When small businesses think about communications, they typically think about the customer. And why wouldn't they? As business owners, we know the pressure is always on to get your message out to the consumers most likely to purchase. While you're focused on connecting with your customers, the small business next door is focused on hers, and the brand-new start-up down the street is busy doing the same. Why not help each other?
Keeping a steady communications eye on the customer is important, but if every business on the block is only speaking to consumers and not to each other, some very big opportunities are passing you by.
Ever wonder why you can't reach that next sales goal? What about finding a solution to that nagging utility billing issue that won't go away? Collaborating with other small businesses could be the solution. Working with others in the same boat as you can inspire new strategies and result in better solutions for an array of issues you’re all experiencing.
The first step is opening the lines of communications: picking up the phone; stopping in with plate of brownies; organizing a monthly business owners meeting. These steps are so easy and small that they're often overlooked. The potential results of these communications, however, are anything but insignificant.
Carol Tice shares one great example of businesses who banded together to reach more customers in her post, Collaboration is Beautiful. When a handful of small technology start-ups realized they shared similar potential customers and a similar challenge in reaching them, BatchBlue, Freshbooks, MailChimp, Outright and Shoeboxed created Small Business Web, a marketing tool that helped them pool their communications efforts and reach a wider audience for all of their businesses.
The collaborative website states, 'The Small Business Web is a movement to bring together like-minded, customer-obsessed software companies to integrate our respective products and make life easier for small businesses.'
Tice adds, 'There's never been a better time for small businesses to stop slogging along in their separate trenches and find a way to get together. These businesses have taken the time to make their applications work with each other’s products, and now they can present them to customers as a suite of services instead of one-offs. Beautiful, isn't it?'
Indeed. And more customers and higher sales aren't the only goal shared by similar businesses. Whether it's a community issue or a global one, a group of businesses can find better ideas and resources to solve them.
In his new book, Simon Mainwaring explains how businesses around the world have been collaborating to address sustainability issues. 'Creating a better world requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration,' Mainwaring writes, 'as we need an entire army of companies to work together to build a better world within the next few decades.'
He includes the example of the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy, which was jointly founded by Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Company, Sun Microsystems, and Timberland to reduce greenhouse gases through renewable energy and fewer coal-fired power plants. What they couldn't do separately, they found a solution for together.
Your small business may not be involved with such global issues, but it may be that 10 other businesses on the block have also been struggling with the utility company for a year.Who knows,one visit to the utility offices with a group of troubled customers could make an impact that will save everyone hours of wasted time individually.
Every small business has its struggles, but oftentimes these struggles are shared. Finding like-minded businesses and taking the time to establish and maintain communications with them can save everyone time, grow the customer bases and give each lone small business owner the power of being part of a team.