Third party/soft money is when a third party is actually paying YOU for a product/service for their client. It can be a great client acquisition or client retention strategy for them and for you.
Look at the restaurant/bar biz, you see the beverage companies and beer/liquor companies providing weekly promotional posters listing live bands, specials etc...they provide bars/restaurants with branded table tent holders, napkins etc....Someone is getting some nice sign business there.
This could apply to IM services. Look at a commercial bank that wants to get new business customers to open up payroll/business accounts. Why not work w/ the bank on a wholesale price so they offer your basic website FREE to their new clients? Or a free mobile site? What ever services you are offering, come up w/ a package. Or the bank offer your service to their current customers as loyalty play, or if they sign up for some new bank offering.
Benefits to the bank, is being more "sticky" to the customer as they are providing additional value by giving them a website or whatever service by you. Benefit to you is you are basically 'outsourcing' your sales team and getting paid. Additional benefits for you are the bank customers once getting the 3rd party 'freebie' may want to contact you for add-ons, additional IM services. It's a great warm intro for you since they got a 'free' service from you.
The flip side to this is say you approach a restaurant about a mobile site and they are hesitant on the budget. You could suggest to them to run the fee by their important suppliers to chip in as a sponsor. Those suppliers could sponsor the mobile site and gain exposure that way. End result, you get paid, and the customer gets a free mobile site. A strategy like that gives your higher price less resistance since the supplier to that restaurant isn't going to quibble as much since they are approached by the restaurant who is already spending $$$ with them.
To make it easy for the restaurant, come up with a standard proposal form for them to send to their top suppliers explaining the cost and benefits etc...
Some major price barriers can be broken this way. My first experience was in the food business when a 10-20 unit chain customer of mine sent me a proposal to feature my product on one of those laminated card flip table tent. For the rock bottom price of $6,000!!! A total ripoff as they were just 4x6 laminated cards w/ a photo of my product, incorporated on a flip card table tent for their tables. They had a total of 10 freakin cards including drinks, apps, desserts, with each slot they charged $6,000 for a total of $60,000! I got some benefit as diners were more likely to buy my product featured. But, You know the restaurant chain and the table tent provider made bank as the actual cost of laminated photo cards and a plastic flip card table tent rack was almost nothing. This could be YOU making bank.
These sales strategies can be applied to nearly every business. The basics are:
1. utilize other companies sales teams by offering them a way to get new clients, and retain existing clients by giving them a wholesale deal on whatever services you want to offer to their clients/potential clients, so they can offer them to acquire new customers or get more embedded in current customers. This can apply to every sales force.
2. always bring up the profit center idea to your customers by helping them pitch their suppliers to kick in the money to buy YOUR services. It's a great pressure play by a customer to get you paid by 3rd party, their suppliers. It could be a profit center for your customer as well. There is a benefit to the suppliers as well, by strengthening relationships, being more sticky by paying for these services, keeping out competitors, and getting advertising exposure.