Sometimes the size of our business restricts us reaching the potential clients and customers we want to win. Increasingly though collaboration amongst small businesses is becoming popular with many creating complementary offers or ‘getting together’ for joint promotions, sales events and the like. By pooling resources, they are reaching a bigger audience, securing more sales and challenging the domination of larger competitors.
Packing a bigger punch
In my home town a number of retailers are passionate about defeating the ‘size’ obstacle and are definitely benefiting from collaboration. They promote complementary offers in each other’s shops – for example the toy shop often runs promotions and joint incentives with a children’s clothing store and vice versa. Together they pool marketing resources and offer a more attractive and extended product range to their customers.
In fact, this simple form of collaboration and working together has become more sophisticated over the years. The retail and business community have joined forces to put on highly popular festivals and markets that attract more customers and visitors to the town. In fact in July last year the annual Food Festival brought in over 9,000 visitors and gave retailers and local businesses a welcome boost in a difficult trading environment.
The importance of ‘complementary’ in collaboration
The trick to making collaboration work is to forge links with businesses that complement your own offering. It’s easier to build collaboration if there’s a synergy between your customer/client profiles and your product/service ranges. And when you do find a complementary business, look for ways to:
- Add further value to both sets of your customers – eg joint promotional offers, loyalty rewards, competitions and special events
- Explore gaps in each other’s market which the other could help to fill
- See what customer groups you could try and attract by running joint marketing/promotion – eg in advertising, digital media, sponsorship or by sharing stands at business exhibitions and trade shows
- Pool resources to get more marketing for your money or even to improve your processes or distribution.
Keeping the collaboration fresh
In finding out more about each other’s businesses look at ways to keep the collaboration fresh and vibrant throughout the year. Sometimes businesses create one initiative together and expect that to generate a year’s worth of business leads and custom. Instead you invariably have to plan a number of initiatives to make the collaboration worthwhile over a period of time and to both parties.
So look at the year ahead – what collaborative measures could you do over the next 12 months? Does your product or service range benefit from any seasonal aspect – can you intensify your joint marketing, offers, events in the run up to these periods?
Making it work for the both of you.
And it’s important that the benefits of collaboration don’t become skewed to just one of the parties. That’s why it’s worthwhile keeping in regular contact with each other to see if both of you are reaping similar levels of return. It may well be that one benefits at one stage and the other later – so look at the returns you are both getting over a sensible timeframe (say 3months) and evaluate the whole picture.
Support each other
And it goes without saying that if you are trying to win more customers together then you both have to commit to doing a great job. The minute one half starts letting customers down, the collaboration will be doomed and two business reputations could be damaged in the process.
Some examples of collaboration….
Still not sure how collaboration could help your business? See if any of these examples could help…
- Running a joint loyalty scheme
- Creating a customer magazine/newsletter together
- Speaking at each other’s events and profiling each other’s expertise
- Linking to each other’s websites
- Promoting each other via social media
- Advertising together or jointly sponsoring something
- Exhibiting together at a lifestyle event, business exhibition or trade show
- Pitching for a business opportunity together by grouping your expertise, service and/or product ranges
- Creating joint customer events, evenings, tastings, samplings, seminars or workshops
- Securing joint PR
- Targeting customers or clients who would benefit from both of your offerings
These are just a few ideas and we’d love to hear of examples where collaboration has certainly helped your business get a bigger slice of the cake.
About the author: Michelle Daniels, Managing Director – Extended Thinking
An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a chartered marketer and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing. www.extendedthinking.com