A New Kind Of Team
This article appears in the May/June 2014 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
WORKING WITH OTHER BUSINESSES TO GROW YOUR OWN
Franchisees are already luckier than most in small business. For one thing, you have a ready-built group of peers with whom you can celebrate, commiserate and talk shop with, and who you can compare yourself against and copy the best ideas from the performers in each area (best practice) to increase everyone’s chance for success.
But there is no reason why franchisees can’t also use another Low Cost / No Cost marketing method to grow their business – one that is sadly underused by franchisees and independents alike. It is, quite simply, working with other businesses to the benefit of all.
Creating an ‘unofficial team’ in your local community gives you another avenue of support, and considering that resilience is one of the driving factors in any small business success, the more support and ideas you have to ‘keep at it’ the better your chances become.
Beyond that however, like-minded business owners can pool ideas and resources and get far more done (and be far more of a concern for competitors) than they ever could alone.
FINDING LIKE MINDED BUSINESS OWNERS
Leveraged local marketing all hinges on finding other business owners that think like you do. Many people is small business are – or have unfortunately become – negative, jaded or despondent about business, or have decided to blame the market/economy/customer rather than their lack of activity as the reason that they are quiet.
To work with others and only pull a fair share of the load, you need to seek out business owners that have a positive attitude and are open to trying new things. Other than some small restrictions such as getting approval on local area marketing, it doesn’t matter whether you work with other franchisees or independent businesses. It also doesn’t matter if the other owners are new to business or well established, as long as they have get up and go.
In finding some partners in crime, the most important traits that you are looking for are:
• A positive, ‘can-do’ attitude;
• People open to trying new ideas – no saying ‘that won’t work’ without trying;
• The same business values as you (hopefully honesty, quality, service, etc);
• A business reputation you are happy – if not proud - to be associated with;
• A good business culture that people dealing with them can ‘feel’;
• A team who are also engaged and invested in the business;
• Some alignment with your target market (for example, you both sell to families); and
• Someone who you ‘mesh’ with personally.
Preferably, also try to work with businesses that can or do maintain a database of past clients (this can be almost anyone however - we have successfully set up databases with everything from fish and chip shops to toy stores).
Once you know who you are looking for, a simple stroll down the street, through your local paper or around your shopping centre (depending on your type of business) and a minute to introduce yourself should be more than enough to find like-minded business owners. If not, try your local traders association, business networking event, BNI meeting or facebook forum, or ask your customers who else they patron.
Once you find one or two businesses who would like to work with you, it is a good idea to try something small before you recruit others – otherwise you may find yourself heading up a ‘committee’ that never does anything (or if it does, you end up doing all the work).
WAYS TO WORK TOGETHER
For a marketing strategist like me, a group of eager business owners wanting to work together provides an endless list of opportunities for simple, low cost and effective marketing. However if you find you are stumped for ideas, below are the bare bones of the low cost strategies that work well with pairs and groups, as well as some ‘real life’ examples which you are welcome to copy (we call that market research) and make your own.
As always, seek your franchisor’s permission before launching any local area marketing, especially if you are planning on using your logo or branding.
Start simple. If you each think well of the other’s business why not encourage your own customers to use them? You can include an incentive or ‘bonus’ to your clients for visiting the other business, but don’t have to in order to both enjoy an increase in sales. This is easy, fair and pretty much free so a great way to start a relationship with nearby businesses without a great deal of risk.
Examples of this strategy in action include:
1. An appliance repairman and plumber who each left fridge magnets for the other’s service (as well as their own) with the client.
2. A café and toy store leaving their respective loyalty cards on each other’s front counters.
3. A hotel and a local restaurant leaving brochures in each other’s foyers (both included a 10 per cent discount to the others patrons).
4. Two retailers including their ‘friends’ brochure (as well as their own) in the clients purchase bag.
5. A traders group with ‘showbags’ full of offers from several businesses in the locality (customers were given one after purchasing from any of the traders).
6. A cleaning company who had a ‘free trial’ voucher delivered with every pizza from a local pizza store, and in return left a menu at each home they cleaned!
This is the same idea but much more wide reaching as it cross refers all of your clients instead of just a few. If you both have a database, you can easily each help one another by introducing the second business to your clients. It is important though that you a) have the opt-in permission of your customers to contact them from time to time (this is fairly easy to gain but an important step for your marketing) and b) that you do the introducing and don’t just hand over your database to a third party.
If you can also include a special offer or privilege for the other businesses clients (called a host beneficiary) this sets up a win/win/win scenario - you gain new business, the customer gets a special deal and the other business looks good for securing a reward for their clients.
Some examples of cross referring include:
1. A hairdressing salon and massage therapist who each sent $20 gift vouchers for the other’s business to their clients.
2. A car detailer who mailed all his customers to thank them for their business and included a discount voucher both for his service and for a home improvement company he was working with.
3. A local gym and medical clinic who each offered their client base a free session with a personal trainer or nutritionist respectively.
Having friends in businesses with the same target market but who aren’t competitors can also come in handy for sharing the costs of advertising, as well as bumping up the impact of your marketing. Consider joining forces with other businesses to market together and get twice as much bang for your buck.
Examples we have put into place recently include:
1. Several home services companies producing one flyer which is left by all the tradespeople after each job (this effectively x5 their marketing efforts).
2. A builder and interior designer pooling funds and staffing to exhibit at a home show.
3. Four local businesses who can dominate one section of the local paper for a third of what it would have cost them all individually.
4. Two retail/personal service neighbours who created a double sided flyer (one side each) and shared the distribution costs.
Not for the faint hearted (or unorganised), joint events are often the first thing people think of trying to work together and thus the one that most often ends with disappointing results. A group event such as a fete, open day, VIP night or shopping tour can be amazing for the businesses involved but it needs strong leadership, tight organisation, planning, plenty of lead time and a group of people all pulling their weight (and prepared to invest some money to promote the event properly).
Some that we have run to great success in the past include:
1. A traders ‘fete’ including stalls and talks from each business plus attractions such as an animal farm, kid’s activities, giveaways and an MC.
2. A VIP Night held at one business (a toy store and a mattress store have both run very good ones) including sample services from other businesses such as massage therapists, beauticians and a local caterer.
3. A business networking event (with speakers) for several B2B service providers.
NOW…OVER TO YOU.
More small and family businesses in Australia working together would be a great thing. Hopefully, one of the examples given sparks something in you for your own business. It if does, hopefully you will go out and find a ‘friend’ in business to share your idea with and in doing so create much more for both of you.
And in addition to this being cheaper, more far reaching and more effective than most marketing you could do, the side effect is that business becomes a bit more fun and a bit less lonely too.
A former CEO for the Jim’s Group, Katherine has over 17 years’ experience in franchising. She has worked with many brands, been a successful ActionCOACH franchisee (#14 in the world) and was runner-up Franchise Woman of the Year in 2010.
Graceful Solutions is a marketing company specialising in no-cost, low-cost and local area marketing. Their team of 12 offer services including websites, online advertising, marketing plans & low-cost strategies to engage existing customers and find new ones.