Pro Tips

Opening Niche Markets with Strategic Alliances

by Tiffany Markarian

Financial advisors and business professionals have the opportunity to open new niche markets with strategic alliances. Strategic alliances allow you to work with people who share similar values, yet, come from different aspects of planning. Strategic alliances may also allow you to bring additional experiences to clients that might otherwise be out of reach.

Examples of Strategic Alliances

A good example could be an investment adviser who focuses on portfolio management. The adviser may not deliver insurance in their core practice, but they could enhance their client experience by collaborating with a trusted, like-minded insurance firm to solve specific client needs. Or vice-versa…an insurance professional might refer the wealth advisory needs of their clients to a trusted financial advisor. Each professional can stay in their own genre, and it may help each other cross into new niche markets or bring more value to clients.

This does not mean you need to share in each other’s compensation or have a formal solicitor or revenue agreement in place. In today’s regulatory and growing fee-based environment, it is more important to focus on strategic alliances that deliver value and enhance your client experience. That should be the determining factor in any collaboration.

Market Cross-Overs

Forming strategic alliances with people from different planning genres or demographics could introduce you to new niche markets. We see many examples of this in the music industry. Picture some of the hit vocal duets from the 1980’s. There was the highly successful duet from iconic singer/songwriter and activist, Willie Nelson, who jointly recorded two songs with Julio Iglesias, one of the most successful Latino and continental recording artists. Both come from different musical genres; yet, when they recorded their 1984 duet, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” the song was a massive cross-over hit in new markets for both artists. Nelson and Iglesias were named “Duo of the Year” by the Country Music Association and the song was named “Single of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music.

In 1985, we heard “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” an anthem for women with vocals recorded by Annie Lenox of the Eurythmics, Aretha Franklin, and The Charles Williams Gospel Choir. The song is in rotation to this day with its message of empowerment.

Lastly, we would be remiss if we did not mention the 1985 song “We Are the World (USA for Africa).” It was a philanthropic collaboration featuring some of the most famous artists in the music industry from all genres. It was the night’s big winner at the 28th Grammy Awards. There were no concerns if each legend would disrupt their genre; it was about the music and a deeper purpose.

Dos and Don’ts of Strategic Alliances

Strategic alliances mean working with different personalities. You need to be open to different points of view, have good communication, and outline parameters that benefit all parties involved. The following are some of the considerations that need to be addressed in any strategic alliance:

Clear Written Agreements

From a practice management standpoint, it is important to have clear agreements on who has primary ownership of the client relationships generated, protection of proprietary resources and who is responsible for suitability and liability in a joint-work scenario.

Ethics, Egos and Motivations

Strategic alliances can be fruitful, but there are plenty of instances where it fails. It usually comes down to ethics, egos, or misaligned motivations. One party may not be given their fair share – be it money, effort, or simple appreciation and respect.

When a person disregards the spirit of collaboration, the opportunities will end – sometimes badly. This is especially prevalent when working with a potential junior associate. If you convince a strong junior associate to align their practice with you in the hopes of them becoming a successor or partner; yet, you never come through on the activities required, they may leave to join another firm. Additionally, if a junior partner or strategic alliance does not come through on their promises, you may need to terminate the opportunity and focus elsewhere. This is where human resource management, written agreements and personal accountability are critical.

Due Diligence and Risk Management

Without proper due diligence, strategic alliances could have the undesired outcome of an implied endorsement you don’t want to be associated with. You might see an opportunity to collaborate with another professional, but what happens if that person has significant regulatory issues or a tainted compliance background. You need to do your due diligence by researching the professional’s regulatory background, complaints history, and overall business practices. The person may use marketing strategies, social media content, or services that are misaligned with your firm’s guidelines or philosophies.

You also want to do your due diligence on the business opportunities and niche markets the person has outlined. If a potential strategic alliance talks a good game about niche markets they have access to; yet, cannot articulate the exact relationships, results, or organizations they are involved in, you should be skeptical. You don’t want to co-brand or market with another person who could tarnish your reputation or waste your time.

The Real Benefit

If you decide to form a strategic alliance with another professional to enhance each other’s skills or niche market opportunities, you need to do so with a relational spirit. Sometimes you initially give more than you get; but, earning the respect of others allows them to share more opportunities with you over time.

Tiffany MarkarianOpening Niche Markets with Strategic Alliances

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