Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Why Collaboration is Worth the Effort

As Chris Brogan so adeptly pointed out here, relationships are a choice in marketing. If you’re McDonald’s, you have a different approach to relationships with your customers (i.e. you don’t care) than most small- to mid-sized businesses.

I think the same is true when it comes to collaboration. If you’re Microsoft, you probably don’t care about collaboration—you’re big enough to buy anything you think is interesting.

I’m not saying that the MS business model is wrong, just that it won’t work for most of us.

Instead, just like we need to build trust relationships with customers, I think we need to build collaborative relationships with other companies. It’s not only a solid businesses move, it might also offer some hope for our current economy.

Overcoming the Competition Complex

In this post, Peter Deitz points out that when you Google “collaboration is a good thing” and “competition is a good thing,” you get about 30 times the number of sites referencing competition.

Sure, our fixation on competition helps to regulate the market and keep prices reasonable. But in some cases, our competition complex prevents us from considering what might otherwise be healthy (and not to mention profitable) collaboration.

Most likely, there will be some overlap in the scope of services between you and anyone worth collaborating with. And that overlap is easily read as competition.

But really, in order for companies to work well with each other, there has to be some middle ground. Whether you’re selling hybrid marketing/PR/new media or dresses and handbags, services offered must fit together tongue-and-groove to provide a unified experience for mutual clients.

Even if you aren’t providing mutual services—if you’re participating in an online discussion about how to better sell your widgets—there must be some common ground that helps you to establish a connection and to spur meaningful dialogue.

Take Wordpress for example. Its power is built because multiple developers (“competitors”), many of whom offer almost identical services, work together for mutual gain.

The idea is simple: when WordPress gives their blogging platform away to developers for free, they quickly create a superior product with an immediate competitive advantage. As more people adapt the WordPress because of it’s advantages, more people require services (like support, premium template development, custom programming, etc.) that are able to be sold.

Not possible otherwise

A few weeks ago, I attended a sales and marketing conference sponsored by Xerox, Real Business Live!, for companies that lease a Xerox digital press (yep, they do more than copiers). Not only was it free for me to attend, Xerox also fed me two excellent meals, gave me tickets to a Mets game, and granted me access to an open bar.

Why?

Xerox gets paid a few cents every time our press outputs a piece of paper. That means the better we do, the better Xerox does.

Xerox very purposefully invited me into an environment where I could collaborate with other marketing professionals. At the conference, we swapped stories and talked about creative ways companies were dealing with the current market. In all, we learned from each other in a way that would have never been possible otherwise.

And it’s that part, the “never been possible otherwise” part, I think holds promise. When we collaborate, we expand our ideas, set up potential for innovation, and find new ways to solve old problems.

So there’s the promise for our economy. When we find new way to work together within the free market, we all do better.