One of my clients is an art gallery that holds opening receptions every six weeks. The receptions are only two-hours long, and the gallery is located a half-hour away from a large portion of its customer base.

We found that people were not willing to drive an hour both ways for a 2-hour event, so we partnered with the restaurant next door.

Now, when the gallery holds an art opening, the restaurant (which usually closes at 4pm), stays open until 10pm, serves a limited-selection dinner menu, including beer and wine, and hires a band or a DJ to provide music and dancing.

The restaurant promotes the art show all month, the gallery includes the restaurant in our PR, and the customers have an event destination for the evening that is worth driving an hour for.

Win-Win-Win. Triple benefit.

When you hear the term Strategic Partnerships you may think of mounds of legal paperwork, contracts and detailed agreements. While some partnerships may indeed require this, depending on the size of your company and complexity of your agreement, it can also be done a lot simpler with just a little creativity.

In my mind, the best marketing methods are not only effective, but simple as well. Therefore, let’s examine a few simple partnership strategies that will double up your marketing muscle while benefiting your business, your partners’ business, and your combined customer base.

One of the main reasons for partnering is to save money or reduce expenses. A common example of this is seen in the hair salon business. One stylist opens her own shop and rents out the stations to other stylists, colorists, and mani-pedi specialists. This keeps the overhead manageable for the owner, offers a simple and low-commitment situation for the renters, and creates a one-stop beauty destination for the customer.

The partners can also save money by pooling their resources to market the whole shop as opposed to being responsible for individually marketing themselves (which they may choose to do as well).

Another good reason for partnering is to diversify your offering. There’s a technology company in town that shares its space with an office supply store. In this case, the two complimentary businesses can share their expertise and resources with a wider customer base than if they each maintained two separate storefronts. According to the owner of the tech company, a large percentage of walk-ins to the office supply store have become clients of his, and vice-versa.

Diversifying your offering through partnerships is also popular with web designers, marketers, media producers and business consultants like myself. If I determined that a prospect needed to implement a new e-commerce website with a blog, a social media presence including YouTube video channel, plus email marketing and PR services, I would be quite stressed if I thought I had to design and implement all of that myself.

Instead, I would tap my strategic partnership network of web designers, writers and video producers to help create the deliverables for my client. The caveat here is that the client’s budget needs to be proportionate to the cost of the team. If it’s not, we scale down the deliverables and focus on the most effective solution to meet the client’s objective.

There’s a local glass company that gets its shipments from Oregon. My friend went in to get a large piece of plexiglass, and they were out of stock. Each shipment from Oregon requires a minimum order amount, and the glass company hasn’t been selling enough plexi to justify a full order.

What if the glass company partnered with several other window companies, frame shops, or hardware stores in Northern California, combined their orders to meet the minimum and guaranteed each store carried stock? Sure, this requires extra work, but it makes more sense to me than sending customers away empty-handed.

Referral programs are another form of partnerships. I know a massage therapist who offers her clients discounts on their bodywork if any people they refer come in for a paid massage. There’s a real estate agent who has been making sales all winter long, despite the sluggish market. Every time she sells a house, she gives gifts and rewards to everyone who was involved in the sale.

People love to save money and they love to make money. Anytime you can help someone do this–as the massage therapist and real estate agent are doing–they will be happy to consider themselves your partner.

As you can see, strategic business partnerships can exist in many forms. They can be between you and your colleagues, your customers, your suppliers, even your competition.

And, in most cases, the partnership’s sum is greater that its individual parts. So, get creative and think about who you can partner with in order to deliver savings, profits and value to everyone involved.

What types of partnership strategies have worked for your business?