Guide To Strategic & Referral Partnerships

Written by Tammy Durden

I have had both referral and strategic partnerships and they have helped to build my business significantly. Have you ever tried strategic or referral partners? At least one of these terms should be included in your marketing plan. Marketing your business often comes back to building relationships. As you make these relationships (whether in person or online) you can begin to develop strategic and referral partnerships.

Game-Changing Marketing

These partnerships can be a game-changer for your business if you connect with the right persons. Although two different types of partnerships can be very equitable for your business. They certainly should be considered by smart business owners.

If you have never tried these types partnerships I’ll try to walk you through the basics. First let’s take a look at what strategic & referral partnerships are before you try either in your marketing.

“Building Relationships is Crucial to the Survival of Your Business!

How To Make Them Part Of Your Marketing Plan

I’m going to share some ways you can make strategic and referral partnerships part of your regular marketing plan. There are many more steps involved but this is just an overview to show you how to begin to implement these into your marketing.

What are strategic and referral partnerships?

Now, let’s dig into what these partnerships involve.

Here are a few ways to incorporate these into your marketing.

As you know, I like to define the terms we discuss. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at strategic and referral partnerships.

Referral Partnership

Often email lists are utilized as well to help promote it.

Smart Tip: Set up a tool – software to handle the payouts and keep track of those signed up.

You may be more familiar with the term “referral partnership”. This type of partnership is often used by connecting with friends and family to get the word out about your business, an upcoming event, a book you are launching, or a new course you are releasing.

Sending Leads

After you ask those connected to you to help you promote the new and upcoming event, book, or new course then it’s time to get others plugged into your referral program.

Referral partners can be people you have connected with who offer different but complimentary services or products to yours.

“Referral partners send qualified leads for your team to close and earn a percentage of the revenue when a deal goes through. The audience of a referral partner is not as large as that of a marketing partner, but a referral partner typically know more about the people they are referring, often having a direct one-to-one relationship, meaning the leads they send tend to be highly qualified.”


Practical Example

I think taking a look at a practical example can often help with understanding these types of partnerships.

Example: You may offer social media management and the other business owner may offer website design. Logically, when you review a new client’s social media you have to also look at their website because this is most often where you are trying to move them to from social media.

I often found that clients really needed to do adjustments or completely redo their websites. Therefore having someone you can refer clients to for website design is a win-win for both you and the website designer.

The website designer, in turn, may often send clients to you for social media management. The other benefit is that you can set up a small referral fee (monetary reward) for sending those clients to the website designer. Likewise, you establish a fee you pay the website designer if they send you clients.

You establish an agreement with them (whether verbal or through a contract). This does not mean they are the only website designer you will send your client to as you may offer them a few to choose from that you recommend. Preferably you have set up agreements with all of those that you include on the list for your client.

Strategic Partnership

Strategic partnerships are similar to referral partners with one significant difference. When you make a strategic partnership agreement you are agreeing that they will be the ONLY person you will send clients to for this particular service.


Strategic Partnership “an arrangement between two companies or organizations to help each other or work together, to make it easier for each of them to achieve the things they want to achieve:

A way of breaking into the market would be to form a strategic partnership with a large player that is already successful in the sector.”

Cambridge Dictionary

Example Revisited

In our example of the website designer and social media manager, this means that as a social media manager you are going to send your clients to this website designer ONLY and no other service provider for website design when your clients need this service.

Like the example above, you send your client to the website designer, with the difference being that you do not include any other website designers as you could in referral partnerships. You make an agreement that they are the only one and often in return they agree to send clients to you as well (as long it is a complimentary service fit).

When you are creating a strategic partnership I suggest using a contract. A contract is much more important in this type of partnership because you are not giving yourself any other options for this service or product. Due to this, the fee involved may be slightly higher.

I also suggest that you establish a relationship long before establishing a strategic partnership. Try to meet with them often to learn more about their business and the type of person they are as well as their character.

Important To Consider

Ask yourself if their business ideals align with your business philosophy and beliefs? These are important factors to consider prior to forming strategic partnerships.

Where Does It Fit Into Marketing?

You may be asking, “how do I fit this into my marketing?” Therefore, I wanted to give you some steps to incorporate strategic and referral partnerships. The steps are simply a starting place.

Steps to Incorporate Them Into Your Marketing

Step #1: Reach out regularly to new people – both online and in person (if doing in-person networking events). Make a habit of meeting at least one new person a week.

Follow up with those you have connected with and meet 1-on-1 via Zoom or in person.

And remember to add them to your current CRM system.

Step #2: Review your current CRM and the Relationships you already have with others. Consider if any of these would be willing to discuss this type of agreement.

Step #3: Take an Active Interest in others’ work when you meet with them. Ask them who their ideal client is and their specialty or niche. Casually bring up the strategic and referral partnerships topic.

Make notes and create a list of these so you can build a database or add them to your current CRM system, digital notebook, or on an excel worksheet or Google Sheet.

Additional Steps

Step #4: Reach back out to some of those you met with so far and who also meet these requirements:

  1. You felt you connected with them well.
  2. You regularly have clients who are also their ideal clients for a different product or service.
  3. They seem open to a strategic or referral partnership.
  4. They are also willing to share your business with their client base (who would be a good fit and who could use the services or products you provide).
  5. You feel comfortable sending your clients and/or contacts to this person to help them with the services they offer.

Step #5: Set up another meeting and discuss these partnerships and see which they prefer (strategic or referral or both) and if they are fully willing to commit to one of these.

Begin sending clients to one another and review how all is going after a few months.

Step #6: If they are willing to move forward, set up a contract that you both can sign. Set clear boundaries as well as specifics regarding the fee involved and how long it will be paid to the other party.

Step #7: Include the referral and strategic partnership options in your emails as well. There may be others you have not considered who would be interested. Be sure to set up a button in your email for setting up an appointment to discuss these partnership relationship opportunities.

Plan to review all new relationships set up every 3 to 6 months in the beginning and then again after a year.

To Your Continued Success,

Tammy Durden - Business & Marketing Coach

I have based my own definitions and examples on how my strategic and referral partnerships have worked. Therefore, I am giving you examples and explanations based on my business experience with these terms.

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