In 2007 I started a music school.

Together with my family, we started the business as a means to make ends meet. Since we had certifications in classical music and knew there was a demand for music classes – we thought it would be a good idea.

This was the time before iPads and iPhones.

With less screen time, parents were sending their kids to music classes. Well, not so much these days.

Nobody knew us.

And so, like any new business – nobody knew us.

So we did what we know. The first marketing strategy we did was to hang banners (illegally) around the neighborhood.

We did this at night to avoid being caught in the act. And had to do it quite frequently – as the banners would get taken down by the local authorities (MPPP then). We did this so much, that the council even called the number on the banner and gave us a good warning.

That was funny.

The second strategy was printing out brochures at RM0.05 per piece – and hand-delivering them to the houses around the neighborhood.

Strangely, these strategies worked. We got a few students, and the music school is off to a start.

Scaling up.

Getting 3-4 student intakes per week is cool, but it wasn't enough to sustain the business.

We needed something that will get us, students, faster.

By chance, a friend introduced me to a networking group and I ended up joining Business Networking International (BNI). In BNI, we meet with other 30-40 non-competing businesses every week at 6:30 AM and pass business opportunities to each other.

It was through BNI that I started forging partnerships with other businesses.

  • There were times we performed for free at our partners' annual dinners and events.
  • There were times we recorded jingles and music for our partners for free.
  • We constantly gave away free music classes.
We were promoting a partner's glasses during this performance – like models!

Then things started to click.

People started referring students to us. The phone started ringing more. Our student base grew exponentially from just a handful to nearly 200+ in under 8 months.

Partnerships = leverage.

As I look back, we grew because of partnerships.

Not ads. Not SEO. Although SEO did give me a lot of traction later on.

Even if was a small partnership deal or event, it slowly built up our brand. And once the ball started rolling, word-of-mouth marketing took place. We no longer had to hang illegal banners.

Essentially we were tapping into our partners' audiences.

Your turn.

One of the best marketing strategies you can do today is to partner up with other non-competing businesses. Find a special angle to work together. That way, you tap into their audience and grow your brand.

It's not easy to strike a great win-win partnership of course. You'll get bad, unsupportive, and unresponsive partners. But it's all part of the game we call – business.

Who do you want to partner with – and how will you reach out to them? Discuss in the comment section. And subscribe to DailyCMO to receive stories like this in your inbox, along with more good stuff.

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