DIGITAL – COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
This is our third piece in a series of Digital Posts from Amy White, founder and editor of Social Butterflies, an online magazine for entrepreneurial, digital-savvy women.
Amy White is a digital marketer and editor who specialises in producing quality content for consumer brands. With over 16 years’ experience working in editorial and account management, she spent her twenties working for Guardian News & Media in various editorial roles before moving to its in-house creative agency. Amy project managed a huge variety of lifestyle supplements and websites for the Guardian and the Observer. Now living in Bristol, Amy works as a freelance consultant and offers a range of digital marketing services: content marketing, digital strategy, social media, influencer outreach, WordPress, branding, SEO, email marketing and analytics.
The internet is a crowded market place, so it’s never been more important for businesses to create a niche for themselves and ensure they stand out for the right reasons. To thrive online you need to project an authentic image to your customers: remaining true to your core brand values and engaging honestly with your audience.
The traditional marketing model of broadcasting a sales message to customers has shifted completely with the advent of digital marketing. These days it’s about communicating directly with your customers and building online communities that will act as brand advocates. As part of your marketing strategy think about how you can work collaboratively with complimentary businesses in your field. This will not only enhance your reputation, grow your audience, but crucially it could boost your sales.
THINK LATERALLY, BE CONFIDENT
If you want to become a leader in your industry, then working in partnership with others can really help your business stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about working directly with your competitors, but have you ever considered seeking out mutually beneficial relationships with businesses in related fields? For example, you might be a florist – why not team up with a cake supplier or a wedding dress designer to generate some interesting content for your website or host a joint blogger event? This will not only enable you to grow your business network but also strengthen your reputation as an approachable and easy going brand.
Of course, there will always be those in business who are defensive, perhaps even passive aggressive (or simply aggressive!), in the way they handle perceived competition. Personally, I’ve always found this way of doing business reflects badly on their own business reputation, not yours. The internet might be over crowded, but don’t be under any illusions – connections often crossover online, so it always pays to conduct yourself professionally. If you have a strong and clear business proposition and you are confident in your offering, then it is perfectly possible to maintain your focus without becoming distracted by what other companies are doing. When businesses spend too much time focusing on what the competition is doing they can quickly lose sight of their own plans.
Online consumers are savvy and will spot a company who doesn’t have a coherent brand identity. Remember to revisit and list the following: your core business (products and/or services); the market you’re selling to (competitors as well as customers); your core brand values. This information will help to inform how you can effectively market your business through different digital channels (website, social, email, mobile etc). Doing this regularly will enable you to evolve with an ever changing market. If you want your brand to reach a wider audience, then embrace creative partnerships – it will add an authoritative dimension to your business identity. Use the extended network of complimentary businesses to mutually grow your audiences.
WAYS TO COLLABORATE EFFECTIVELY WITH OTHERS
- CREATE PARTNERSHIPS: Create a spreadsheet of all the complimentary businesses you could potentially partner with. If you know your industry well enough then you’re probably already following and communicating with each other. If not, then use this as an important data gathering exercise. It’s important to know who your competitors are, but also who is working in your industry as a whole. Make connections via LinkedIn as well as on your social media channels – it’s a great way to expand potential leads.
- GUEST BLOG: Write an article on your area of expertise as part of a reciprocal arrangement. When another business posts your article ensure they add your website and social media links. This is known as ‘link building’ and it’s a great way to not only drive traffic to your website but it will also help boost your SEO ranking. Become the ‘go-to company’ to get useful, compelling and shareable content. This article is a great example of this concept – I’m sharing my wisdom with Mama Tribe’s audience to engage and add value to their offering, but it will also attract a new audience and potentially create new leads for my consultancy, blog and events
- HOST A BLOGGER EVENT: Hosting events is a great way to generate publicity and connect with other businesses in your field. For example, you might be a catering company partnering with an independent wine producer and an events space to showcase your skills, their produce and the venue. Use this opportunity to invite key social media influencers, bloggers and journalists – but be upfront about your social media coverage expectations.
- OFFER AN EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: Share a unique discount code with another business in return for one from them. You can show solidarity to fellow small business owners, and by introducing another audience to your business attract new followers in the process. If you engage with them then hopefully you can convert them into customers. Take it a step further by including the discount code in a sign-up form such as an email newsletter – this way you can capture valuable data and send them exclusive future information and offers.
- RUN A COMPETITION: either partner with one business or several in a loop giveaway (where businesses host the same competition to gain new followers, likes and increase brand awareness). Sometimes the boost can be a temporary one, but if you pitch the giveaway correctly and ensure the other businesses have a similar audience demographic you should maintain the uplift in followers.
- BRAND COLLABORATIONS: If you produce products and you want to collaborate creatively with a brand you admire, why not consider approaching them to work on a design together? You often see this in the fashion world where brands work together on exclusive, limited edition ranges with designers. Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t think big. It could be an interesting way to test out different product concepts. Think about how you could work with suppliers, designers and artists to create innovative and unique products that boost both sales and brand awareness.
Open your mind to the possibility of fruitful collaborations – it could generate new business ideas, widen your network, increase sales and grow your customer base. Try implementing
Amy White – Social Butterflies