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Practice Management > Building Your Business

How Many Alliances Do You Need?

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As we move forward this month piecing together your game plan for implementing strategic alliances into your marketing plan, one question you may have is, “How many strategic alliances do I actually need?” That’s a great question, and the answer may surprise you.

When I first began building alliances in my practice I remember asking myself the same question, thinking that at the rate I was getting (or not getting) referrals from CPAs I’d probably need 10 to 20 different alliances. My original plan was to surround myself with as many alliances as I could in hopes of generating enough activity that I could eventually walk away from my dependence on direct mail seminars.

As I ventured out and began interviewing potential alliances, I formed relationships with the first four I interviewed. With the approach and value proposition I developed in my practice, I was pleasantly surprised at the response I received. Within 45 days of beginning my search for an alliance I had two CPAs, an enrolled agent and an accountant on board. Like most entrepreneurs my attitude was “create as much opportunity as possible at first and then figure out how to handle the workload after the fact.” I was surprised how quickly I found myself overwhelmed trying to implement the marketing plan I created for four different strategic partners. While my initial thought had been that I would need to form dozens of alliances, I quickly learned that with the right marketing plan, it was more about the number of potential clients within an alliance’s practice than the number of actual alliances.

As an example, the first four relationships I formed had a combined client base of 1,800 clients over the age of 50. Why was this so overwhelming? Because the joint marketing plan I put in place (which we’ll discuss in detail in the coming weeks) flooded my marketing pipeline with warm prospects who already had a level of trust in me because their CPAs trusted me. All of a sudden I went from an empty calendar to sending 1,800 joint newsletters a month, hosting two CPA-sponsored events per month, building email campaigns for my new partners as well as running educational seminars for their clients. With response rates to these events averaging between 35 percent and 45 percent, I quickly reached a point where I had to pull back. I was having more people show up to events than I could effectively follow up with, which led me to restructure the number of events I promised to do each year for my new strategic partners. This also gave me the opportunity to learn the appropriate number of invitations to send to different types of events, ensuring I gave myself enough time to follow up with everyone so that no one fell through the cracks.

1,000 to 1,200 clients

My point this week is simply this: As you’re building your marketing plan, unless you have some junior advisors in your office and some support staff in place, target alliances that have collectively 1,000 to 1,200 clients over the age of 50. For the average advisor this collective pool of CPA/accountant clients will easily keep you busy at a clip of doing one event per month with a room full of warm prospects.

The other side of this coin, as I learned the hard way, is that if you try to grow too fast you run the risk of dropping the ball and not being able to deliver what you promise for an alliance, which is one of the worst things you can do. Remember you can always add new relationships to your practice as you grow and have resources to hire the appropriate staff to handle the growth. In the end you’ll be glad you did.

To really break down the numbers and illustrate the concept covered this week I’ve put together a flow chart to help you determine how many alliances you’ll need to reach your production goals. As a thank you for following the blog and reading through to the end, I’d like to send it to you. This flow chart will help you identify the right number of potential alliances you’ll need based on your closing percentages and your average case size with each client. If you’d like a copy of the flow chart, email me at [email protected], give me some feedback on the blog and I’ll send it to you. Once you have it, you can plug your own numbers in and use it as a guide to help you build your plan.

In closing, for this week’s takeaway, remember a base of 1,000 to 1,200 clients over 50 is all you need. You may find those numbers all in one practice or you may need to form two or three alliances, but it’s the number of potential clients you should be focused on, not the number of alliances. For more articles and information on building successful strategic alliances, visit our website at

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