It labels something that most of us do without thinking and often take for granted in our personal life. For as long as we have been scratching one another’s backs we have collaborated in performing side by side for mutual benefit. Pop stars collaborate and enjoy a shared audience, screenwriters and authors collaborate to bring the written word to life, governments collaborate to wield a greater share of voice on the world stage.
I have never used the word ‘collaborate’ as much as I have over the last fifteen years since becoming a business networker. In fact it is one of my top ten lexicons when discussing business development. Why this has become such an important word to me is historic.
I am a partner in a market research agency which has been around for 25 years. During the last recession in the late ’80s WDGresearch held steady with its regular client base and while larger agencies went under we survived. As we came out of that recession I was able to look back and see clearly that we did nothing to steer ourselves away from the precipice, it was only the success of our relationship with our long standing clients that pulled us through. It could quite easily have gone the other way if our contacts had retired, moved on, been made redundant. The shock of realising that simple truth made us review the way we ran the company, analyse our market positioning, overhaul our client and business development, and steer our own ship.
As a small company with an ambition to achieve sustained growth we allocated a realistic budget to business development encompassing marketing. The budget figure, although carefully worked out, was cross referenced with our guiding principle of never spending more than you can afford to lose.
Increasing visibility for us meant collaborating with many of the businesses with which we had strong associations in the past. We needed to have a greater offering when taking our business to industry conferences and networking events. The collaborations meant that we could make greater use of web marketing and we had more to say when presenting advertorials to industry journals.
In the year following the change we noticed that our average billings increased by more than a third because we were able to offer more in-house. We received more cold enquiries, our attendance at conferences and networking brought more ‘warm’ contacts to the database, and ultimately our business grew to more than twice the turnover of the previous year. This allowed us to employ more staff to work on client retention and new business.
Subsequent years have seen sustained growth until the recent recession started to bite but we are not dismayed and our collaborations are still working to mutual benefit and support. We are all still working to bring more business to our door and remain positive about the future of our marketing services collaboration.
As a footnote to the above, I have the franchise for The Athena Network businesswomen’s network and support organisation in Edinburgh and we promote strategic collaborations amongst members’ businesses. They needn’t be long term collaborations, and are often on a job by job basis. The goal is to present a stronger business front and to enable members to chase opportunities that might have otherwise eluded them. If you would like to find out more please contact me through the link on this site.