Over the last 5 that I’ve been running my business, there have been key elements vital, not just to my business, but to all the successful businesses I’ve worked with. One of the most powerful is collaboration. As we move into, what I guess can be described as murky waters, I believe collaboration will help stabilise the foundations of our local businesses, organisations and communities. Collaboration with others can help grow customers, your brand and your business’s reputation, whilst potentially help save you money, time and resources.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend the day attending a Mary Portis Masterclass. Mary Portas is the queen of retail. There’s not much she doesn’t know about the high street, but the advice and knowledge she shared goes beyond just retail. Someone did ask her, is the high street dead and she said no - but what is dead is the traditional way we consume. We no longer pop to the shops to buy stuff -because so much can be bought online and that’s not going to change. The high street is serving a different purpose - people are hard wired to be meet and be together. Businesses like farmers markets, coffee shops where people come together are faring well. People are after experiences first, purchasing is becoming even more of an emotional decision
Small businesses don’t have the marketing budgets (or budgets of any sort) compared to the multinationals, but what we can do is look to see who’s on our doorstep, business park or high street and see who shares a similar audience with us, but don’t have competing products. And pool your resource to reach a larger market.
Let me give you an example.
In Sudbury, there’s a men’s clothes shop. It’s now called Modifer Clothing, but at the time it was Black Hanger Clothing.. Their clothes, the time of this promotion, were aimed very much at the younger male audience.All items were under £40 for example. He partnered up with a driving school. Their target market was the same and offered a joint promotion - when his customers spent a certain amount, they would get an exclusive discount off their driving lessons. It cost neither businesses much, but they got exposure to each others relevant audiences
Do you have a passion or support a cause outside your business? Why not let that be part of your business plan?
Many of us support charities and causes. This can be a very effective way to engage with the local community whilst helping a charity you believe in.
Back when I started my businesses, I really needed to get my name and brand out there. I literally had no money for marketing, so I had to be creative. It was suggested, whilst at a networking meeting, to contact the organisers of a local music festival called LeeStock. You can read about it here. LeeStock supports The Willow Foundation. It’s also a charity I support. My partnership with LeeStock has been going for over 5 years now. And, not only has it been a fantastic way to raise my profile, I’ve raised money to help a cause I’m personally passionate about and it’s an event I’m so proud to be associated with,
Collaborating with other businesses gives you the opportunity to offer your clients or customers a long lasting experience, that you might not beable to do on your own
Woodpeckers Nursery, in Sudbury, has had a long standing relationship with care homes in the area. Currently, they have a really good collaborative relationship with Melford Court Care Home. They take the children to the home to meet the residents where they do crafting, sing songs, make pizza. Both the children and the residents get loads from the experience and it’s offering something no other carehome or nursery are doing in the area.
Create compelling stories to give to the media, creating content for your website whilst showcasing your business in a positive light.
A few years ago, I worked quite closely with a local based legal firm. I had been tasked with linking them to the local community and they were very keen to work with the nearby sixth form at Thomas Gainsborough School. The end result, was the first ever sponsored Law Suite at a Sixth Form, with the law firm involved in the curriculum, sharing their expertise about the practicalities of working in law in the classroom and offering work placements within their business. This has given the sixth form a unique selling point for those looking for post 16 education, but for the law firm, it gave me on going PR stories. We organised an official opening, got our local MP, James Cartlige, to open it, invited the press, BBC Radio Suffolk etc. It was a PR success! The story was showcased on BBC Radio Suffolk news bulletins every hour on the hour the following Saturday, as well as having a decent amount of airtime as its own story. It made the local papers across the region and it gave me lots of social media stories.
And my final example, is about getting out there to networking events.
I don’t know how many people attend regular networking events. I appreciate to rock up in a room full of strangers, can fill people with horror. But if you find the right group, that works for you, it will have a positive effect on your business.. And yourself. There are loads of different groups and I go along to as many as I can, to see if it’ll suit my business needs. I never use the groups to do a hard sell, it’s about who I can help, who I can potentially work with or who can potentially work with my clients.
It refers back to what Mary Portas was saying human interaction. We forge deeper and more loyal professional relationships when we meet regularly face to face. And many have developed into loyal customers, friends and collaborators.
These are just 5 benefits of collaboration and networking.But there are so many more. And there’s so much potential.
At the end of the day, we are small businesses and because of such, we have the opportunity to make some great partnerships. We’re not tied to corporate guidelines - we can move quickly, with market trends and respond to our clients needs. But we don’t need to it alone. There’s a lot of talent out there, that we can really benefit from working with.
So we really should
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Member since: 17th March 2014
Hello! I'm Penny from thebestof Sudbury, shouting about the best local businesses from Hadleigh through the Clare. When I'm not doing that, you'll find me knitting socks or tending to my 6 chickens