Harnessing The Power
Of Collaboration & Communities
With the “twenty-teens” now a distant memory, and a particular pandemic putting pay to many best-laid plans, now is the perfect time to “Clear Down” and take a fresh new approach to your marketing.
In previous weeks we have looked at ways to scale up and adapt quickly, and how businesses are becoming more value-driven in its messaging. This week we are going to take a look at the beautiful world of collaboration and communities.
“Customers should be your driving force
behind any collaboration”
Customers are savvy, and it is not NEWS that they look to buy and work with businesses that have similar ethics and values that align with theirs. Customers are more selective with who they follow, which platforms they are on, who they give their data and dollar to.
It is time for businesses to do the same. Hopefully, the teens have given you a wealth of data so that the twenties become your decade of growth – a bit like life.
WHAT TO DO IN THE ROARING ’20s’
What we have seen the rise of, and what we utilise ourselves is the growth in collaborations and communities.
In the last decade, there have been considerable advances in communication technology. This technology has led to the growth of online communities. Technology has also made collaborations more streamlined and profitable than ever before.
“Building a network of people you can collaborate with,
and a community of peers and customers is where you
can really make an impact as a business.”
What do you mean by “collaboration”?
There are many ways in which you can collaborate with others to make magic happen. But the premise is to work with other people, whether that is different internal teams, or several businesses working together, to enhance, improve and grow. You draw on expertise and strengths within these pools, to bring together resources and knowledge for a common goal.
Collaboration in action
Here are a few examples of how collaborations can work from a marketing and business perspective.
A professional photoshoot costs money. One way to split the costs is to get some businesses involved that all bring something to the shoot. Each company then gains access to the image library.
For example, if you have a venue that can hold events, you may approach a caterer, venue stylist, stationer, AV company etc. that may be interested in being involved. They pay a cut of the fee, based on the number of images that may be taken and relevant to them.
Everyone wins from a shoot like this and nothing has to be compromised. If anything, it can be more extravagant.
Just make sure that expectations are clear and set. That the photographer has a shot list and clear brief – this should be agreed by all the parties and sent as one document to the photographer. Photographers are not there to manage the conflict, just to take amazing photos.
Below images are from a collaboration shoot for Burrells Jewellers showcasing their new jewellery collections.
Jewellery – Burrells
Hair & Mark Up – Rosie Blush Beauty
Venues – The Orangery Winchester & Burrells Jewellers
Styling & Clothes – Sass & Edge
Photography – The Typeface Group
Models – Francis & Kenzi Benali & Katie from Burrells.
THE MARKETING CAMPAIGN.
When two brands come together, magic can happen. The most common way you see this is when a business links up with a charity.
There are mutual benefits for a collaboration of this kind.
While the CSR, values, awareness and ethics should be at the heart of it, there are many other benefits.
To the company:
The business knows that by helping a charity that positive PR can come out of it. Who wouldn’t want to be the mastermind behind a charity campaign that raises money /increases testing /raises awareness? It’s a great marketing opportunity in itself. A number of these campaigns are run to try new techniques, get in front of the charities large audiences or as potential award entries. Rarely is it ever “just because it is a nice thing to do”.
As we know, charities run a tight ship. Although they may have some marketing professionals in house, they more than likely do not have a team that can afford to take time to design, run and measure a full-scale campaign. Often these collaborations are done at a discounted rate or even for free (because of the benefits outlined above).
What that means is the agency gets more of the creative licence, with less room for changes than one that is fully paid for. The access to the expertise and then the potential return is massive for a charity. To make sure the campaign stays on brand, the clearest of briefs will be required with goals, measurements and timescales.
Example of Sky & WWF
This year, why not make a sustainable resolution with a lasting impact? Pledge to #BeAnOceanHero today and pass on single-use plastics for good.
— Sky Zero (@SkyZeroOfficial) December 23, 2019
Key things to consider here is to make sure the fit is right. For an agency, doing something that is seemingly altruistic has to be something that you live and breathe. You don’t want to get caught out as we have previously spoken about in “Why you should practice what you preach” blog.
AN OVERALL BUSINESS CASE.
Small and micro-businesses collaborate with business services and suppliers to support their business (i.e. we could not thrive without our accountant). They also do this within their industry to keep up to date, brainstorm, sense check, share best practice and learnings.
- Events. Where there are many people and businesses are getting involved in bringing an event together.
- Companies that use agencies to hire staff.
- Microbusinesses that bring in accounting expertise.
We bet you will be hard to find a business that does not collaborate (or partner) with another in some shape or form.
For some business owners, the thought of outsourcing is scary, as is coming together with their peers as they believe that they are ‘competition’. Do not think like that. Outsourcing allows you only to spend money when you need that service, rather than hiring. Take tasks off your plate that someone else can do in less time which in turn gives you space to develop your business. As for your industry fellows, they are comrades in arms, and often a good sounding board.
This leads us nicely into communities.
Communities are hot topics at the moment.
The rise of the subscription culture paid Facebook groups, and the technology to run them 24/7 from the comfort of wherever there is WiFi has seen an enormous boom.
The pandemic has undoubtedly meant that paid online communities have exploded. While we are not keen on the word saturated, we have all had to mute/unfollow/unsubscribe to a lot of people online that are trying to get us to join yet another workout/homeschooling ideas/COVID/business group.
This does not mean you shouldn’t consider this option. But do recognise that, similar to the days of getting hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, the numbers you may attract are fewer than had you started before, well, everyone else.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUILDING YOUR OWN COMMUNITY.
There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself.
1. Is it free or paid for?
There will be different expectations depending on your answer to this. If people are paying, expectations will be higher around how the group is run and the content that will be provided versus that somewhere that is free.
What this doesn’t mean is that you have to spend every waking moment in that group (can we leave the word hustle in the teens as well please). You need to be smart and provide value and information that your subscribers/members would otherwise spend ages gathering or be too overwhelmed to know where to start.
How much time are you going to spend growing that community? Similar to growing your day-to-day social media following, if you are “selling” a group (whether it is FOC or paid), you need to have a plan on how to do that. And then the time to do that. This is why you often see paid communities have a specific time of the month or only certain times of the year that you can join.
Then there is the time within the community. As we mentioned in point one, similar to running a business, do not turn yourself into a busy fool. Why? All you will be doing is one or more of the following:
- Setting unrealistic expectations of your community members and yourself
- Run out of anything valuable to say fast
- Run the risk of coming across a bit desperate
- Taking the fast track to burn out
Please please please do not do it. Please.
3. What is the reason for this group & who is for?
“If your answers to the questions “who is it for?” and “what is it for” are vague, you are not doing your marketing work well. Your strategy should speak to people who share your values and your way of doing things. This is the only way to build a “tribe”: a group of people who have a shared sense of meaning and connection.” Seth Godin
Similar to running a business. You need to know who you are targeting and have an objective to what this community is going to achieve. Is it to keep people informed? Is it to educate or coach? Could you provide niche industry/topical support?
It could be that the group is a “lead feeder” to your business – don’t be ashamed if that is the reason. Truth be told most groups are just that.
Now you have the reason, what will make you so different to others than may already be offering a similar community?
What are you offering that others aren’t? Or it may be very similar content, but you are delivering differently, which will appeal to a different audience? What is your price point, and does that relate to the audience you want to join?
Price is an interesting topic. It seems commonplace these days to have a limited founding members lifetime price to get the initial buzz going and garner some “slack” for any glitches.
These founding members are great to support the development of the group, to try new things, get feedback and more. Then once you have ironed out some chinks, you “open the doors” for a certain amount of time to others, at a price higher than the founding members.
Whatever you price, it needs to take into account:
- Your time & effort
- Resources required to run the account – people, design, tech, invoicing/credit control, subscriptions you pay for related to the offering etc
- The value you provide – Are you saving time for others? Are they going to be able to do something that will enhance their business/life that is valuable to them?
- The life cycle of a member – while we would love for everyone to stay part of the group all of the time, let’s be realistic that that will not happen for many reasons
- How many people you are letting into the community.
If the group is FOC – you need to make sure you are the disciplined one. See the advice in time!.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON RUNNING A GROUP.
Whatever you choose to do, make your boundaries clear and do not be afraid to reinforce them when you need to. This doesn’t have to be in a drama queen way (we have seen that). Have a section on house rules and video about what your role is in this group and what the community can expect from you – even day/times you will be in the group. Then make sure you stick to them as much as you can.
A bit like children, give them an inch and before you know it, you are called in every day during the last term of their Reception year about their non-conforming behaviour (true story).
Do not burn out; it is not worth it.
WHAT ABOUT BEING PART OF A COMMUNITY?
You don’t have to own a group to get the most out of communities. There are many ways to grow your business and network without having a membership group of your own.
Here are some of the team’s communities that they are apart of and what they get from those groups:
I am part of a business group that works on entrepreneurs’ mindset. It is a small, paid for, online group with monthly modules of work that the members can work through in their own time. You can also pick and choose which modules you do and don’t do.
There is no pressure to take part in anything in the group, but regular happenings, besides the monthly modules of work, include:
- Weekly accountability post
- Weekly celebrate your wins post
- Two live group calls per month
- A book club
- Weekly group round-up email, plus reminder emails of events and when a new module is available
- Access to the work via an online portal (in this case a WordPress site)
All are up to me to engage with and read.
The support I get positively impacts my business and my team. It also puts me in front of other business owners where we can have open discussions about the “fun” of running as a business as well as the opportunity to help out. This group has led to some of the members becoming clients or referring clients to us.
Outside of working life, I’m part of a few bookish communities. Online I’m part of a group of bloggers and vloggers who talk about new releases, give opinions and take part in Twitter Chats. I’m also part of a local book club which has been an excellent opportunity to meet other people and chat over a hot drink and some cake.
Within my professional work, I’m part of the Enterprise M3 apprentice network, which goes into schools to promote alternative further education opportunities to students. Sadly I joined only a few months before COVID hit, but I hope to speak to more students as time progresses. It’s given me opportunities to visit schools, connect with a broader network of like-minded individuals and more.
The requirement to take part is to either be a current apprentice, a former apprentice now working in the field you trained in (me) or an employer with a successful track record of having apprentices.
Once an opportunity arises to speak, you get sent an email or rang to talk to the local coordinator and then discuss available times before visiting the school or education place. As I already have two DBS checks due to my voluntary work, I don’t need another one, but it is a good thing to have in place.
It’s an unpaid opportunity, but the rewards of getting to impact someone’s career potentially positively is all worth it.
Hopefully, in this article, we have highlighted some of the benefits and considerations of collaborating with others and being part a community. We look forward to seeing what collaborations you make, and communities you grow that will help your business.
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