Many small business owners spend a lot of time, effort, and money doing things to grow their business that could be done more effectively in conjunction with another business. By this, I mean that forming partnerships with other businesses can not only improve the marketing of a small business, but it can also improve the business itself.
In this article, four ways to grow a small business through networking and cooperation with other businesses will be discussed. Each, of course, has different advantages and disadvantages. They are: 1) cross-marketing, 2) organizing an event, 3) forming a support group, and 4) sharing resources.
In any community, there are numerous opportunities for companies to cross-market their products or services. Here are some examples. A souvenir shop in a tourist community that offers its customers a discount coupon for a local restaurant would not incur additional expenses. The restaurant, of course, returns the favor, giving a discount coupon to its customers. A graphic designer, for example, could cross promotional services with a local print shop or sign maker. An oil change shop might give a coupon to an auto retailer and vice versa. The key is to find trustworthy companies that really see this type of cross-promotion as a win-win activity.
Organize an event
There are many ways that a group of companies can organize an event that will help each business grow. Farmers markets, street fairs, community events, etc. they are a great way for local merchants to realize the benefits of cooperating to attract customers to the area. A health club, for example, could hold a health fair in association with a local health clinic. A local restaurant and wine store can collaborate to host monthly food and wine tasting events. A web development company could partner with a local photographer to offer a demo of shooting techniques for the web.
Form a support group
It’s easy to isolate yourself as a small business owner. Between the last hours, stress and the need to make payroll, there seems to be little time for anything else. Not surprisingly, the small business owner next door, down the street and across town, is probably dealing with many of the same issues. One way to network and support other small businesses is to form a weekly or monthly coffee club. You could even feature a topic for the week and share ideas about one of them each week.
A great way to cut costs and strengthen your systems is to share resources. Even something as simple as buying in bulk and splitting the order can have a huge impact on the bottom line. Almost everything is less expensive in bulk, but many small businesses don’t have the need, the space, or the financial resources to buy, say a pallet of paper, but three or more. Another thing that many companies can share is business intelligence. This could include a mailing list or information on trusted providers.
Sharing resources or expertise requires mutual trust and understanding. Over time, however, the strategies in this article can strengthen a small business’s connections to the broader business community, result in operational efficiencies, and help develop a better marketing initiative.