By Stephanie Burns

When my business partner, Jody Greene and I were in the infancy of creating Chic CEO, we found out very quickly that when we leveraged partnerships – things moved a lot faster. I credit Jody for this growth strategy, as she was a master in creating partnerships.

Organically, we’d meet lots of people who had their own following and offerings, most of them synergistic to the female entrepreneurship space we were in. Jody was able to spot that synergy quickly and propose a partnership plan that helped grow all of our businesses. By partnering up with like-minded entrepreneurs, we could use our collective networks to fill events, gain subscribers and offer new products. Our email list grew faster and our events were easily filled.

We created so many partnerships that we developed a framework of how we selected partners and how we proposed our partnerships would work.

Aligned Target Markets

When we proposed a partnership, or were evaluating a partnership proposal that was pitched to us, the first thing we needed to assess was target market. Making sure that it made sense to the people we were serving. For example, we partnered with Dress for Success, Inc. to collect workwear for women at our networking events. In turn, Dress For Success promoted our event. We both served professional women in different ways. Our networking event brought together their women to connect, and look for new opportunities, while our network of women brought donations they very much needed. They helped us fill our event, and we helped them get more donations. Win win.

Getting a partnership proposal from a company that builds backyard swimming pools wouldn’t make sense. It doesn’t have anything to do with female entrepreneurship or the professional world for women. So we would wish them well, but pass.

Assess the target market to see if it aligns with yours, otherwise, you may end up confusing your community and customers. The purpose of a strategic partnership is to help get your business in front of more potential customers, so be diligent here. Putting in the effort to create a partnership just to have your message/product/event placed in front of people who aren’t your potential customers is a waste.


When we considered a partnership, we assessed it to make sure it benefitted everyone. Benefitted Chic CEO, benefitted our partner, and benefitted the Chic CEO community. Any offer of partnership that came through must benefit everyone. Conversely, if we were proposing a partnership, we only did so if we could make it a win win win for everyone.

If a potential partner wanted us to promote an offer for a discount on their product to our community of 100,000 entrepreneurs, we considered that a win win lose. The partner wins by getting their product promoted, the community wins by getting a discount, and Chic CEO lost due to dedicating time and resources without being compensated. Everyone needs to win.

Exchange of Value

Every partnership should have an exchange of value. It doesn’t have to be money, but something that you both find valuable to your business. There are lots of ways partners can be valuable to each other. For example, an email swap with another business that isn’t a direct competitor, but has the same target market. Fresh eyes that may not have heard of your business is quite valuable to you both.

We never proposed a partnership without adding value first. If you are proposing a partnership, it’s important to address what’s in it for your partner before ever asking for anything. The value exchanged should be balanced, fair and benefit you both.

Memo of Understanding

Lastly, if a partner agreed, we created a Memo of Understanding. This isn’t a contract or something legally binding, it was simply a document that outlined what we’ve both agreed to so everyone is clear on action items, due dates and responsible parties. It keeps everyone on the same page so all details are clear and documented.

Everyone appreciated this level of clarity and it kept our team organized. We never wanted to drop the ball on what we promised a strategic partner. Our partners were very important to us.

Working with partners helped us rapidly grow Chic CEO. We loved helping other like-minded businesses and creating creative ways to work together. Identify a few strategic partners in your space and develop a way to work together where everyone wins and value is exchanged. You’ll see a big difference!

By Stephanie Burns

My company, Chic-CEO.com, is an online resource for over 100,000 female entrepreneurs. As a startup, we had to get scrappy in order to hit our goals and make an impact. When we started asking for the impossible and getting the green light, I knew we had stumbled on something magical – something I call ‘Unreasonable Requests.’ I write about female entrepreneurship and how to brand yourself. I live in beautiful Ozark country with my amazing husband and two brilliant children. Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Sourced from Forbes


It can be difficult for SMEs to remain competitive today, but AdRoll’s new report ‘The Ultimate Guide to Growth’ provides a detailed step-by-step guide to help small to mid-sized businesses, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs to accelerate their growth. The robust report is split into seven categories with each providing case studies and takeaway lessons.

Identifying audiences

The report stresses the importance of marketers to first determine their ideal customer, knowing this then allows them to accurately target them. It cites various characteristics to look out for when compiling customer profiles and suggests that marketers should also tap into customer geographics and work on understanding their online behavioural habits. Empathising with their customers’ needs will help marketers to capitalise on their audience’s activity.

Understanding competitors

While getting to know your customers is important, the report also urges marketers to understand how their competitors operate, so that they can have a strong understanding of their positioning in the market. Marketers should conduct research and analysis on their competitors to work out where marketplace opportunities and threats lie, as well as keep a close eye on their opponent’s messaging.

Know your USP

Key differentiators set companies apart, so identifying these – no matter how big or small they are – is vital. The guide advises marketers to focus on your key attributes but encourages them to avoid concentrating on replicable differentiators such as new technologies or competitive prices as these can easily be beaten by competitors.

Marketing strategy creation

Marketing strategies should act as a roadmap for growing businesses with clear steps as to how to reach and engage new and existing customers. Working out the company’s value proposition will help. Marketers should consider where their customers are struggling and how they can help relieve their pain through the services they offer. They should then develop messaging to reflect this strategy, set attainable goals and create a realistic marketing budget to ensure that progress can be tracked.

Using marketing tactics

The marketing strategy set out earlier in the guide will provide marketers with clear business goals and budgets. Working out actionable tactics and which marketing channels to push marketing messages out on is essential. The report suggests looking at AdRoll’s digital advertising tactics and offers marketers the opportunity to sync up their e-commerce website with their growth platform to attract new visitors and convert existing prospects.

Creating content assets

Marketers should work out which type of content asset will suit their strategy best; the report provides pros and cons of using visual, written and ad content formats, with advice on how best to combine content assets to save on time and avoid duplication. The guide reminds marketers that ad sizes and formats also vary according to each platform, so messages need to be punchy and to the point for them to be effective.

Implementing and testing

Testing is one of the most important steps in the digital marketing growth journey. The report suggests that ads don’t need to be perfect before going live and encourages marketers to experiment with different renditions of ads to see how audiences respond. Various techniques for testing are listed, ensuring that marketers can get the most out of the experiments they do on ads, so that they know what to look out for.


The guide advises marketers to build quantifiable KPIs and metrics that correspond to the business strategy and goals outlined earlier. Marketers should look at various analytics tools and work out which would best suit their business, but the report urges them to continue testing tactics to ensure that processes and information are consistently refined throughout the journey. Attribution models can also help marketers to gain better insight into consumer purchase habits.

Feature Image Credit: The Ultimate Guide to Growth report, with AdRoll


Sourced from The Drum