Two men in khaki aprons stand outside next to a table covered with wide wooden baskets of vegetables. The man on the left wears a black T-shirt and carries one of the baskets, which has wooden handles and is filled with carrots, eggplants, and potatoes. The man on the right has a goatee and wears a light blue T-shirt; he holds a clipboard and uses a pen to point at one of the vegetables in the other man's tray.
Community partnerships can be for a one-off event, like a co-hosted farmers' market or charity event. Alternatively, the partnership can be ongoing. — Getty Images/Hispanolistic

As a small business, your local community is one of your biggest resources, and it’s also the easiest to overlook. Here are seven ways you can begin to develop strong community partnerships.

[Read more: Looking for a Business Partner? Here Are the Top Qualities to Seek]

Identify potential community partners

The first step is to begin identifying potential community partners — this could be another small business or even a nonprofit or school. You want to find other organizations that share your business’s values and target a similar audience.

Start attending local networking events, community events, and Chamber of Commerce meetings and make a list of potential partners. From there, you can start reaching out to these organizations to gauge their interest in partnering with your company.

Create a mutually beneficial partnership

Before approaching another business owner about a partnership, you want to make sure it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Consider the other company’s audience, customer base, and products to evaluate whether the partnership makes sense.

Your company must offer value to potential business partners, whether that’s your expertise, resources, or access to your customer base. When you pitch the other business, explain what they have to gain from the arrangement.

Outline the terms of the partnership

Once both companies have agreed to a partnership, clearly outline the terms and goals of the arrangement. Will this be a one-time project, like a co-hosted community event, or an ongoing arrangement?

It’s important to establish details about the partnership in writing, like how the costs and resources will be shared and what the expected outcome is. Creating a formal written partnership agreement can help you avoid misunderstandings down the road.

Before approaching another business owner about a partnership, you want to make sure it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Going forward, you can use analytics tools to track the performance of your partnership initiatives. For example, if you co-host an event, you can track the event attendance and website traffic.

[Read more: How to Write a Partnership Agreement]

Maximize the benefits of your partnership

A partnership allows both companies to pool their resources and maximize their marketing efforts. For example, you can create a joint marketing campaign that helps both companies reach a larger audience. You can market your partnership through press releases, social media posts, your website, and email marketing campaigns.

You can also work together to create joint events and promotions that offer more value to your customers. For example, you could host a workshop or plan a community event. You can also create a system for promoting each other’s products and encouraging customers to shop with both businesses.

[Read more: 7 Marketing Trends Every Small Business Needs to Know About in 2024]

Establish open lines of communication

Open communication is key when you’re partnering with another business — it’s the only way to ensure the relationship stays productive. Regularly check in with your community partner to share your progress or discuss new ideas.

Keep the other company in the loop about anything that could affect the partnership. It’s also important to regularly ask them for feedback and to stay open to ways to improve or adjust the arrangement.

Continue to re-evaluate the partnership

At some point, the partnership may stop working for one or both companies. So it’s a good idea to regularly re-evaluate the partnership and its effectiveness for everyone involved. If you eventually part ways, make sure to do it on positive terms. Celebrate your mutual successes, and agree to explore potential collaboration opportunities in the future.

Always be on the lookout for new opportunities

Don’t stop at one successful partnership — continue to watch for new partnership opportunities. Stay aware of what’s going on in your community and look for opportunities where your business can pitch in and make a difference. Community partnerships may not lead to overnight financial success, but in the long run, they’ll pay off in ways you never imagined.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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