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services for them; volunteering your time at a charity

they are passionate about or positioning your service

as a benefit they may pass along to their clients.

Here’s an example of how a strategic partner-

ship might work: One of the potential strategic

partners for hair professionals I mentioned is a

realtor. Realtors know everyone moving into and

around your area. They spend lots of time with

their clients and establish trusting relationships.

Moreover, they are always looking for more

clients so they’re most likely open and eager to

establish strategic partnerships for referrals. Iden-

tify the agents with the best reputations in your

town. Approach one and offer complimentary hair

services if they put your information in all of their

“welcome to your new home” packets, including

your card, brochure, and a $20 gift certificate. Of

course, you’ll also keep your ears open to any of

your clients looking to purchase or sell a home.

Minimal work with unlimited potential for return.

A strategic partnership works better than just a

referral program because it’s a business agreement

(even if it’s just a verbal, good-faith arrangement)

that carries weight even if just on one’s conscience.

That realtor is going to think twice every time they

need their hair done or one of their homebuyers

is excited about the gift certificate in their packet

if they know they haven’t upheld their end of the

deal to refer their clients your way. On the other

hand, your regular clients are under no obligation

to ever refer a single person to you no matter how

many times you beg.

Don’t just sit around hoping your existing cli-

ents will tell some friends about you. Take control

of your business and establish some strategic part-

nerships with well-connected members of your

community who have some skin in the game, so

to speak. They understand how hard it is to grow a

business and will appreciate the cross-referral net-

working relationship.

There is no golden key to building a clientele,

but strategic partnerships are worth their weight

in silver. Just keep working your magic behind the

chair and watch those strategic partnerships do

your marketing for you.

Ali Davidson is the Director of Membership for Associated Hair Professionals (AHP), which provides

advanced education, business resources, marketing materials, career support, and liability insurance

to hairstylists and barbers. For more information visit or e