Collaboration, not competition, is what makes better marketing

Collaboration is a learnt skill and a core philosophy that is much-needed in todays marketing environment. The awareness, knowledge and skill of collaboration is the key to working smart in the modern marketing world.

Lets also be clear about one thing – just because we say we collaborate it doesn’t automatically mean we really do it in practice. Collaboration requires conscious effort and some key operating principles (I mention Colab collaboration principles down below).

What is collaboration stated simply?

Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organisations working together to realise shared goals. Collaboration is very similar to cooperation, and both are an opposite of competition.

I find this definition (by Wikipedia) quite insightful and interesting because it highlights that collaboration is the opposite of competition.

When things change in such a way that challenges an entire ecosystem to rethink itself there are two reactions that generally happen:

1) We choose to compete with others and their organisations in order to lead the way with our own closed thinking

2) We work with others and their organisations to build the future together

The problem with competition is that it divides and separates awareness, knowledge and skill in creating new ways of doing things for the benefit of a greater level of common good. It decreases the potential for better and more agreeable solutions to be conceived and created, which builds a better system within which we can all play a part (and compete).

When an industry is in turmoil then competition is the often the enemy of constructive problem solving and collaborating. It is in these situations where healthy collaboration is much-needed. These are the times that require a greater willingness to think together than to think apart.

By collaborating and building the bigger picture together we can create systemic change that can benefit us all in the long run. Competition will always be part of getting ahead but collaboration must always be part of building the improved race track upon which you will compete for greatness!

We are in a tumultuous time right now in advertising, marketing and media where many of us are being challenged to make sense of the many new innovations and disruptions shaping each of our industries, and the resulting interrelated challenges we are all facing as a whole. It is in times like these where brands, agencies and media companies really ought to be committing to some major collaborative goals, instead of creating major blindsiding competition in all corners.

So what are these major collaborations that need to take place in marketing, advertising and media? We have given this some thought from our perspective and we have distilled our ten commandments of healthy and productive collaborating.

  1. Create collaborative partnerships through openness
  2. Collaboration requires authenticity
  3. Collaboration gains access to greater thinking and problem solving capacity
  4. A collaboration mindset builds trust
  5. Collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts
  6. Collaboration leads to positive influence and reciprocity
  7. Collaboration builds healthy and optimally functioning networks
  8. Collaborate with people you can learn from
  9. Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better
  10. We all do better when we invest in our common future

So where must these collaborations be happening across the marketing value chain? Here are some of the most important ones I can think of:

1) Marketing collaboration with non marketing departments during the marketing strategy development phase to ensure alignment and relevance of marketing strategy with business strategy.

2) Brand and agency partner collaboration during the brief development phase. Poor briefs are a major problem for us all. These briefs flow all the way along the media value chain, often leading to vague and unfocused media spend and wasted budget.

3) Brands collaborating with a larger pool of agencies and specialists to achieve ‘fit for purpose’ marketing solutions rather than having one or two large agencies doing everything but possibly not doing this well enough.

4) Brands and agency partners collaborating with consumer networks in order to better understand and deliver relevant communications, services and support to consumers.

5) Brands collaborating with each other to drop marketing costs and increase overall exposure and return on investment through joint marketing initiatives. Sharing media costs and production costs to create symbiotic content which benefits both parties.

6)  Internal marketing collaboration across non marketing departments to enable more relevant marketing communication for consumers at every stage of the buying journey, and to enable a culture of content production across the greater organisation

7)  Marketing collaboration with senior leaders outside of marketing (CEO / CFO / CIO) to ensure alignment of marketing with key business strategy and required business metrics for tracking and proving ROI.

These are some just some of the problem areas of building a relevant and effective marketing strategy. Collaboration in these areas would undoubtedly help to elevate the potential of a brands marketing strategy to deliver value to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.

Conclusion

Building a culture of collaboration within your marketing team is the best way to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve. Thinking together and not apart is what will make your marketing strategies and tactics more relevant, more valued and more effective to the consumers and brands which you serve.

Where do you believe a collaborative mindset is lacking the most? I would love to know your thoughts!

Are marketers in defensive mode?

Is it just me or do some marketers seem to be in defensive mode?

I have had many conversations with marketers at various levels of the marketing chain and the message I get over all is this:

“We are fine thanks. We have a clear strategy and we have delivery partners in place who are doing a great job of delivering on our strategy effectively. We have no need for new partners or any support with strategy formulation or execution”

If this is true them that is great news! I would love to learn about how you are getting it so right in all of the marketing upheaval and rapid change I am reading about and experiencing!

We should all be learning from these exemplary case studies of marketing prowess in action! It seems these marketers are not subject to the general state of marketing chaos and change that is clearly going on across the world. I would love to hear about how your brand is getting it right!

But then maybe that is just the response I have been getting because no one wants to take a positive bet on a new comer in the market, especially if this newcomer is suggesting that there are big problems in how marketing is currently being conceived, planned, executed, and measured, and that there is a big need for rethinking many of the tired old iterative strategies which run along year after year without much change. Maybe it is easier to do it this way. Keep below the radar of major change and just keep the boat rolling onwards to somewhere out there! Unfortunately you can only hide for so long. Eventually change will take hold. The big difference is that when change takes hold of you because you have avoided rising up to meet it proactively the consequences can be very serious and highly disruptive!

I am not for a minute suggesting that there are not brands and providers out there that are not doing a great job of adapting to the many changes affecting marketing practice. These brands are adapting to a new way of marketing. One which drives effectiveness through intelligence. Technology and data driven strategies which use validated information to drive decision making and budgeting as opposed to marketing strategies that are executed based on assumption and guess work.

It is probably more likely that I haven’t found the suitable engagement approach yet, through which I can uncover the real truths about what marketers are finding overwhelmingly difficult to navigate and manage. I need to work harder at presenting my potential aid to marketers perhaps?

Despite the potential flaws in my approach to business development I do feel that many marketing teams out there are not willing to see the ever widening cracks in their marketing strategies . As the c-suite applies more pressure on budget accountability and increased effectiveness marketing teams huddle closer together in unison and choose not to acknowledge the truth of what is going on around them. Change is outstripping their capacity and capability to deliver relevant strategies that take these changes into account.

Like ostriches with their heads in the sand they continue on rote to commission yet another costly TV ad or perhaps another billboard along the highway? Saying what exactly?

“Come with us and we will give you the best products out there for your needs. Our brand X is the best there is!”

Then there are those delivery partners, the agencies that are taking money from brands and making so much stuff with it! Stuff without any real strategy supporting it.

Content without strategy is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff! These providers are focussed on making creative stories and design experiences which can win awards, and they don’t necessarily care too much about whether it makes sense within a brand strategy or not. So long as the brand decision maker has said ‘go for it’ they are fine and dandy.

The problem though is that in these cases the decision maker doesn’t know what they want, and they are often reacting to uncertainty and no clear view of a strategy, without clear objectives to achieve useful or valuable return. Isn’t this what agencies should be advising these brands on? Rather than making crazy creative content because they have been given permission to do so surely these agencies should be saying ‘we can’t do that because we don’t have a clear strategy or clear measures in place to prove effectiveness.

There is a greater need for more agencies to actively seek out the strategic reasons behind creating branded content, and to become the trusted custodians of the brand narrative based on validation and strategic purpose that supports clear business strategy objectives.

Again I am not painting all agencies and brands with the same brush so please don’t take what I am saying personally. Just consider for a moment the following items before you decide to go ahead with your next marketing strategy or campaign:

What don’t we know that we don’t know about our marketing health and effectiveness?

Do we have a clear marketing strategy in place that is aligned to key business strategy objectives?

Do we have the correct agency providers in place and are they able to and willing to say ’no’ because they are protecting our brand from making the wrong creative and content decisions based on a clear reliance on strategy to determine what is created?

Do we know exactly who we are communicating with and are we creating a conversation based on their needs and wants?

Are we measuring what matters?

Is our approach to marketing aligned to the goals and desires of non marketing decision makers like the CEO, CFO and the CIO / CTO?

Are we avoiding the change that is creeping closer and closer to our way of working?

What can we do to shake up the status quo of how we approach marketing in our business?

Are we willing to try and test new methods to find better strategies that achieve better and greater returns from marketing?

I can understand why many marketing teams are defensive by nature. Gate keeping is important, especially when you have every Tom, Dick and Harry trying to get in touch with you to revolutionise your marketing approach. I understand this completely.

But maybe this defensiveness also become a major barrier to finding the new and innovative thinking that can make all of the difference to your marketing success down the line?

Just a thought!

Is your brand on the cusp of next level growth?

For any business to truly succeed it needs to understand who its ideal customer is and how to reach these customers most effectively in order to grow. In our case Colab marketing is looking for the following ideal clients:

We are looking for small to medium challenger brands that are experiencing positive growth, want to take their businesses to the next level, but don’t have a clear marketing strategy in place to generate the next level of brand growth and awareness required to achieve greater market share and competitive advantage

Colab wants to elevate these challenger brands to the next level – we want to help you capture your next level growth!

Without a clear understanding of how to create a powerful marketing strategy, and more importantly, how to execute it successfully, these challenger brands often find themselves in the frustrating territory of spending money on marketing but not achieving any useful returns from this spend.

Colab is here to help you change that!

With our network of specialist delivery partners, coupled with our intimate knowledge of marketing strategy formulation Colab can offer your brand the necessary strategic support to provide the vital ingredients to build a marketing strategy which delivers the growth you desire, whether it be in the form of:

Brand Awareness

Customer acquisition

Customer leads

Sales

Customer support

Measurement against marketing spend

Growing an engaged audience

Building brand owned and control content assets

Do you want to take your brand to the next level of play?

At Colab we are very clear on one thing. If you don’t have a clear marketing strategy with clearly defined objectives, and a plan on how to measure the effectiveness of your strategy in reaching, convincing, and converting targeted consumers into willing buyers and loyal fans, then you are definitely wasting your money on marketing.

 

The counter to this statement is also true – if you do have a clear strategy, clear objectives, clearly targeted buyers, and a clear measurement plan then you can make a huge difference to each marketing rand that is spent on taking your business forward. Done this way you can turn marketing spend into a marketing investment that will build a greater revenue for your brand.

Today small to medium sized businesses are in a better position than ever before to take advantage of new technologies and innovations available to super boost marketing effectiveness.

We identify with big thinkers and doers and we support this big thinking and doing with great strategy, amazing delivery partners, and a big vision of our own which is to ‘deliver winning challenger brand marketing strategies that take challenger brands to the forefront of their growth potential’

We are ready for you! I suppose the real question is….are you ready for us?

How can digital marketing grow your small business?

Digital marketing is vitally important for your small business because it provides you with the opportunity to establish significantly more engaged communication channels with your consumers for a significantly reduced budget.

Digital marketing & especially social driven marketing strategies allow for the small business owner to compete with large corporates, something that has not been possible for decades due to the limitations of the traditional broadcasting system.

Traditional methods of marketing created significant barriers to entry for small businesses, with huge budgets required to get your messages out there to the viewing and consuming public. In the past small businesses have been forced to make do with little to no real marketing or communications presence in their target audiences.

Today all of this has changed.

Small businesses are finding major benefits to modern marketing, especially in the digital and socially driven marketing fields where the potential to conceive of and implement a successful marketing strategy is high.

So what are these huge benefits for small businesses? I have put together a short list of the biggest and most effective benefits digital marketing can provide your small business.

  1. Digital Marketing enables a direct communication pathway between your business and your consumer, enabling you to build your own audience of loyal fans.
  2. Digital marketing generates better intel on consumers and can provide significantly improved ROI
  3. Digital marketing can save you a bunch of money. Read How can small business save money in marketing? by Business2Community.
  4. Digital marketing enables realtime customer service
  5. Digital marketing enables multi-device contact with consumers based on the consumers choice of device, time, place and need.
  6. Digital marketing provides significant measurement and analysis of consumer behaviour and engagement.
  7. Digital marketing prepares you for the Internet of Things

Remember that all of these tools and methods are completely useless if the quality of the inputs are poor. This means that your ability to be strategic, creative and relevant in building your digital strategy is what is going to make it or break it. Do you have the level of talent required to enable top drawer creative and strategic thinking?

Thankfully the old agency model is crumbling which means that it doesn’t cost nearly as much to procure strategic or creative services these days, especially if you are happy to engage with specialists via crowdsourcing or creative hubs online. Again it is your own sweat and effort that will find these people but they can be found if you know how to look for them.

I personally have found the availability of great learning content on digital marketing to be immense and significant. You would be surprised at what is achievable with not much cash and a lot of motivation. As a small business owner you need to make the most of inexpensive and effective methods that can be put to work without too much cost involved.

In todays tech enabled world you can pretty much teach yourself anything. If you have a little self direction and some good search skills you can find the best ‘how to’ guides on almost anything – today we are awash with so much available learning content that many small business owners or entrepreneurs are making use of this mostly free and available instructional content to teach ourselves new skills and subjects. If you have this mindset and you are already actively self educating on these topics you will know how much difference this makes to your business marketing strategy.

So there are two key aspects to getting this right and they are as follows;

Firstly, you as the small business owner and visionary need to understand the new world in which we live and work. If you are operating from some outdated or bogus assumptions about how the internet works and does what it does then i would suggest you change this for a start. here is a great TIME article from the CEO of Chartbeat called What you think you know about the web is wrong .

Take the time to get to grips with the fundamentals of digital strategy too with this completely brilliant presentation by Bud Caddell called Digital Strategy 101 . Take the time to go through this thoroughly because he has done a masterful job of making potentially highly confusing and complicate-able content clear and straight forward to the layman. Liquid gold! this will establish a high-level foundation of the system you are working within and with.

It is easy to get highly excited about many of the glossy mega brand case study examples like CocaCola CS or Redbull; each detailing how content marketing has changed the game for these brands, and for their consumers experience of the brand and its services; fundamentally changing communication strategy from ‘push’ to one of ‘pull’. Attract, engage, convince & covert!

I was chatting to a small business owner yesterday who was telling me how much he thought that content marketing, and the clear driving philosophies behind, are the best shot we have at actually creating transactional and relationship driven networks that matter to both the brands and consumers alike. They all need to get something out of it and not feel cheated. They need to feel like definitely coming back again. Oh ye baby keep them coming!

Basically my friends argument came down to the following

Its great that there is all of this amazing information out there about the great opportunities of content marketing! Case studies pop up from every blog and RSSFeed but often the feeling I get as a small business owner is ‘I am never going to be able to….

a) afford content marketing at a scale that is suitable to me and my business needs

&

b) apply it usefully so that i get results that make a clear difference to the growth of my small business.

It is true that you can get seriously lost in the halls of content marketing expertise but it isn’t true that it has to cost you an arm and a leg. There are many aspects to a content marketing campaign that remain the same no matter what.

So I thought I would put together what i think are the core content marketing strategies that any business owner can start doing from tomorrow which don’t really cost anything (or much) except your motivated, and hopefully technologically enabled, self! Or if you do have some spare cash to pay some freelancers to help you then that’s great! But it is important that you have a deep understanding yourself about what you need done otherwise you will have problems! When  choosing a freelance creative or technologist or marketer it is a good idea that you have already worked through some key aspects of your business strategy, ensuring that you highlight answers the following most important questions:

What specific business results you want to drive via your content marketing strategy?

One of the primary reasons many marketing plans fail is because the specific goals of the campaign or project have not been clearly set. In order for digital marketing to work well it is crucial that you can highlight at least 3 specific goals for the project. The better this mandate is thought through the better your chances of success with your content marketing.

Who are the targeted buyers for my products or services and how do they engage with / transact with my brand currently?

This is a very good question, and one that has not been adequately defined for a long time. Until now that is. Again we are working with a medium here that thrives on specific detail and instruction. The more semantic information you can use to build your target buyer profiles the better. The more convincing and thorough your work is here the easier it will be to target buyers with very specify needs or interests. It will also be much easier to define your marketing plan to a far more powerful level of specific detail. Have a look at this free instruction manual from Hubspot called Creating buyer personas .

How am I going to create compelling knowledge driven content that will engage my target audience in a dialogue that will attract them to my brand?

This question is probably at the core of what content marketing, or rather the philosophy of content marketing, aims to impart to both brands, creative agencies and publishers alike; What do you know about, care about or aim to achieve that is also a clear desire or interest (or want or need) in the heart and mind of the consumer? I can tell you that is definitely isn’t your product or service. Not yet anyway. Before your brand and your product become relevant your insight and advise, which is generally published via blogs, social media or other media channels, needs to attract a loyal following based on the quality of your content. How is quality content measured? Well it is actually quite a simple set of rules.

Have you considered the consumers need / challenge or interest that you will be addressing through your content?

Does your content have a clear ‘call to action’ which drives consumers to the next step in the engagement journey

Do you regularly dialogue with your consumers to find out what their thoughts and feelings are about their choices?

How does the data you measure drive your future content production efforts?

Who are the key influencers in my field and how am I going to leverage these influencers to drive traffic my way?

If you aren’t organically engaging key influencers in your field you are missing a huge opportunity to build a wider audience, as well as to create a powerful endorsement strategy driven by content marketing. With todays marketing technologies you can get down to detail in defining exactly who you should be connecting with and who to go about doing so. There are a range of great technology platforms designed to assist you in finding the perfect influencer circle. Some of the ones i have tried are:

Klear.com

Inkybee.com

Buzzsumo.com

Some of these services offer a free plan which can still help a lot. Others do require payment but depending on your experience of the free trials you try this might make you feel that the money is worth it. Check these out because they are powerful tools.

Once you have established your core goals, strategic inputs and your influencer circle then you can begin to think about your actual content strategy. By this stage you should be ready to begin putting together a test content calendar, a content guide that allows you to establish your compete content publishing plan in advance. This content plan becomes the blueprint through which you manage your brands narrative across a diverse range of chosen platforms and channels. In your case these are unlikely to include TV or Radio broadcast due to limited cash or as the article stated – no cash! To be honest I think it would be impossible to do this with no cash at all but you definitely can spend small and wisely to achieve a great impact.

I suppose it all comes down to how much you are willing to learn to do yourself? For example I write my own articles for my blog. I am also learning how to analyse my own data from google analytics and to be able to run my own tests and experiments using modern SEO techniques. All of these self-directed efforts make you suitably aware, knowledgeable and skilled enough to be able to drive your own cost-effective and powerful content marketing strategies.

You may not be able to put together the most powerful content marketing plan ever but you can definitely gain significant strategic advantage over your competitors by getting to know your consumers better, through engaging on topics and issues that matter to your consumers more , and through establishing a cause and effect driven marketing system that allows for you to intelligently develop your brand path to growth. The journey to becoming a great content marketing driven business is a long one but the journey definitely starts here and now.

There are so many sources of free knowledge and instruction on content marketing on the internet, or on any other subject for that matter! Use these sources and begin to decide on a few specific aspects of the digital marketing philosophy that resonate most with you, and those which are practically applicable to a small business like yours in the short-term, medium-term and long-term.

Conclusion

The benefits of digital marketing seem unavoidably huge for small businesses and I would definitely recommend establishing a digital strategy as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot and it can be highly effective in acquiring new customers, making sales and servicing customers in real time. It is also clear that without the requisite awareness, knowledge and skill in digital marketing there isn’t a hope in hell you will achieve success. If you think that relying on a marketing agencies knowledge or skill will give you what you need you are dead in the water.

As a small business owner you need to be prepared to do the thinking and learning work yourself so you don’t get led astray or become disillusioned with suppliers or specialists that don’t know what they are doing.

Make clear learning goals and never stop experimenting!

To get the best results; You need to work with the best people.

Successful Man Image

While this may seem obvious, subtle reminders like this are sometimes just the motivation you need to take action and reach out.

Every business leader regardless of industry or business size can consider these six points to improve their own business results:

1. Know Thy Self
You can’t improve what you don’t know. Be vulnerable to your weaknesses and be humbled by your strengths. Don’t focus on your competitors focus on new markets and opportunities. Share this knowledge with your teams so you can help each other succeed together.

2. Be Open to Collaborate
Your business outputs are not the sum of your team and suppliers contributions but the average.

Make sure that you collaborate with the best staff and business partners to ensure that you deliver above-average results. Work to develop an open and mutually beneficial relationship build on respect and results.

3. Ask ‘What if I did the Opposite?’
Humans are creatures of habit and naturally risk obverse. By asking this simple question, you will be amazed at the potential solutions to business problems. You need to be

‘Disrupted’ in order to ‘Disrupt’. This culture needs to be adopted from the CEO down to the Marketing intern in order to be relevant and implemented.

4. Listen to Customers & Experts
Your customers are the blood in your business and consultants are like doctors. Listen to and engage with a cross section of your customers regardless of your existing segmentation biases.

Furthermore get a fresh perspective by engaging with experts that may provide value by looking at your business and challenges from an untainted viewpoint.

5. Measure & Optimise

“What you measure usually gets paid attention to.
What you pay attention to, usually gets better.” Seth Godin

There are a tidal wave of business ‘Measurement’ quotes such as my favourite

‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

This is with good reason. You should pay attention to them. However don’t be paralysed by analysis, as the intangible measurements are as important to the tangible ones. Define your own measurement and have a plan to optimise your business and marketing performance against these benchmarks.

6. Share
Have a ‘Growth Mindset’ instead of a ‘Scarcity Mindset’ and look at your bad business experiences and share them. Since the story from the bad experiences are always more important than the good ones. Being vulnerable attracts good people that want to help and be open to this help. While this might be difficult in Corporate world, having a culture that embraces ‘Sharing’ is a key success factor.