Collaboration between two or more businesses is an oft-overlooked form of offline marketing, and yet it has the potential to be one of the most impactful. The old adage of two heads are better than one holds true; in the case of small business marketing, two companies are better than one. This is especially true when they combine resources or share expertise to generate new growth opportunities.
I get it; human nature, particularly egos, tends to get in the way and makes it difficult to trust in someone else to deliver business results. One way to overcome this thinking is to shift your perspective. Rather than handing over control of your business, collaboration is a form of networking and can offer many benefits. Potential benefits include:
- Saving money on shared expenses
- Enlarging your customer pool
- Leveraging partner company’s expertise
- Capitalizing on partner’s reputation
Above all, it’s simply a different way of viewing your existing connections with other small businesses and identifying opportunities to form new ones.
Below we provide you with steps that’ll help you identify partner organizations, formulate lasting relationships, and put your collaboration into action.
A friendly reminder that teaming up can bring greater strength than acting alone.
How to Find a Potential Partner Company
The first step to take is to identify some candidate organizations that might want to collaborate with your business. Listed below are common ways small businesses work together, along with illustrative examples:
One piece of advice is to ask yourself the following questions as a starting point: “Who has a product or service that overlaps with my customers’ interests?” “Who in my local area might be open to collaborating and is similarly sized?” “What benefits could we offer one another?” Once you’ve done some self-reflection and understand what type of business you’d want to work with, you can then begin to look outward.
While there’s no exact methodology for finding potential collaborators, good places to look first are online locally-focused sites, like Patch or Yelp, and industry/trade-specific directories, as well as social media platforms. These tools offer a quick overview of who might share customers, but do keep in mind information could be outdated so it’s best to follow up directly. Another source for identifying partner organizations is tapping into your existing network and attending local events. The former hopefully provides a bit of vetting; the latter is a great way to get to know who’s in your local business ecosystem.
Making Your Collaboration Work
After refining your list of businesses you’d like to reach out to, it’s time to get in touch. It may seem intimidating initially, but once you get moving, it’ll become easier and hopefully generate something lasting. Here are a few conversation starters for you and your partner:
What makes this a win-win for both of us? What can we do together to save money? How can we work together to expand our customer base? What expertise/resources can we offer one another?
Putting Your Collaboration into Action
Upon solidifying your collaboration through a contract or an informal agreement, there is one last step to take: put things into action! Your partnership can take many different forms, but the best kind is a voluntary, open-ended relationship that either party can leave whenever they desire. Furthermore, these may exist solely digitally or they may entail offline activities.
We gave a few examples of collaboration between businesses above, but here are more:
- Share a trade booth
- Collaborating on research, case studies, etc.
- Co-branding promo materials
- Referral sourcing
- Badges linking to one another’s sites
- Becoming “certified” by another company
- Forming “preferred supplier” relationships
- Sharing information and advice
- Co-hosting an event, happy hour, meet-up
- Content creation for social media