How I use Joint Ventures in my Business
If you’ve been reading my emails recently, you’ll know that last month I was promoting Ann Wilson’s Financial Freedom University. That got me thinking about joint ventures and how they’ve been such a key part of my business over the years, both in terms of those partners who spread the word about me, and the partners whose products and services I choose to promote.
Although this is something that cover within my paid programmes and membership, I haven’t actually created a blog or a video on this topic before. So I decided it was high time I did!
Watch the video below or scroll down to read more.
1. Joint Ventures are not as scary as they sound
“Joint ventures” is really quite a technical term. It’s the term that’s used by the online marketers to talk about this process so it can sound a bit big and scary. But another word to use is “collaborations”.
Doesn’t it have a totally different energy when I say collaboration?
It’s much more about that feeling you get when you meet somebody and you think, “Oh, I love the sound of what you do! There’s some real synergy with what we do. I think my community might really love to hear about what you do, and perhaps yours might want to hear about mine. I wonder if we could do something together?”
For me, this is why I love joint ventures so much, because there is this sense collaboration, this genuine heartfelt connection with other business owners while I’m doing it, which means that I’m not working alone and in isolation from other people.
2. Joint Ventures are not just for the “Big Guns”
You do not need a massive list in order to do a joint venture. You can both be small and grow together – this is how I started out!
Sometimes, when I’m teaching on joint ventures within my programmes, somebody will say to me, “It’s all right for you, Catherine. You partner with all these really established businesses. What about me? I’m just starting out. It’s not going to work for me.”
Well, don’t forget that I was also starting out once, and so were my joint venture partners! Take a look at a couple of my key partners over the past few years…
One of them had an established but mostly offline business, when I first met her, and was just about to launch her very first online programme – whereas I’d just had my first 6 figure year. Now these days her online business absolutely dwarfs my own but back then I was way ahead of her in terms of the size of my mailing list – and therefore my reach. Of course, if I’d been at all snobbish about “what size of business” I wanted to partner, or focused just on the money, I could have easily dismissed her and thought, “You don’t have a big enough mailing list.” But here’s the thing: I loved what she was doing. I believed my community needed it. And that’s why I promoted her programme.
I met another of my key joint venture partners when we were at a mastermind group together. We compared notes and had a mailing list of about 300 people each. That doesn’t sound like many does it? But the thing is we’ve grown together over the years. So when it looks like I have these “big partners” always remember we all started out small. So please don’t feel this is just for the big guns or that you can’t be joint venturing with people because you think that you need to find people with bigger mailing lists. You can absolutely start where you are and grow together.
3. Why I love Joint Ventures
There are four key reasons why I love joint ventures so much as a marketing strategy:
i) It’s Win-Win-Win
Back in the days when I worked in recruitment, the company that I worked for used this “win-win” phrase all the time, saying, “Whatever deal you do, it has to be good for you and it has to be good for the client.” and I loved that approach to doing business. Joint ventures takes that a step further because it’s win-win-win – 3 wins!
Let’s say I’m launching a programme and a partner agrees to promote me to their community. I benefit (win #1) because I get exposed to a whole load of new people that wouldn’t otherwise know about me, and I get recommended by somebody they know, like, and trust so they are more likely to buy. The partner who promotes me benefits (win #2) because they get kudos and appreciation from their community for introducing somebody who’s providing them with great value content – initially for free. And the customers who decide to purchase from me also win (win #3) because they have great value from the programme and see a transformation in their business results. So everybody benefits – everybody’s happy.
ii) It’s the most fun way I know of marketing my business.
I often describe doing joint ventures as “running around the place, making lots of new friends, and then deciding to do stuff with them”. It’s so fun and for me that I find it so easy compared to many other marketing approaches – in fact so easy it doesn’t really feel like “work” much of the time.
Now granted, there can be a lot of admin, but as a natural “people person” it’s so much more fun for me to grow my business through building and developing and nurturing relationships than it is to, say, sit at home, slogging it out on social media growing my mailing list one person at a time.
iii) I only pay if I make a sale.
This point is important because it means I can always afford to do it. There’s always a budget for it. Whereas with something like Facebook Ads, I might to have to put a lot of money in up front without knowing what return I’m going to get, so it’s much more of a gamble, especially in the early days of a business before your Facebook Ad returns become more predictable.
iv) It shortcuts some of the hard slog
This is one of the best things but I always feel a bit naughty when I say it out loud!
Here’s the thing: joint ventures shortcut some of the hard slog because you’re basically piggybacking off somebody else’s hard slog! Let me explain:
When I started out, my first really major joint venture partner was an entrepreneur called Julie Hall, who at the time ran a network called Women Unlimited. Julie had spent years putting her heart and soul into doing the marketing activity that helped her to grow a community of many thousands of businesswomen who loved what she did and trusted her recommendations.
Then I come along with my tiny little email list of 300 people, and at a time when hardly anyone had heard of me, and because Julie liked what I did and could see that it had a value to her community, she was happy to promate and host a webinar with me. In the space of just 2 emails from Julie now those thousands of women had heard of me. And probably more importantly, they knew I must be good if Julie was recommending me.
I basically shortcutted the time (probably many years) it would have taken for me to build up a community of that size myself using slower burn strategies.
4. What About Commission? How does it work?
I pay commission on programmes that my partners promote for me. In particular, my online programme, called Get More Clients Saying Yes! I also pay commission on direct referrals for one-to-one coaching and mentoring (when I’m not fully booked). I don’t currently have a commission scheme for the new membership community, mainly because it’s a bit trickier to make make even a decent percentage of a low monthly amount sound exciting! But it IS something I’ll be working on this year.
The reason I pay commission is because I fully appreciate the amount of work that that my partner has done in order to build up a community that trusts their recommendation enough to buy my products or programmes. And also, because in some respects, although it costs money, you could argue that it’s cheaper and more efficient than building up my own mailing list one person at a time. And in my own business it also works out cheaper than Facebook Ads.
I also get commission when I promote somebody – not always, but most of the time.
Now I would never, ever dream of promoting somebody just because I was going to get a commission. The trust my community have in me is way more valuable than a one-off financial gain. I only promote products and services and people who I believe offer genuine value, and whose work complements what I do. And almost always where I have done that programme or worked with that person myself.
But if added to that there is a also commission on offer, I say: “Thank you very much.”
The reason I say “thank-you” is because, just like my venture partners, I’ve spent many years growing my community through building and nurturing my own joint venture relationships, through content marketing like these videos, and investing in working on my mindset to break down the huge subconscious blocks used to have to being visible, and in my own business education.
I’m the one who went out and did the networking, speaking gigs, webinars, videos, blogs and all those other things that grew that list. So if I promote somebody’s product or service, and I receive a commission, I don’t see it as getting paid to send a few emails, and maybe host a webinar or interview. Instead I see this as one of the ways in which I get paid for all the hard work I’ve done building up that community over the years.
How much commission do I get? It varies. Sometimes it’s nothing at all. Sometimes there’s a reciprocal arrangement, so I might promote somebody and they promote me in return. Sometimes I get a thank you gift of acknowledgement rather than a payment. But if there is a payment, this can range from 10% to 50% of the product or service concerned. There are even some cases where partners of mine might pay 100%, but that’s usually only if’ it’s for a very low-level item that acts as a feeder into a higher-level product that they’re going to be offering further down the line.
But is it significant? The honest answer? In my business, no, it’s not hugely significant. My reach is still modest by a lot of standards out there in the online marketing world, and so the income that I receive from joint venture partnerships is usually more of a “nice-to-have”, and definitely not something that counts towards my core business revenue in any significant way.
In fact most of the time I use any joint venture commission for a treat or a special reward for myself. For example last time I received a commission payment, I spent it on a couple of nights in nice hotel.
5. How do I decide who to promote?
I’m actually very, very strict about who and what I”ll promote . It’s taken me many years to build up a following of people who trust me and trust the recommendations that I make.
And if somebody decides to go ahead and buy something on the basis of my recommendation, it usually involves them investing money – sometimes quite a lot. And that’s not a responsibility that I take lightly.
So I normally just promote products and services I have had personal experience of, and where I believe that most small business owners that are interested in what I teach will benefit from it, and also where it complements my own business and fills a gap because it’s something that I don’t offer.
6. Why I found Joint Ventures difficult at first.
Of course, it’s very easy for me to talk about joint ventures in this way, because I’ve been doing them for a few years now. But I haven’t always found it easy because of my own mindset blocks.
The most difficult thing for me was what I perceived as asking somebody to help me. It was absolutely excruciating for me the first couple of times that I asked someone if they would promote my programme. Even though I was offering to pay a commission for sales, it never, ever feels like I’m doing them a favour – it feels like I’m asking for one! And to be totally honest, between you and me, it never gets really comfortable. Every time it comes to the time of year where I need to reach out to my joint venture partners and ask them if they’d like to promote me again, I procrastinate over it horribly and feel very awkward!
I also used to find it difficult promoting other people because I used to feel guilty about the fact I’d be paid a commission. But that was was because I didn’t yet see it as getting paid for all the hard work I’ve put into building my list over the years. Now that I do it feels very different and much more congruent.
Over to you…
Those are just a few of the thoughts that were coming up for me when I was thinking about joint ventures, how they work in my business, and in particular my mindset around them.
Has anything I’ve shared shifted your thinking around joint ventures? Does thinking of them as collaborations or as “making new friends and then doing stuff together” change anything for you? Is there somebody that you can think of who you’ve got some synergy with, and whose business complements yours, that you could reach out to and explore what you could do together? Or someone at a similar stage of business to you where you can see how, with each others support, you could grow together?
Let me know in the comments below – I always love to hear from you (and I do read all of them).