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Complementary Businesses

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Spend enough time reading marketing books and magazines, and you will hear of complementary businesses.

This article covers what a complementary business is, how to identify them and why you should care about them.

A complementary Business is one that does not offer the same services and products as you (that would be a competing business!) It does offer things that are related to your business and that may be of use to your customers.

For instance, Sue sells sporting goods through her web site. She has found three complementary businesses in her local area. Bob is a tennis coach who also has a web site giving tennis tips, Mary is a physiotherapist and Frank is a dietician. Anybody interested in buying sports goods would potentially be interested in using these other services.

Tomís site selling footballs and accessories, however, would be a competing site for Sue.

To identify complementary businesses for yourself, sit down with a sheet of paper and a pen. Write down every linked product or service that you donít offer but that is related to what you do. Some points to consider:

  • Donít include things you are likely to introduce within a year or so.

  • Complementary doesnít mean it has to be in the same field. For example, you may offer accounting services so complementary businesses would be those selling accounting software or calculators and those offering other business services.

  • Consider the relevance of online and offline presence to your business and theirs.

  • Businesses relating to your personal interests and hobbies donít count unless that is what your business is based on.

Having found some potential business types, use the yellow pages or an internet search engine to find some appropriate businesses. Have a look at a few in each category and choose ones that suit you in terms of

  • Location

  • Popularity or size of the business

  • Its marketing presence

  • Attitudes towards customers

You now have a list of complementary businesses that you are prepared to deal with.

At this stage, you can use the list to refer your clients as required. This can be done by adding their URLs to your links page, mentioning them in your newsletter or mentioning them when a customer talks about needing that service or product.

Of course, it makes sense to contact the businesses and tell them you are recommending them Ė and asking them to do likewise, of course!

Does it really help, though? Sporting goods retailer, Sue, found that using articles from Mary and Frank in her newsletter increased the number of people wanting the newsletter and passing it on to friends. Bob and Mary both had happier customers when they were able to supply tennis and fitness balls on site via Sue. In other words, everyone gained from the working relationship between the businesses.

Once you build a relationship with some complementary businesses, there are various ways you can help each other reach potential customers.

  • Have discounted or reciprocal advertising arrangements

  • Swap articles for newsletters and web sites

  • Sell a product for each other

  • Barter work from each other

  • Carry business cards to distribute if the occasion arises

  • Exchange links and banners on web sites

  • Recommend each other to interested clients

  • Work together and have combined newsletter

  • Share a bulk marketing exercise (eg direct mailing, seminar, stall at an expo)

  • Distribute flyers for each other (eg when doing a letter box drop or visiting noticeboards)

  • Print advertising material on reverse sides of a flyer to half distribution costs

  • Exchange information within the industry, especially major changes

  • Review each otherís products or services

By working with some complementary businesses, you can increase your potential client base for much less effort and money than most marketing methods. The personal recommendations between businesses are usually more effective than commercial advertising anyway.

Your business can also find growth and support through complementary businesses. It makes good business sense to work together rather than individually, so why not find some complementary businesses today?


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and is available to solve all your business writing problems! From letters to policies, newsletters to web content, Word Constructions writes all business documents to your style and satisfaction.

This article is available for free use on your web site or in your newsletter.

It must be acknowledged as written by Tash Hughes of www.wordconstructions.com.au and copyright remains the property of Tash Hughes.

Please notify us of your use of this article or to request information on commissioned articles.



© 2003 - 12, Tash Hughes