Maximize Your Impact and Earnings with Strategic Alliances

As someone who majored in community development in college, built online community for 20 years on social media, ran a brick and mortar community space for 8 years and wrote a book on a community-based approach to building a business, you may be surprised that I am the first person to tell new clients who are excited about building a community:

“Let’s slow down for a moment. Are you sure you want to build a community?”

The reason I am cautious is because building and sustaining a community, especially online, takes a huge amount of strategic thinking, planning, effort and resource.

It is never a case of “pull people together in an online group and then they will take care of the rest.”

You need a clear vision. And good organization. And enticing live events to bring people in.

For years, I have referred clients to The Membership Academy, the best online education space I have ever found about how to build and run online communities (I just used my affiliate link for the first time in this post due to the nature of the post’s content — I love them so much I have promoted them without financial benefit for years. I met the co-founder Callie Willows at CEX in Phoenix a few years ago and I think I scared her with my over-the-top fangirling).

Earlier this year, I was approached by Pat Flynn and his team about a strategic collaboration to be an Expert in Residence for their year-round community Smart Passive Income (SPI).

They had noticed that I run a lot of cohort-based courses, where I love building short-term community in Tiny Marketing Actions and Productize Your Service Business.

While I adore the collaboration during class, it always felt like too much effort to try to sustain an online experience year-round. Not to mention the fact that my clients often need help in areas that are not necessarily my strength, like detailed product funnels and digital marketing.

Matthew Gartland and Mindy Peters of Smart Passive Income reached out and we had a series of conversations about a formal role as an Expert in Residence.

It helped that I had known and loved Mindy for many years prior to her time at SPI. Both she and Matthew took the time to learn about my clients, my larger community, my values, my business model and my preferred working style.

We are officially launching our partnership next week along with highlighting 3 other new Experts in Residence, Amy Sterner NelsonNausheen I. Chen and Yasmine Salem Hamdan.

To celebrate, we are teaching 4 free classes, each in our areas of expertise, all hosted by Pat Flynn. Details and sign up here.

I am excited about this partnership because as a community enthusiast, I know how important they are, but I have never wanted to do all the work myself.

Now I get the best of all worlds by participating as a strategic partner.

If you want to do a similar thing, here is a starter list of 3 types of strategic partnerships to consider.

3 Types of Strategic Partnerships:

1. Do the thing together ongoing in distinct roles

If you find that your ideal clients need consistent support or structure that you can’t provide alone, you can create a formal partnership where you are active in a program or organization run by someone else, but in a limited role.

This is my new role at Smart Passive Income — I am responsible for creating a few pieces of content a month, hosting monthly Q&As and answering member questions in my area of expertise.

But everything else required to attract great clients to the program, nurture them on a regular basis, provide excellent support as well as expertise in areas that are not my strength are taken care of by the bigger SPI team and other experts.

Dr. Romie models a similar strategic partnership in her role as Chief Wellness Officer for Great Wolf Lodge, in addition to her role as keynote speaker and wellness advisor and consultant.

2. Do the thing a few times a year and go about your business

Charlie Gilkey and I collaborated twice a year for three years to run the Lift Off Retreat, which was a super fun and transformational 4 day entrepreneur retreat.

Even though we are technically competitors in the coaching space, Charlie and I have highly complementary skills and feel like our superpowers together make a pretty amazing secret sauce.

We mutually decided to stop the retreat when we knew it was time to sunset the program, but I always hold space for doing something with Charlie in the future.

Susan Baier of Audience Audit and Drew McClellan of Agency Management Institute (AMI) model a similar partnership by doing annual thought leadership research called Agency Edge Research Series which is designed to help marketing agencies better understand their clients, their prospects, and even their employees. They present the fresh research each year at Drew’s Build a Better Agency Summit (BABA).

3. Refer the thing and be done

You can refer some services that do not require you to be involved at all, using affiliate links. I have been notoriously bad at forgetting to use affiliate links through the years, but have turned a new leaf, because using them can end up reducing the substantial monthly software subscription costs required to run a service business.

You also can get concrete data about who is taking you up on your affiliate offers so you follow up with them and make sure they are continuing to get value.

My favorite affiliate partnerships:

The Membership Academy (every client I have referred has been impressed by the education and support they receive)

Notion (I am a super fan of this tool just like Jenny Blake and her done-for-you Notion Free Time dashboard)

Fathom (this AI-fueled recording tool has become my new favorite way to capture key ideas from calls, provide recordings and transcripts to my clients)

Strategic partnerships can be a great way to increase impact and income without needing to work harder and faster.

What partnerships excite you the most? Share in the comments!

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