Why business collaborations are marketing gold

Alliances, marketing partnerships, collaborations.  Call them what you will.  This method of growing a business is one of the simplest (and cheapest) about – and one of the most underutilised.

I regularly get approached to speak about this and it’s my very favorite marketing topic quite simply because it’s a way to grow massively and oftentimes without any advertising dollars spent.

For some reason, however, it seems to be daunting for most business owners.  The thought of having to approach someone and ask if there’s a way to work together is something that most small business owners think is only the right of the “big boys”.  But that’s far from the truth.

In my opinion, the real reason behind the reluctance is that a small business owner may think that they just don’t have enough to offer – but, again, that’s often a fallacy.  And that’s also assuming you know what the other business wants.

It seems that a lot of the thought around collaborations is that it’s all about swapping client databases and, in order for you to do that, your database must be as big as theirs.  Again, not true.  Sometimes alliances and collaborations having nothing to do with databases – but they do have something to do with swapping things.

Just recently, our company, Workible,was part of a massive collaboration that saw our user base grow by 26% in just one week.  We weren’t just collaborating with one business, we did it with a whole community.

This collaboration came about from a need – but that’s not unusual.

In fact, here’s the kicker – they all do. 

And it was about solving the needs of another group – our collaboration partner’s customers.  The client we collaborated with, a major regional shopping centre group, was expanding it’s centre and, as part of trying to keep their clients happy during a period of disruption, they asked how they could help them. There were two predominant suggestions – get us access to more foot traffic and make it easier for us to find staff.  And that’s where we came in.

Because Workible is perfectly targeted to these types of businesses – predominantly retailers – we were the perfect solution to solve their clients’ problems.  Initial discussions centered around how we could help the whole community and that opened us up to local TAFEs, the university, job services agencies and a range of other people in the community – all of whom had a need and all of whom could help solve some of the problems for a least one of the other collaboration partners.  This win-win attitude ultimately led to a whole community collaboration around jobs, job creation and getting people into work.  We even had the Lord Mayor at the launch event, singing the praises of this initiative.

The Centre helped their retailers, we helped them and the job service agencies to connect them with jobs and we got our own benefits.  The result for us was the staggering 26% growth but what was more staggering was the marketing cost of the collaboration to us.  It was zero!

All it took was a bit of our time to get an insane amount of growth in an equally insane (and short) period of time.

If you ever doubt the power of a collaboration, don’t.  And if you ever wonder about how to get one started, I’ve already given you the clue.  Ask the questions – “how can I help?”.