Building a Collaborative Brand—What’s the Benefit?

Courtesy of Flicker via Creative Commons. Image by emiliablom

Courtesy of Flicker via Creative Commons. Image by emiliablom

In an article for Forbes called Collaborative Marketing is the Next Big Thing, David Williams recently covered this topic, albeit from the standpoint of advertiser business interests. According to him:

“Collaboration Marketing is the process of aligning your company’s interests, resources, and marketing muscle with other like-minded companies to accomplish much more than you might be able to do on your own.”

While that’s the method and the outcome by which Marketing Collaboration is brought about, it’s not the overarching goal or even the greatest benefit.

Example of a Collaborative Ad

Example of a Collaborative Ad (Courtesy of

Dave’s article, like many before it, is written from a perspective of what this process does for each business involved in the collaboration. But these articles often miss the mark when it comes to the most important aspect of Marketing Collaboration—the customer.

Despite the obvious benefits for those businesses who take part in this kind of marketing, the focus of it is to attract customers as opposed to intercepting them using traditional advertising.  At least in part, collaboration marketing challenges the time worn marketing mantra of “one to one” marketing.

The valued-added aspect of Marketing Collaboration is to assemble a range of related businesses or services in order to build a customer relationship based on their needs first. This is done by connecting customers with multiple and relevant businesses and services so as to maximize value for them—not merely the businesses in question. In short, you’re teaching your customers, who are your business.

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Perception = reality. The perception as a result of Marketing Collaboration is that customers feel you no longer own them, but they own you. This is very similar to how Facebook often provides a button wherein the user can decide if they want to continue to see a particular type of content. The user feels empowered. The marketer gathers useful information so as to refine their messages even more. Win/win for all concerned.

That’s one of the powers of collaborating with other businesses and with consumers.

Becoming a Collaborative Brand — Be a Teacher

Becoming a Collaborative Brand also means mastering the skills of capturing and analyzing details about individual customers. In order to do this, you have to create profiles of customers and help them to discover their needs, not just their interests. As Ken Krogue likes so say, “interest is often the counterfeit of need.”

Yesterday’s sales model was about winning new business via understanding decision-makers needs, describing how you  can meet these needs, and waiting for them to trust in your ability to deliver a solution. Not anymore.

The Challenger Sale, a book based on research undertaken by the Corporate Executive Board (involving more than 6,000 sales reps selling to B2B customers), provides a tantalizing takeaway: Think “partner” whenever you see the word “sales rep”.

Today’s sales reps are teachers. Their focus is to teach, tailor and take control. What is the best response a teacher can get? “I never thought of it that way before.”  

One of the ways to teach is via Marketing CollaborationCollaborative marketing programs are not as hard to set up as it sounds—but it does take work. Here are some tips as to how go about it:

  • Make a Commitment. Collaboration is about relationships. If you must see it from a financial side, it’s a long-term asset for  increasing brand awareness and value.  But success isn’t only about saving money and winning. Collaborative success is a long-term, strategic solution.
  • Make Use of Your Social Media Customer Base. Reach out to consumers in fun, creative and meaningful ways in order to get  ideas of their needs and teach them, too. Come will tell you what they think of your brand, some may stay silent. Offer rewards to those who offer their time and feedback.
  • Engage Your Customer Power Base. Your most valuable customers are those who evangelize your product as brand advocates. Find them. Engage them. Build relationships and listen. One way to do so is to reach out to the “mommy bloggers.” People who follow them trust them and listen to their advice.
  • Target Your Content. Most advertising just isn’t well-developed for the social world. Email and standard advertising remains king. Focus on shareable content. That’s what works for small and word-of-mouth groups. Develop formulas for communications success.
  • Get With Today. Ditch yearlong marketing plans. Forecasting just doesn’t work these days. Marketers have to think like tech companies, not advertisers. In short, do more with less.

Yesterday’s Methods Won’t Work Forever

In a recent interview for CMS Wire, Is Social Business All Talk and No Trousers?, Brad Palmer, CEO of Jostle Corporation, suggested that:

“social networks, apart from creating a lot of noise that staff have to contend with can “confuse and challenge how decisions are made” and “inflict massive change in how and where work gets done.”

From my perspective, the only confusion is when there’s no system in place, or outmoded methods are used to run new systems. Collaboration is only difficult when people cling to the notion of making all of the decisions as a lone wolf, rather than using the collaborative process.

Owners and managers need to come to grips with the concepts of today. As Seth Godin often says, “In the connection economy, relationships are the new currency.” Collaboration Marketing is a definite return on relationships.

Is your mindset a collaborative one? Are your social media connections collaborating for you or with you? I’d love to hear about it.

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