Shortly after I moved to a small town, a popular restaurant had a fire and lost nearly everything. Neighboring businesses, including other restaurants, pitched in with physical labor and fundraisers to help this small business get back open quickly.
A couple of years later, a hair salon was destroyed by fire. The other two salons in town offered to share their chairs so that the hairdressers who’d lost their space could continue to serve clients. Having previously lived in large metropolitan areas where businesses treated one another as competitors, this cooperative attitude was a welcome surprise.
Whether your business is strictly web-based, brick and mortar or a combination, the new economy opens so many opportunities for collaboration as a way to grow your business and support other business owners.
When I guide an entrepreneur through the start-up or growth journey, I always recommend some kind of collaboration. Whatever it is you offer, there are other business owners who have a complimentary product or service and already have relationships with the same people who would be your customers.
For example, if you are starting an event planning business, you could collaborate with a caterer, a boutique winery, a gourmet cupcakery and an art gallery to pull together an event that showcased all four businesses simultaneously. You’d each have a different guest list but they’d all be the same upscale clientele. If you each invite 15 of your ideal clients, you’d all get exposure to 60 new potential customers.
If you were starting a de-cluttering business, you’d want to build a personal network of complimentary businesses that serve the same customer. You’d want to connect with realtors and maybe retirement community marketing directors who could refer downsizing clients. It would be great to have someone in your tribe who sells collectibles on Ebay a consignment or resale shop and possibly a business that hauls away junk. The idea is you all refer and help one another grow your businesses.
In the neighborhood where I grew up, we’d all bring baked goods, a potted plant or casserole to welcome newcomers.
If I were selling hand painted children’s shoes online, I might seek out someone who makes hair accessories for little girls and a few others who sell children’s clothing, dance wear and bridal wear. I’d invite them to a virtual “welcome-to-our-neighborhood party” conference call to discuss how we can help each other. We could trade ad space on one another’s sites or better yet, agree to blog about the others’ products, show images and include links. I might even try to coordinate styles or colors with the other vendors and do an Amazon-style cross market. If you’re selling any service or product online, it’s easy to partner with complimentary businesses.
Imagine how your business would thrive if you treated new businesses like new neighbors.