There’s nothing I love more than supporting my local small businesses. I think fellow small businesses – whether they’re online or brick and mortar – should look for ways throughout the year to join forces with other small businesses. Because sometimes it’s collaboration, not competition, that can take your business to the next level. Here’s how:
1. Co-promote your small business with others: Not every business is your competitor. Think of ways you can work with complementary small businesses for joint marketing opportunities. Get creative and look for opportunities anywhere and everywhere. Here are some examples:
- A local Public Relations pro can collaborate with other service providers to put on a ‘small biz bootcamp,’ where they offer a helpful mix of expertise on tax advising, getting financing, advertising, social media strategy and more
- A boutique soapmaker can team up with accessory designers and other crafters to put together a local holiday sale or summer trunk show, bringing in their combined pool of customers
- A local boutique shop can give discounts for yoga clothing to anyone who takes yoga classes nearby (and vice versa)
2. Create a small business referral network: If you’re a small business, chances are you’re focused on a few areas – and you do those areas well. However, your customers may have other needs that you just can’t meet. Rather than ignoring those customer needs altogether, create a circle of small businesses that you know and trust to recommend to your customers.
For example, a copywriter can recommend a graphic designer or web designer to his clients. An interior designer can recommend a landscaper or painter. No matter your industry or occupation, business is driven by referrals and connections.
From personal experience, I’m CEO of a small business that takes care of legal document filings; we help other businesses incorporate, close a business, file a trademark, etc. However, we can’t provide specific financial or tax advice to clients. That’s why we team up with accountants, CPAs, and tax advisors. Maybe we can’t fill a specific need ourselves, but we can definitely help our customers get what they need.
The collaborative small business is always on the lookout for opportunities to help fellow small businesses out. Check Meetup.com or your local chamber of commerce for a relevant group in your area. You can either join a formal referral group or forge informal alliances with complementary entrepreneurs. Whatever method you choose, just remember that whatever you give out, you’ll get back in return.
3. Get inspiration from other small businesses: Your fellow small business owners can be a great source of inspiration and support. Consider joining an industry group, participating in online forums like Quora and LinkedIn.
If you work from home, you can beat the isolation by finding a weekly/monthly local meetup group or spending some time in colocated office space. Websites like LiquidSpace.com, Loosecubes.com and WorkSnug.com can help you find a co-working space in major cities, but the trend is catching on in smaller towns as well.
By spending time with fellow small business owners, you can share stories, discuss common challenges, and brainstorm solutions. You’ll be amazed at just how inspired you can become from the energy of others.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good competition. And any small business owner knows that a competitive streak is key to entrepreneurial success. However, sometimes it’s better to see fellow small businesses as partners, not competitors. It’s time to harness the power of collaboration to help you attract more customers, get inspired, and grow your business.
Editor’s note: This was originally written by Nellie Akalp for GalTime.