Market Together to Share Specialist Skills

Last Wednesday, I opened the topic of collaborative marketing.   I explored feedback and suggested there is real value to your business when you offer feedback to other businesses and receive feedback from them.  As relationships deepen, it is possible to offer specialist skills.

Giving and Receiving Specialist Skills

It may be you would ordinarily charge for specialist skills.  But is it right to charge a group that offers support for your business in exchange for support for theirs?

The principle in such a group, is to offer specialist skills without charge.  By all means, if you commit a lot of time to helping someone, point out the costs in moving focus from your business to their’s.

The aim of collaboration is mutual benefit for all involved. The priority is to each person’s business first.  The ethic is one of self-interest.  I help you because in doing so, my business benefits.  Businesses work together for mutual benefit.

No-one needs to keep detailed records about what each person does for each other person.  However, there will from time to time be work that comes up that requires substantial commitment of time and resources.

So,  get agreement from collaborators about how to handle big jobs.  This can be by exchange of services, paying perhaps at a reduced rate for services or referral to someone outside the group.  There is probably no need to have hard and fast rules but it helps to know what the options are.

Why Specialisation Works

So, why does sharing specialist skills work?  This happens where trust grows in a group, so its members commit to supporting each other’s businesses.  These are informal arrangements that fall short of joint ventures.

  • Sharing skills is an opportunity to develop new skills. Imagine there is a demand for a particular skill in a group.  Maybe one member of the group sees an opportunity to support their own business by learning the skill.  It is an opportunity to practice new ideas.
  • You may find people in your group offer specialist help you have never considered using for your own business. If they offer something you have not considered, you need to apply the test: is this something of potential value or a distraction?  Listen to what they say.  They know their method and may see opportunities in your business that you can’t see yourself.   So, be ready to receive specialist help, even if at first you don’t see its relevance. Which leads into the next point:
  •  Collaboration extends experience.  It is not just narrow benefits added to your business but new possibilities from extending your experience as a business-owner.
  • If you can provide business support for co-business-owners, they can provide social proof by showing others what you can do, writing testimonials and when they speak to others about your business. High quality opportunities to show what you can do can be really valuable.

Sharing skills requires a degree of trust.  People need to know they are not wasting time but also need to be confident they can leave you to prepare something to help their business.  As trust grows, it becomes possible to go further and provide increasing support for others.

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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