By Michael Deane
The collaboration of businesses who share a market or have a similar target audience has the potential to help both parties save time and money, learn a lot about themselves and how they are perceived, and generally, prosper through mutual support. Of course, it also has the potential to ruin you.
While these kinds of relationships are formed with a bit more spontaneity in the world of small business than in the domain of huge enterprises, they are always purpose-driven, while at the same time being very loosely defined. You are not technically partners, but you pursuing similar goals and targeting roughly the same audience. You don’t offer the same product, but are catering to the same need.
Even if it’s not on a more permanent basis, but just for the duration of one campaign or project, you need to choose your friends carefully. You need to be able to anticipate potential conflicts of interest, problems in synchronizing the efforts of two (or more) unrelated businesses, and need to be able to recognize and honor your responsibilities in this loose partnership.
That being said, if you already know of a business run by people whose integrity and competence you can trust, which has enough of a connection to what you’re doing to be able to help you out, but not so much that you have to be wary of them stealing your customers; you might benefit from reaching out to them and informing them on some of the following points.
You Get a Pre-targeted Audience
While these alliances can be built in other ways, they usually involve some kind of vertical integration and looking at who is just before or after you in the journey of your consumers. This means that by partnering with someone, you instantly get at least a share of their audience (as long as your campaign makes sense, of course).
You could look at this as some kind of a two-way referral program. A business consultant in league with an accounting agency could slip them in when recommending accounting services; while in turn they could recommend him to their clients in need of the services he offers. If this sounds a bit duplicitous, it doesn’t have to be so in the slightest. As long as you choose your associates carefully, you shouldn’t have a problem vouching for their reliability.
You Get a Fresh Perspective
Depending on how related your industries are, the amount and relevance of information you and your partner might be able to share with each other could almost border on insider trading. If you are relatively close to each other in the consumer journey, you could both benefit immensely by getting a digest of years of observing the same thing from different angles.
You will know about some of the habits of your shared audience, they’ll know about others. You’ll be able to predict some of the quirks of the market, they’ll be prepared for others.
While this trust is often predicated upon you simply not being similar enough to be competitors, don’t get too paranoid when forming relationships of this kind. The more similar and related you are, the more you stand to learn from each other.
You are Making Connections
Business is about meeting people, and meeting people is never smoother and more organic than when you actually have shared interests. When entering this kind of collaboration, you won’t be exposed just to the other business’ audience, you’ll also get noticed by their partners, by influencers noticing them, etc.
Not all of them will be perfect for you in terms of relevance, but a huge portion of it will. Your tenuous connection is of course, not an invitation for you to start pestering those people straight off the bat, but even getting your foot in the vicinity of their door might do you a world of good at some point in the future. At the same time, don’t let the fact that you’ve reached them this way prevent you from having as normal an interaction with them as you would in other circumstances. Remember, social networks are not here to replace basic human interaction, but to facilitate it. If you treat them as a means for promotion instead of a means of communication, any exposure you get there is as likely to hurt you as it is to help you.
The point of pursuing this kind of temporary partnerships is sharing the burden. Since the message you each need to individually convey is somewhat narrower than what is supposed to be your joint statement, neither of you will be cutting their work in half.
However, different approaches to similar problems and different experiences with the same audience can sometimes be combined into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. We’ll let you do the math.
Michael Deane is a marketing executive at Accountant Online, where he works on managing campaigns and reaching new audiences. He is a firm believer in cooperation as opposed to competition, and is always ready to jump into any debate on the subject.