No brand is an island.
For most of us, there are several businesses who do something similar, offer a close substitute, or at least do something that people think is the same. And even if we do something unique or rare, we can’t do everything so we need other people to help us deliver it.
But 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. And when competition comes from the most unexpected and unpredictable sources, how can your brand hope to stay ahead? To continue to win – whether it’s winning customers, hearts, minds or business?
The answer is collaboration. Finding like-minded, complementary businesses to partner with, even if (sometimes especially if) they work in a similar field. Here are 3 reasons why collaboration is vital for your business.
1. It extends your reach
Unless you personally know everyone who is or will ever be interested in buying your product or service, you will need to grow your reach. And collaboration is a great way to reach new audiences - whether geographically, or through new channels. Better yet, if you collaborate to reach new audiences, you can benefit from the existing, warm relationship your chosen partner has with them.
2. 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 And if you think you do, it's likely because you are out of touch or out of date.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 who know the things that you don't and need the things you know loads about. By coming together, you don’t only fill in the gaps but you may just find new answers to previously unsolved problems.
3. It allows you to focus on what you do best
As small businesses, we must prioritise. We have finite resources. Yet we don't want to say no to work or turn people away. At my business, Brand by Me, we collaborate so that we can focus on brand strategy by working 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 comprehensive offer without taking time away from what we do best.
So, today, think about who you want to collaborate with. Use your brand to identify prospective partners, and then network in the places where they hang out. Reach out both on and offline - I use LinkedIn, Twitter chats and networking and industry events.
One more thing. Collaboration is two-way. Both parties must add real and tangible value to each other's businesses. So the first question you ask is not 'How can I benefit from this relationship?'. Rather ask ‘What can I bring to it?’