Retail Strategy: 5 Business Partnerships You Might Not Have Thought of

5 Business Partnerships You Might Not Have Thought of (But Should): James P. Fleming of Camelot Consulting Group reveals several non-traditional marketing approaches that can pay off for lighting showrooms.  


While most retailers readily acknowledge traditional advertising is not delivering the degree of new business they’d like or need, few explore unconventional marketing approaches that can. Developing and managing mutually beneficial marketing alliances with other businesses, and “preferential relationships” with interior designers, architects, electricians, real estate agents, and other home building and remodeling industry professionals is a time-proven strategy for generating ongoing referrals and new business. While many “know this,” very few do it!


Here are five of what I call “referral source targets” with some execution strategies to set your sights on. These five groups interface daily with the same demographic you are trying to target with your newspaper/radio/TV ads, but their prospects have a much greater likelihood to be in the “buy cycle” for the very products you sell. 


  • Real Estate Agents and Brokers

These professionals are on the phone and in the office and car DAILY with highly qualified prospects for lighting and home décor showrooms! Develop a gift certificate program that offers real estate agents a tangible benefit to offer their clients with no expense to them. I call that a WIN/WIN/WIN! 

One program I’ve implemented with retail clients is to design, print, and distribute $100 gift cards in the format of a $100 bill. While I recommend that the $100 be good towards a purchase of $500 or more, you can modify it to increase the response.  On the back of the card are lines which allow the real estate agent to fill in the clients name and theirs: 

(ie: A Gift for:_______________  Compliments of:_______________  Expires:____________ ) 


TIP!  For this program to be successful, you must be committed to visiting your local real estate offices to schedule a morning “bagel & breakfast” or “sandwich & lunch” appointment for meeting with their staff to present the program. At the same time, share information and education on the many ways lighting can enhance a home’s value and position it to be seen in its best light to sell. 


  • Electricians

These folks are all too often overlooked and ignored as an excellent source of referrals and business for lighting showrooms. Developing an outside sales effort supported with referral gift cards, direct mail, telemarketing, in-store events, and branded premiums (i.e. caps, tape measures, cups, etc.) can increase your success with generating more business and referrals with electricians. 


Tip! With a commission reward program in place, they can actually become an extension of your sales force.


  • Remodeling & Home Furnishings Retailers

Developing and managing preferential relationships, “gift card” referral programs, design trend seminars, and sales events with furniture, flooring, kitchen & bath, window & door, etc. retailers are excellent sources of ongoing referrals for “buy cycle” prospects. 

The ways in which to execute programs with these retailers can vary, yet basically consist of visiting the store to speak with the owner/manager to suggest and discuss ways in which you can engage one another’s sales staff for referrals plus customers for purchases. 


Tip! Developing market-wide sales events between your stores is great synergy. 


  • Interior Designers and Architects

These professionals have a significant amount of influence on where homeowners shop and what they purchase. Because of that, it is of real lasting value to proactively develop, nurture, and manage relationships with them. How? While there are many ways, one of the best is to invest in an outside salesperson to call on them regularly and provide presentations on new products from markets, new design trends, and emerging technologies.

Another strategy is to utilize the same gift card program I described for real estate agents. Who wouldn’t want to give clients a $100 gift which costs them nothing? Another is to host in-store events. 


Tip! The key “take away” here is: DON’T GIVE UP! Try, test, adapt…try, test, adapt…until you succeed!


  • Community & Professional Trade Associations

Get actively involved in your local business associations such as Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and others in addition to the professional trade associations that operate in your market for real estate agents, architects, interior designers, kitchen & bath professionals, remodelers &  home builders. Listed below are links to these associations where you can find your local chapter and take action today! 



Making a sustained effort to become an active and visible member of complementary associations and groups can make a substantial impact on your business – and your life. Get involved! Make a contribution! Enjoy life-long friendships! While you may have tried before and failed, others have tried and succeeded greatly. How about you give trade associations another try and be FULLY INVESTED in the effort? 

While I did not include home builders here, they surely can provide you with business and referrals. However, I believe the five groups I listed have the potential to provide you with even more and better leads.


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