Before becoming a buzzword tossed about by corporate types in stuffy suits, “synergy” (from the Greek preposition syn and the verb ergon lit. meaning "working together") was a word used in science to explain the moment in which the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Here’s a simple illustration: 1 + 1 = 3
This concept is second nature in business. We all know how synergy works. You and I partner together to bring each other business, and we each end up doing much better than we ever would have on our own.
For community managers, this is huge. If you hook up with a fellow manager in a sympathetic industry, you can help each other reach new heights that neither of you could ever have reached alone.
The trouble is, how do you make that happen when your community is brand new and unproven? How do you convince potential partners that you’re worth the trouble?
Here are 8 easy steps that will get you on your way, today:
1. Brainstorm Sympathetic Industries
What does an ideal partner look like for you? If you’re in real estate, then that partner may be a mortgage lender. If you’re in video game development, it may be another developer working with a different genre or platform. Figure out which industries compliment your own and write them down.
2. Find Out Who Influences Your Space
Use a tool like BuzzSumo to see who’s talking about those sympathetic industries. Make a list of the ones who seem to have some measure of clout. But take it easy … don't go after the celebrities and heavy hitters just yet.
3. Read Their Stuff
Research what your potential partners are contributing to the discussion. Read their blogs. Peruse their websites and forums. Get to know their space as much as possible. Do you like what you see?
4. Interact & Become a Part of Their Community
Once you have a conversational knowledge of what your potential partner’s all about, get in there and start interacting. But don’t be a shill; be useful and add something substantial to the conversation. Look for ways to meaningfully engage in their community.
5. Reach Out With Value
Serving is selling. Once you’ve had a chance to connect with people in the community and perhaps even the influencer him or herself, reach out directly with a valuable offer. It may be as simple as the opportunity to write a promotional post for your web site. Creatively look for ways to be helpful. Ask what they’d like in return. Give them a list of benefits.
6. Share Your Vision & Goals
After you’ve solidified yourself as a valuable contact, have a chat with your potential partner about your goals. If you’ve convinced them you could be a real asset, then they’ll gladly have that conversation. Explain how they fit into the picture.
7. Invite Them to Speak to Your Community
I’ve written elsewhere about the value of letting other leaders speak to your community. Not only will you develop stellar new content, but it’s a great way to subtly cross-promote one another.
8. Define the Relationship
After you’ve had a chance to collaborate for a little while, invite your potential partner to “make it official.” No, that doesn’t mean you need to sign a contract in blood or plan your honeymoon. What it means is that you establish an understanding and set of expectations for how you’ll continue to promote one another in the future.
Finding new partners looks a whole lot like building human relationships… because that’s exactly what it is! Get to know people who have a similar interest to you. Interact with them meaningfully. Offer to serve them in whatever capacity you can. And don’t be shy about letting them know how they can help you as well.
We do that kind of thing all the time with friends, family, and coworkers. It’s all about synergy. So, get out there and start doing what you already know intuitively. You’ve got this.