and concentrate on core strengths when developing their products and services. If your core strength is diabetic prosthetic patients and your local shoe store’s core strength is diabetic shoes, a strategic alliance might be well worth investigating.


These alliances can be formal or informal. It depends on the scope of the agreement. If it is as simple as allowing another company to display their brochures in your office and vice versa, you probably do not need a signed, written agreement. If it involves sharing advertising space, physical space or services, it would be foolish to not consult your attorney.

How long does an alliance last? Alliances can be a one-time only arrangement or they can be an ongoing partnership that lasts for years. In the case of the prosthetic facility aligning itself with an orthotic facility, you would probably want an agreement in writing that specified the length of time the alliance would be in place. If the alliance has been put into place for a special event, the alliance would precede the event but would end at the conclusion of the event.


The goal of any strategic alliance is to enhance your company’s reputation. Before you enter into an alliance with another business, you need to be familiar with your potential partner and be comfortable entering into a relationship with them. Are they trustworthy? Do they have a good reputation? Does a potential partnership sound too good to be true? It’s worth the time and effort to do your homework. Does your potential alliance partner have any existing alliances with other businesses? A good strategic alliance can boost your reputation with new customers just as easily as a bad alliance can wreck your reputation with your existing customers. You don’t want to be guilty of anything by association.

It is important to remember that in order to be successful, an alliance must benefit all its members. If it does not, someone will definitely be voted off the island.

Elizabeth Mansfield

Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. She can be reached at

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