I was recently asked “When business owners are promoting other businesses as part of networking, how can you keep authenticity?  Doesn’t it come down to “I promote your business so you promote mine?”
In many respects, business owners promoting each other has a “quid pro quo” feel to it.  It’s easy to fall into that trap.
Here’s the issue: who benefits from this type of relationship?  The customer or the business owner?
That test for whom we recommend should be similar values, not mutual back-scratching.  The point of promoting another business to our customers is that the recommended service will produce excellent results and save our customer from searching high-and-low for that service on their own.
Our customers will trust our recommendation because they trust us.  Because we are good, they expect that those we promote will also be good — similar to us in effort and results.
What happens if those we recommend fail to achieve the customer’s goal or satisfy them?  It will bounce back on us.  It will change how they think about our business.  It may even cost us future business.
As business owners, we should think of mutual promotion more like a mirror: a reflection on us, a reflection of us. It is not enough to be mutual back-scratchers.  Make sure that those you recommend are similar to you in values, business philosophy, effort, delivery, and value.  That is how customers will see it.

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