Market Together for Mutual Support

Sharing specialist skills becomes possible as trust develops between businesses.  They may meet specifically for mutual support or else they may have a common interest, such as sharing a building.  This post takes this further and suggests possibilities for closer collaboration.

Giving and Receiving Mutual Support

I almost left the word “mutual” out of the title of this post because it is possible for support to be one way.  A carer offers support and may receive little in return.  A business-owner might offer support to another business out of friendship or to a relative and not seek anything in return.

There’s no problem with one-way support but it is not the topic of this post.  Mutual support is the point, the goal, of collaboration.  The idea is all businesses that engage in collaborative marketing benefit from their work together.  There is no guarantee of success, of course but the aim is to find opportunities for mutual benefit.

Imagine a group of businesses have worked together for a period.  They have viewed each other’s marketing campaigns and provided feedback.  They have exchanged specialist skills and assisted each other with aspects of their marketing campaigns.  Now they are ready to launch.  Are there possibilities for mutual support?

This will depend on the nature of the group.  Similar businesses may have a lot to offer each other but may compete for similar markets.  Very different businesses may not compete but their markets may not be relevant for all the businesses present.

How Support Works

Ask each other: how can you help get my message out?  Pool ideas in a positive way.  You are seeking win-win strategies.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Shared mailing lists – this is possibly the most straightforward possibility. Each business prepares an email and the others circulate it to their mailing list.  The message should include a link to a landing page so that if someone responds from one business they can sign up to show interest in another.  If someone has a few hundred people on their list, only a few are likely to be interested in another business.  If they can opt to sign up for the new business’ list, they can receive emails from the new business too.  A note from the original business may help if the people on their lists trust them.
  • Recommendations – circulating an email to people on your list recommends another business. The email could include a request to recipients to pass on the email to people they know who may be interested.  But recommendations can happen informally.  Most people can carry a few flyers for a few favoured businesses and make referrals when there are opportunities.  There are many variants on distributing printed material such as flyers and posters.  Discuss possibilities together and get beyond asking people to carry them around to pass out as they see fit.
  • Joint ventures – affiliate schemes may be possible, where each business receives something in return for every business that signs up through their contacts. Other possibilities might be special offers from the other businesses when someone signs up for one of them.
  • Joint packages might be another possibility. Here two or more businesses offer the same package as part of their portfolio of packages.  If the customer opts for the joint package, the participating businesses collaborate for its delivery.

Isolation and Collaboration

In-depth exploration of mutual approaches to marketing can be rewarding.  Marketing a business is always hard work and made harder by the isolation many business owners experience.  Collaboration helps find support short of employing staff.  Even with staff, collaboration with other businesses is still valuable.

Marketing is always risky but there are steps you can take to reduce risk and use time and money effectively.  A lot depends on being able to identify opportunities and move swiftly to take advantage of them.  This becomes easier if you have done the foundational work on your business.  Paradoxically, to increase speed of business growth you need to slow down your marketing.  Next time: the power of slow marketing!

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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