I posted this article about collaboration as a guest blog earlier this year. It was called "No brand is an island" because no business can survive on it's own. There are several businesses who do similar things to us, offer a close substitute, or something that people think is the same. Even if what we do is unique or rare, we can't do everything so ALWAYS need other people to help us deliver.
Yet we're taught to see other businesses as competitors. To fiercely guard our knowledge, our skills and keep people away so they don't steal our edge, our USPs, our clients.
It's a competitive world. Barriers to entry are falling away everywhere you look. Competition comes from the most unexpected and unpredictable sources. So it feels like we need to compete to stay ahead.
But there's a way to win - whether it's about winning customers, hearts, minds or business.
COLLABORATION. Finding like-minded, complementary businesses even if (sometimes especially if) they are similar.
Here are 3 reasons why collaboration is key:
It extends your reach
Unless you personally know everyone who is interested in buying your product or service, collaboration is a great way to reach new audiences. Better yet, if you collaborate to reach new audiences, you can benefit from the existing, warm relationship your chosen partner has with them.
It enhances your knowledge
You don't know everything there is to know about your business area or field. And if you think you do, it's likely because you are out of touch or out of date. Sorry. The good news is that there are people out there who know things you don't and equally need stuff you know loads about. By coming together, you not only fill the gaps but may find new ideas and answers to previously unsolved problems.
It allows you to focus on what you do best
As small businesses, we have to prioritise. We have finite resources. So we need to work with people. At Brand by Me, we collaborate so that we can focus on brand strategy and work with partners to help our clients deliver it successfully. We constantly connect with like minded businesses so that when the right brief comes in, we know we can provide a great service without taking time away from what we do best.
So today, who are you going to collaborate with? Who shares your vision? Who just 'gets' your values and personality? Once you've found your prospective like minded partners, go network in the places where they hang out, both on and offline. I tend to use LinkedIn, networking and industry events for this.
Finally, collaboration is two-way. Both parties must add real and tangible value to each others businesses.
So the first question to ask is not, 'how can I benefit from this relationship?' Rather ask what can I bring to it?