When my grandparents eloped in the 1930s, times were lean. Fortunately, other young couples were in the same boat. My grandma had a skillet; one of her newlywed neighbors had a Dutch oven; and a young mother down the street had a set of cooking pans—so the three women put their heads together and coordinated their weekly dinner menus. When Grandma wanted to make soup, she borrowed the Dutch oven while her newlywed neighbor used the skillet to fry chicken. When someone needed a cooking pan to boil vegetables, they made a similar trade with the young mother down the street.
Today, we find ourselves facing new challenges, both at home and at work. When I think back to Grandma and the way she and her neighbors worked together to accomplish their daily responsibilities, I see important lessons for all of us. By thinking creatively and collaboratively, today’s business owners can get the most out of limited resources.
Create Informal Partnerships
Finding the right audience for your product or service is crucial. If you’re not sure who your audience is, consult with a marketing professional or advertising agency to gain clarity. Once you know your audience, explore potential partnerships by getting to know like-minded business owners who are trying to reach a similar demographic.
If you’re a plumber, look for quality electricians and carpenters in your area. If you own a women’s boutique, look for businesses that specialize in other services for women. If you’re an attorney, look for reputable accountants and financial advisors who serve similar clients.
Invite them for coffee. Start a conversation. Talk about your businesses, including what is and isn’t working. Share your ideas and goals for the near and distant future. See what you have in common. At the very least, this kind of relationship building helps you get to know one another. It also may lead to business referrals, or—better yet—informal partnerships that lead to coordinated marketing efforts.
Coordinate Marketing Efforts
Whether you and your new partner are considering print, TV, radio, billboards or digital advertising, a marketing consultant can be a valuable resource, and media vendors will be eager to work with you to develop creative marketing solutions. For example, when advertising via direct mail, the cost of postage is often more than the cost of design and printing combined. But sometimes a mail piece is the best way to reach your audience.
What if the plumber and the carpenter decide to partner on a mailer? If they work with a graphic designer to create a postcard that devotes half of the advertising space to each business, both can reach their audience for half the cost. What if a boutique owner and a salon owner agree to share each other’s client mailing list? Both can potentially increase their reach to twice the audience within the same marketing demographic.
Coordinating marketing efforts increases both business’s buying power. Now both can afford a higher-quality mailer, wider distribution, a longer-running radio spot, or more frequent television commercials. By saving money, they end up having more money to spend.
When clients trust the businesses that provide their products and services, they tend to trust their partner businesses as well. That’s why it is critical to form smart partnerships. Do your homework when getting to know other business owners. Make sure you trust them before you coordinate your marketing efforts. Mutual trust is even more important when you collaborate across networks.
Collaborate Across Networks
So far, the examples provided have focused on small, local businesses, but the same strategies can be scaled up for multiple business locations and franchises. There are two ways to increase profits: by increasing sales and services, or by saving on expenses. Let’s say that six different branches of a local banking network each orders its own forms and presentation folders. By ordering in smaller quantities, the price per unit is higher. When one large order is placed for all businesses within a network, the cost savings can be significant.
Let’s say that a regional franchise relies on individual franchisees to handle local marketing, which leads to inconsistent branding. Businesses only have so much money to spend on marketing, so it is crucial that they make clear who they are, what they do, and with whom they are affiliated. What if the franchise created marketing pieces at the corporate level and distributed them to individual franchisees? The consistent branding and communication that results will save on expenses, and ideally, increase sales and services due to stronger brand recognition.
Just like my grandma and her neighbors traded cookware to accomplish their daily responsibilities, today’s business owners can get the most out of limited resources by thinking creatively and collaboratively. Join a business networking and referral group, consult with a marketing professional or advertising agency, or simply reach out to like-minded business owners in your area. By strategically creating, collaborating and coordinating your marketing efforts, you can expand your business’s reach, strengthen your buying power, and ultimately, increase your profits. PM
Greg Wilson is president of POGO Marketing. To learn more, visit pogomarketing.agency.