In a business climate that is cutthroat at times, we have often found that collaboration is the secret to success. And, without wanting to sound like a children’s television show, working together has been an asset to strategic marketing for us at eLearning Mind (ELM), a business dedicated to revolutionizing learning and development (L&D). By aligning with like-minded brands for events, communication, and even media publications, any company can reap the benefits of teamwork across the corporate divide.
It is not just about public relations. Introducing collaboration as a marketing strategy can help instantly grow your customer base without spending a ton of money, a perfect plan for cash-strapped startups. It might not be the most mainstream marketing method, but I have seen our company swell with new contacts, a larger audience and even more expertise.
Could collaboration be the piece missing from your current marketing plan?
The Benefits of Making Alliances
Collaborating with other businesses does not just reward your company; it is an excellent way to position yourself as a newbie company among larger and more successful companies. After all, if you are having lunch at the popular table, it automatically makes you one of the cool kids. And the benefits extend far beyond ego-stroking and event invitations.
1. Collaborating makes for cheap marketing. When you do not have a ton of cash in your marketing coffers, collaboration allows you to yoke yourself to businesses that have more marketing power. Inviting a larger firm to post on your industry blog, for example, garners good press and means you will benefit from two audience sets.
2. Collaboration introduces new expertise. You might be the best in the biz, but you are probably not the best in every biz. Collaborating with another company allows you to learn from top execs’ expertise and experience to highlight new trends, identify areas of growth and show your customers all that you have to offer.
3. Collaboration is quick. Unless you are lucky enough to go viral, marketing takes time. Teaming up with another company speeds up the process by introducing you to new customers and contacts. Content, word-of-mouth and even social media marketing are exponentially faster when two companies are addressing the same event or campaign simultaneously.
Think of collaboration as your secret marketing weapon: sharing ideas, meeting influencers in your industry and doubling down on your advertising campaigns benefits you both.
Collaboration in Action
At ELM, we have learned that the best way to make new friends in business was simply taking the initiative and offering an arena. In August, for example, we launched an infographic dedicated to San Diego’s growing tech community. Calling it a “love letter to San Diego tech,” we worked alongside SEED San Diego to develop a story using the data, and ELM’s graphic designer brought the facts to life with compelling visuals. We then teamed up with BAM Communications to deliver the infographic around the web. Not only did the partnerships with SEED and BAM Communications allow us to connect with other companies, it gave ELM the chance to shine a light on San Diego’s tech community, giving it the recognition it deserves.
Reaching out to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) was another collaborative win for ELM. The ATD arranges more formal conferences and other small-scale events in New York City, and we went from being ATD members to hosting an ATD event to hosting several ATD events.
ELM also routinely holds Holland & Sherry Bespoke partner events. They are low-key, casual get-togethers held in the Holland & Sherry retail store, where we get to mingle with ELM partners while they enjoy either being fitted for a custom shirt or mixing up a custom perfume or cologne. The event successfully mixes business with pleasure to solidify the relationships we have made with other companies over the last couple of years. So when it comes time to collaborate, we already have a strong pool of potential businesses with whom we want to work.
It is true that hosting these events takes a bite out of the marketing budget, but we see it as a long-term investment. Hosting events and meetups has helped us strengthen relationships and marketing opportunities with other companies. The best part? By focusing on what we can give other businesses, they are more than happy to return the favor.
Aligning your business with others does not need to be a formal affair. Just being willing to reach out and connect goes a long way. Here are a few low-maintenance ways to start making friends in your industry:
–Arrange for meetups. We love events and meetups as a way to mingle with like-minded professionals and gauge the possibility for future collaboration. Whether it is a lunch or a more formal get-together, meetups allow you to bridge your industry through common goals.
–Stay in touch. Social media is an excellent way to reach out and stay in touch with other businesses. Whether it is a Slack channel created just for idea-sharing, a private group on Facebook or even a branded hashtag to encourage discussion on Twitter, use social media as the ultimate brainstorming session and to test the waters of corporate compatibility.
–Share media publications. Sharing media publications like infographics and blog posts with other companies allows us to pool our knowledge bases in order to create the best end product. Collaborating on media projects also allows you the benefit of doubling the channels and shares when it comes time for publication.
Breaking into previously untapped markets and strategically inviting the biggest players to take part positions your business for a larger potential client pool, increased brand recognition and an expanded network of knowledge than if you had arranged events independently. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” And using collaboration as a marketing tool has ensured that we always have friends in the right places.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Alan Levine