How can I forge partnerships?

My online business is enjoying healthy growth, but I’m keen to develop affiliations with other companies. How can I forge and develop partner relationships to increase the growth of my company?

A. Karen Hanton of toptable writes:

Partnerships form a key element of our growth strategy at toptable, and we prefer to take a quality rather than quantity approach.

Affiliate networks are fine for some brands, but they do require policing. As a quality lifestyle experience, we take the approach of focusing on brands of similar stature and with a likeminded audience, rather than going for the long tail of thousands of small site owners.

The first thing you need is the ability to provide them with a reliable solution. There will be many requirements, so it makes sense to do some research and find out what your partners will want before you start offering a solution to them.

The first task is to find users similar to your own. toptable started as a Londonfocused experience, so an obvious strategy was to line up with other strong local sites, such as Visit London and Thisislondon. We also got to know our competitors, such as Squaremeal and London-Eating (which we have now acquired), and provided them with booking functionality.

Start with the largest pool of relevant customers. We prioritise by looking at site traffi c and consumer relevance. For this, provides good traffic analysis. On a tighter budget, Hitwise provides excellent analytical tools.

Every partner you approach will have different priorities. Do not assume they are all after the highest commission. Content, value for money and customer service will all be taken into account.

Our partners with a similar audience may be more motivated by building traffi c and user loyalty through offering our content, such as 360 degree photos and diner reviews, so make sure you offer something valuable content-wise.

Your competitors will also be attempting partner acquisition, so it is important to be clear about your differentiation.

Once up and running, you’ll need to nurture the relationship, and create and seize opportunities as they arise. Too often partner sites are bolted onto the side of an existing brand and left to fester. For the partnership to succeed, you need to integrate your content with the user experience of that site. The masters at this are Expedia and Ryanair, which upsell insurance, hotel rooms and car hire in the same order process.

We provide toptable partners with a fully integrated white-label solution, and dynamic banners with a live feed of our latest special offers. We also work with the partners to raise awareness to their audience by providing competition prizes and promotions. This has been particularly effective with the Times and Evening Standard.

Like any relationship, a partnership will only be as successful as the time and effort you put in – the key is to communicate as often as possible, and, most importantly, to listen to what your partners are saying.


(will not be published)