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Billy Bob + Dell? Benefits of Unlikely Allies You, Too, Can Enjoy

When the most straight-arrow computer maker dares to pair up with a wild card actor who’s played music since he was nine, you’re bound to see a new scene. Billy Bob Thornton and Dell computer launched a yearlong project today. Expect to see mini-documentaries of jam sessions with Thornton and his roots-rock style musicians in Thornton’s home “cave” and on the road. Find them at the Dell Lounge where you can comment and ask questions.

Benefits for both partners? Thornton gets free tech gear to create his music plus exposure to a wider, more mainstream audience. Dell shines in the reflected glory of a celebrity maverick, to gain a more hip and edgy patina.

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a manager in a business, non-profit or even a government group you, too, can attract more people and money – while spending less. How? Partner with a group that is extremely different than you, yet:
1. Serves (or could serve) the same kind of “customers” as you reach.
2. Brings different resources to the partnership.
3. Has a brand “personality” that does not conflict with yours yet stand in sharp contrast to it.

Unlikely allies pop up in unexpected places and circumstances, yet they usually lead to more camaraderie. Here’s six more snapshots of unexpected allies finding success:

1. Demonstrate a Partner’s Product in a Way That Attracts Interest and Reduces Overhead

That’s how T-shirt designer Tami Minatelli could exhibit at nine street fairs last summer without paying for her booth space. A manufacturer of a new, unique, no-stain suntan lotion paid for Tami’s booth. Because she wore their lotion and her T-shirts, with a sign above her head, describing her original painting-on-cotton method and the lotion’s “do no harm” guarantee. Next to burn protection, that’s the biggest concern of people who use suntan lotions.

2. Give People Another Reason to Try Your Service or Product

That’s how Applebee’s and Weight Watchers attracted new customers without advertising more. When Weight Watchers designed and branded low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of their diet program could eat out without guilt, at Applebee’s. Applebee’s fans got a first-hand introduction to Weight Watchers.

3. Become Their Top-of-Mind Choice. Offer a Tantalizing “Extra”

Who knows how many people chose to stay at the Ritz Carlton rather than at another luxury hotel because of an added thrillcomplimentary use of a brand new Mercedes during their stay? Mercedes & Ritz Carlton forged a smart partnership and became the top-of-mind choice with their kind of (upscale) customers and so can you – regardless of the kind or size of your business.

4. Give Your Customers a Conversation-Starter

• To reach men in hotels, bars, sports arenas and restaurants, advertisers used the Wizmark, an “interactive urinal communicator.” As men step up to the urinal they activate, with the slightest movement, a sensor that prompts red lights to flash, crunchy guitar chords to sound and a 30 second commercial to appear. An unlikely ally offers a message is to discourage drunken driving.

• Guests at the Holiday Inn Express get the unexpected opportunity to enjoy Kohler’s new multi-function showerhead and spa bath. Via a bed side coupon, Kohler gains a “warmed-up” (‘scuse the pun) low-cost new product introduction, providing the product to Holiday Inn at the same price as the basic showerhead. The hotelier provides their guests with an upgrade benefit that costs them nothing.

5. Deepen Your Customers Emotional Bond With You, in How You Support a Local Cause – With Them

A month after Hurricane Charley and tropical storm Bonnie, when a storm the size of Texas pummeled parts of Florida, their “neighbors” in Florida and Georgia were given a small way to help with storm relief efforts. When they shopped at Winn-Dixie grocery stores they could “even it up” at the checkout counter. That is, they can round up their food bill to the next dollar or more, with the extra change going to the local Red Cross chapter for relief efforts.

Many of the retailers and non-profits that worked together forged a second alliance faster (they knew each other better) to create bus caravans for their food-direct-to-Katrina-folks.

6. Recruit More Partners to Attract More Customers at Less Cost – Together

Last Valentine’s Day, several neighborhood businesses including a womens’ medical clinic, florist, health food store, clothing boutique, shopper newspaper, museum store, gym, bookstore and beauty salon joined forces for a month-long promotion to attract and serve women, especially those 30 and older.

The bookstore hosted a series of “Beauty Inside Out” – themed series of in-store demonstrations and mini-seminars each led by a manager of one of the participating businesses and highlighting a book collection and the local partners’ related products and services.

Each presenter provided a handout that included reference to at least one of the other partnering organizations, plus a joint offer of services with one of them.

As well, each presenter wrote a guest column (based on their presentation) for the local shopper paper, with the author’s follow-up offer and e-mail noted at the bottom of the article. Of course each column author quoted partners in this mutually beneficial alliance.

The bonus benefit? As Billy Bob Thorton and Dell Computer are discovering, you’ll make news in new kinds of media when you are paired with an unlikely ally and create a “first ever.”

Your most valuable partners are those who sell to or serve the same kind of people as you yet are not competitive. And they have different resources than you, such as:

• Customer list
• Web presence (blog, Website, wiki, social network and/or podcast
• Physical “walk-in” customer-serving place (store, hotel, restaurant, office, hospital, etc.)
• Skill or talent
• Product or service
• Very different but not conflicting brand “personality”
• Niche market the other partner is not yet in
• Different slow and busy times
• Attention-attracting event, fan, leader or avid customer

Observe who serves your kind of customers or members. Discover others organizations you respect yet that are strikingly than yours. Describe how you can accomplish more together than apart. Then share your success story with us. We’d love to share it!

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