Each month we’re focusing on a topic that’s essential for a happy and successful business. This is number 7 of our 12Cs of Marketing articles.
Before Social Media, the vibe I used to get from networking was that I should view similar businesses to me as competitors. Now I am excited when there is a similar business to me in the room, as I know there are opportunities for collaboration – or at the very least, a good chat with an understanding professional about industry topics!
Collaboration with other businesses enables our business to grow. It can be much simpler to work out an agreement with someone who is already experienced and ready to deliver what you need, than by looking inward to solutions such as employing staff or trying to do it all yourself at the cost of other ventures.
It can create more leads, more exposure, better solutions (two heads are better than one!) and be more fun to deliver!
Choosing the right partner
It’s important to align with businesses with similar brand values to you. Do some research on their experience, customer feedback and how they market themselves. Do you like and respect who you will be working with?
Responsibilities and processes
Ensure you know who is doing what and by when. Project management is essential. Perhaps set up some shared spreadsheets to plan out the work involved so no assumptions are made. Set up written agreements before going ahead.
Here’s five ways you can collaborate:
We know what we don’t like doing – and it’s usually the tasks we are not good at! Firstly, outsource these. It will save you money in the long term and be a weight off your shoulders.
Next, look at where else you are spending your time, such as Marketing. Are you trying to build or update your own website? Do your own social media? Design your own logo and business cards? Pass these on to a marketing professional who will do them to a better standard and in half the time!
Book-keeping is a never-ending process, it always seems to be month end! Get a book-keeper to do the day to day running of your accountants and an accountant to deal with the end of year stuff. This has saved me a lot of time, stress and money and I’m learning from them too.
Although it can be fun to try and learn things for yourself, don’t spend too much of your time doing this when you could be spending that time on earning instead. Relinquish control! Learn to BRIEF what you want and let the professionals deliver it for you.
2. Joint ventures
Are you running out of time to deliver on projects? Look at collaborating with similar professionals where you can share the profit. You may not make as much money that time around, but hey, you’ll fit more projects in, so you can keep meeting your timescales and growing your customer base.
Maybe you have an amazing idea that would fit with your business but you don’t have the expertise or infrastructure to do it. Go and meet up with the larger business that can help you deliver it!
If you are travelling a lot to meet clients, consider a joint venture with a similar business in that area who can help maintain that relationship for you. You can refer each other based on location or skillset and make a commission from the referral instead, giving you time to focus on clients closer to home. This enables you both to grow your businesses and earn, with less stress.
3. Affiliate schemes
You can make a commission simply by promoting someone else’s service to your customers. This can be through an agreement between parties or by using online links. A simple email to your list recommending another professional’s offering could earn you a percentage of their profit! Simples.
4. Promotions and competitions
Create an offer or competition which appeals to your audience that can be delivered by a collaborating company. For example, offer a spa day with your top package, which is being given to you at a cheaper price (or free!) from your local health club. Both companies can promote the offer on social media and their websites and to their email list, giving both businesses more exposure.
Really consider your audience and your brand here. What would your customers like to receive? Perhaps there’s a local business or brand they love that you can collaborate with.
Also think carefully about the company you want to partner with. Are they in alignment with your brand in terms of price and reputation? Why would the fulfilling company want to partner with you; what can you offer which is of value to them?
5. Upsells and referrals
Perhaps where your service ends, another business could pick up. Perhaps you design business cards but don’t print them. Photographers take images but need developers. Insurance brokers could refer customers to a solicitor and vice versa. Collaborate here and you can increase your offering to the client by white-labelling their service, or earn from the referral to your new trusted colleague.
How and why do you collaborate with other businesses? Share your stories with us!
P.S. You can find out more about collaboration on our Pinterest board.