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 forming partnerships with other businesses can not only improve a small business' marketing, but it can also improve the business itself.
In this article, four ways to grow a small business through networking and cooperating with other businesses will be discussed. Each, of course, has distinct 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 businesses to cross market their products or services. Here are some examples. A souvenir shop in a resort community that gives its customers a discount coupon for a local restaurant would encounter no additional expenses. The restaurant, of course returns the favor, by giving a discount coupon to its patrons. A graphic designer, for example, may be able to cross promote services with a local print shop or sign maker. An oil change shop could give a coupon for a car detailer and vice versa. The key is to find reliable businesses that honestly view this sort of cross-promotion as a win-win activity.
Organizing an Event
There are many ways for a group of businesses to organize an event that will help each business grow. Farmers markets, street fairs, community events, etc. Are a great way for local merchants to realize the benefits of cooperating to bring customers to the area. A health club, for example, may hold a health fair in partnership with a local health clinic. A restaurant and a local wine shop may cooperate to have monthly wine and food tasting events. A web development company could partner with a local photographer to give a demo on shot-for-the-web techniques.
Form a Support Group
It is easy to become isolated as a small business owner. Between the late hours, the stress and need to make payroll, there seems to be little time for anything else. Not unexpectedly, the small business owner next door, down the street and across town probably is dealing with a lot 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 introduce a topic of week and share ideas on one them each week.
A great way to lower expenses and strengthen your systems is to share resources. Even a simple thing like buying in bulk and splitting the order can have a big impact on the bottom line. Almost everything is less expensive in bulk, but many small businesses do not have the need, space or financial resources to buy, say a pallet of paper, but three or maybe. Another thing that many businesses can share is business intelligence. This may include a mailing list or information about reliable suppliers.
Sharing resources or expertise does require mutual trust and understanding. Over time, however, the strategies in this article can strengthen a small business' connections to the broader business community, resulting in operating efficiencies and help develop better marketing initiative.