How The Fastest Growing Optical Practices Use Partnerships To Drive Growth, And How You Can Too

Posted by Villa Eyewear on May 24th 2022

How The Fastest Growing Optical Practices Use Partnerships To Drive Growth, And How You Can Too

Forming a solid, mutually beneficial professional match is one of the most impactful things you can do to grow your business. The fastest growing optical shops are proof of how important business to business relationships are and how leveraging strategic partnerships drives growth. Let’s dive into the why and how top ECPs are forming strategic partnerships and reaping the rewards like allowing a business to expand its reach, solidify its brand, expose itself to new opportunities, and grow its bottom line. It takes time and effort to find a partner that matches your practice’s needs, but it can certainly be worth your while.

Why are strategic business partnerships important?

Strategic business partnerships are becoming more and more important in our globalized world. Consumers look for businesses that are tapped into the ecosystem of brands that they already trust. For example, consumers might be persuaded to engage with your brand if they know you are working with a brand they already trust. For many ECPs this might look like finding other businesses in your community to engage in cross–promotion or other strategic initiatives. Even the most basic partnership should provide valuable insight into:

  • Learning new prospectives about how to do business
  • Increasing your brand's recognition
  • Growing your business and network

There are countless ways that partnerships can benefit both parties, here are 5 to consider for your eyecare business:

1. Learn new methods of conducting business

One of the best parts of entering a strategic business partnership is how much you will learn from the relationship. If nothing else, your team will gain the opportunity to take a peek through the looking glass at how another company conducts business. That experience will bring you unmatched insight that you won’t be able to find elsewhere. According to the Business Performance Innovation Network, 44% of companies form alliances to gain new ideas, insights, and innovation. If you are strategic about this relationship, you will be able to bring those insights into your own practice making it stronger than ever. This partnership could expose you to your blind spots and expose you to more profitable or effective solutions. For example, your practice might learn about a new software that can manage part of your ordering process. Or you may find a new way to follow-up and improve customer retention. Another example is how Villa Eyewear strives to educate our partners on new technologies and materials in eyewear. There are countless ways to learn from your partners!

2. Elevate your brand position

Finding a partner who shares the same values and tone of voice as your business is a great way to solidify, or even elevate your brand. Think of Taco Bell and Doritos, Nike and Apple, or GoPro and RedBull. In each of these partnerships the brands entered a mutually beneficial relationship resulting in more exposure to their businesses and clarity around their brand position. These partnerships are smart because in each instance the company’s target markets are very similar - someone who owns a GoPro probably drinks RedBull, and someone who eats at Taco Bell probably likes Doritos. The best partnerships will not take away your brand recognition, they will lead to your brand becoming even stronger. As a high end luxury eyewear practice, you might consider partnering with a local high end boutique because you capture similar markets. Learn more on how partnerships with independent brands will help your brand shine.

3. Grow your business with greater promotional power

Our world is becoming increasingly connected, and that applies to marketing strategy in the eyewear industry. Over 75% of the world’s trade happens indirectly, meaning strategic partnerships are an excellent way to bring in new business. According to the Business Performance Innovation Network, 57% of businesses use partnerships to acquire new customers. Partnerships are an extremely viable promotional tool.

4. Discover new distribution channels and clients

Engaging in a business relationship can lead to discovering new distribution channels for your products and services. For example, the partnership could open doors to markets in untapped neighborhoods or new types of buyers. Or there could be an opportunity to accept payment in other forms. There are countless ways that a partnership can help you reach more of your target market and expose your business!

5. Expand your professional network through your partnership

Another benefit of partnering with businesses in your community is the opportunity to expand your professional network. By choosing prominent businesses in your community, you will naturally grow and develop your network - which may always be helpful in the future.

There are several benefits to forming strong partnerships with other businesses in your community. Whether you are expanding your professional network, discovering new distribution channels, or solidifying your brand - the right partnership is sure to take your practice to the next level. In short, strategic business partnerships are important because they provide you and your business the opportunity to grow.

What constitutes a strategic business partnership?

Not every business relationship is a strategic partnership. When you run your own business, you will find that there is a vast landscape of relationships you have to navigate. Some examples of business relationships that are NOT strategic partnerships include:

  • Employer and Employee
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Legal, Financial and other third party assistants

Strategic partnerships have a big payoff, but they can be difficult to manage. On top of that, a lot of vendors and third parties will claim partnership status, but do not commit to creating a shared vision with their so-called partners. The following 3 criteria are important aspects of a successful partnership.

Having a shared vision

The key to a successful partnership is having a shared vision. It is smart to have a conversation with your partner about what they want to get out of the partnership while being clear about your expectations as well. Setting goals and KPI’s could help ensure you and your partner are on the same page and working towards something together. It is also important for your values to line up. For example, if one of your practice’s values is community you might choose to partner with a local ice cream shop that plays a big role in school fundraisers. From there, you could create a promotion together that allows kids who schedule an eye appointment to receive a kid’s size cone at the ice cream shop. Whether your vision is to sell more frames, play a bigger role in your community, broaden both of your customer bases, or improve your customer service - it is important to communicate clearly about it and ensure your relationship is working to achieve it.

Developing a regular cadence

A strong strategic partnership will have its own agreed upon way of communicating - including a regular meeting cadence. It is very important to have regular check-ins with your partners to make sure you are aligned on all of your initiatives. This could be anywhere from daily morning meetings to quarterly reviews. The frequency is up to you and your partner to set based on your goals and vision. You will also have agreed upon communication methods. For example, if you are partnering with another small business in your community you will want to agree on email, video, or phone calls as the most effective way to communicate. It is also a good idea to set up non-working hour boundaries and guidelines on how frequently you would like to communicate.

Be careful not to become overwhelmed if there are changes that result in your communication or meeting cadences becoming more or less frequent, and instead create open communication where both parties can express their concerns. These practices will result in a healthy partnership that is built to last.

Creating space for individual and shared growth

Throughout the course of your relationship with your business partner, you will naturally learn new things causing the relationship to shift. It is important to set out with the intention of growth - both individually and together. You can do this by checking in with your partner regularly about what they are learning from the partnership, and making sure that you are still aligned with your shared vision and goals. Around 45% of executives say that the biggest challenge when it comes to strategic partnerships is keeping them active and mutually rewarding (BPI Network). The best partnerships will evolve together as each business matures and grows.

The best strategic partnerships will be ones where both parties gain immense value from the relationship. This is accomplished by making sure you have a shared vision and goals, set up best practices, and make lots of space for the relationship to take shape naturally. It's okay for the goals and communication to shift over time, and that is natural for any partnership.

How do you find a strategic business partner? 

Now that you know the benefits of a strategic business partnership, let’s dive into how you can find one for your business. Remember, the quality of a partnership is more important than the quantity A few places you might want to start looking:

  • Businesses in your community
  • Businesses in your industry
  • Your professional network

It might feel overwhelming when you start looking for a strategic business partner, but here are 3 tips to help you be successful in your search.

Know your goals before you start looking

Knowing your goals before you start looking for partners is key to not entering mismatched relationships. Write out what you are hoping for your business to find in a partner, and use it for reference as you meet other professionals.

Take the initiative

Sure, there is a chance someone might find your practice and you can grow to be great partners. However, it is unlikely for an opportunity like that to fall into your lap. If you want to find a strong match to enter into a partnership with your business, it is important to take some initiative.

Explore the network you already have

It's entirely possible that you may have business owners already in your professional network who could make great strategic partners. Even if there aren’t any in your immediate circle, there are most likely strong potential partners within one or two connections. Spend some time on your LinkedIn exploring who you may know that could put you in touch with your ideal partners.

Are you ready to find a strategic business partner for your optical practice? We’re a great place to start! Villa Eyewear actively looks for beneficial relationships and strives to be more than a supplier - we provide industry insights and work to empower optical practices like yours to grow. We are made by independents, for independents. Get in contact with us today to learn more about how Villa Eyewear can elevate your practice.