Collaborate to elevate
After more than a decade working full-time in the agency world, one of the great things about my consultancy work is that I get to see how organisations in other sectors approach the challenge of business development.
Having spent a year and a half working with a London university on a range of business support and collaboration programmes, one thing that’s really struck me as something design consultancies could learn from, is the intensely collaborative mindset. Albeit that universities are at the heart of Research and Innovation ecosystem of which collaboration is a core principle, the breadth and scope of partnerships – from other universities to local government, LEPs and trade associations – produce a steady stream of opportunities and referrals. Only occasionally did we dip our toes in the cold channel.
This is something I am trying to adapt and bring to the agencies I work with. With the continued blurring of the lines between marketing disciplines, “playing in the sandpit” with other agencies is becoming less reliable. Can you identify more upstream partners – organisations likely to be working with businesses that need the services you offer? Professional services firms may be working with businesses going through mergers and acquisition that need new branding, or firms looking to generate new IP around a specific innovation that needs a bit of creativity to make it unique and ownable. Consider the case (no pun intended) of Trunki.
Another channel that can benefit greatly from working with a partner is your marketing events. Even the biggest names in design can struggle to draw the right kind of prospects to their events, ending up with existing clients and contacts in the room (I’m not knocking that – but these events are often regarded as a new business tool). Working with a partner increases the size of the target audience, and gives you a better chance of meeting some new contacts – but it makes sense for several more reasons. It can provide credibility and gravitas, and a more balanced perspective – or just seem less “sales-ey.”
Next week, I will be presenting at the first event in a partnership between Brunel University London and a major UK trade association, whose membership ranges from start-ups and scale-ups to the biggest technology companies in the land. It’s taken the best part of a year to get to this stage, but it shows the potential of forging the right alliances, and working hard to unlock mutual benefit.