In the first of our guest blogs we hear from David Bray. David runs the website which encourages businesses to use collaboration as a form of expansion.

Growing Your Small Business Without Spending Money

Advertising and marketing is expensive as we all know, particularly internet marketing. In fact, internet marketing is an advanced subject and the lessons are often not cheap to learn as many small businesses have discovered, including my own. What other ways can small businesses grow? To grow you need more customers or more business from the customers you already have. Of course, that’s obvious. But how to do this without spending your precious financial resources?
If we exclude advertising and marketing, the options to increase revenue may seem limited. However, one time-served method is to find complementary businesses. By complementary business we mean a business that complements your business in some way. For example, a florist and a wedding photographer will often meet clients with similar requirements i.e. couples soon to be married. This presents all sorts of opportunities to collaborate. Both businesses could advertise their services on each other’s websites. Costs nothing. Both businesses could agree to refer each other’s services when they meet soon-to-be-wed couples. Again, costs nothing. Both businesses could agree a discounted package to offer couples and thus win more business for themselves and provide the soon-to-be newly weds with a little more money in the pot to begin their life of wedded bliss (hopefully!). Yet again, everyone wins and it costs nothing.
To find businesses to collaborate with you first need to identify a few complementary businesses. Without making this too complicated the following information will get you off to a good start:

  1. A browse through the yellow pages or a business directory on the internet should give you a few ideas of different types of business you can collaborate with. You could also simply ask someone in your industry you are not in competition with, perhaps a parent, friend or someone recently retired. You only need a few ideas to begin with.
  2. Are they a local business? In this day and age, you can work with anyone anywhere but best to keep it local to begin with. You are more likely to be able to build a relationship and develop trust with another local business if you have the opportunity to meet up and discuss your projects.
  3. Size. There’s no point choosing a business significantly larger than yours. The revenue streams will not match and you will probably waste time and become a bit disheartened by the whole project.
  4. Come up with an opening suggestion describing how you and your potential business partner can get off to an easy start without too much commitment. For example, offer to review their business service and ask them to review yours. You can put the reviews on your respective websites (hopefully they will be good reviews!). Another icebreaker would be to try selling one small product for each other and see how it goes. Low risk and a potential big upside if the sales go well.

In the UK, you can find lots more ideas and small businesses to collaborate with at BusinessFood.
David Bray, Business Food.
More information can be found on David’s website