The power of partnerships

Cooperation has been a foundation for many businesses as they navigated the pandemic. In my community, several food businesses used the downturn to come together and explore how each could reduce waste across their business processes by better sharing resources and ideas. The experience led to permanent, positive change for most of the participating companies. Here at my agency, we strengthened capacity and agility by expanding our network of specialized marketers who had dedicated more time to building freelance businesses.
How will the marketing changes, which have occurred over the last 23 months progress? One area that has advanced significantly is marketing localization. The pandemic brought out a renewed sense of community and compassion. There has been a strong drive to “shop local.” Many local businesses have been the hardest hit due to lockdowns and restrictions.

We’ve seen an increase in consumer demand for locally-sourced ingredients and products, and in some cases more discretionary spending to support them. This has led to an increase in personalization and localized branding. Supporting small businesses helps to build connection and trust with consumers, a shift that is important to acknowledge as businesses ensure empathy remains at the front of their messaging. There is confidence that community over competition will continue, and the value of working together will remain strong.


Coming together

One major shift in our everyday lives, of course, has been the amount of time we have spent at home. Consumers have become numb to digital marketing after being inside for the majority of the last 19 months. As we emerge together, attention to our surroundings will flourish and a need for creative out-of-home marketing and engagement will develop quickly. People are craving interaction and want to feel they are a part of something. This provides a unique opportunity for local businesses to come together with inventive ideas to connect with their community and attract new customers, while giving help to others through donations and charitable drives.


Creating trust

I’ve read that the digital marketing world advanced a decade in one year because of the pandemic. Nearly all consumer needs and wants were executed digitally, increasing the use of digital tools and contributing to changes in consumer behaviours. Given that we have become accustomed to interacting with everything digitally, it is likely going to persist as we move forward.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity to create lasting trust, personalization, and cooperation through business ventures within digital landscapes. How are you going to reach your consumers, if not face-to-face? How are you going to adapt your service to be more accessible online? It is important to be transparent through this evolving phase to create trust and continue moving forward regardless of the platform being utilized. For example, a cooperative approach amongst non-competing trade businesses can lead to reduced marketing and advertising costs; cross-training for employees to sustain their relevancy and skills; shared ideas and practices that improve business efficiencies and processes; and a greater impact on charitable giving initiatives at a time when local non-profits are struggling to address demands for food security, mental health support and housing assistance.


Community-focused ecosystem of proven businesses

A key to all of this will continue to be cooperation. The current environment creates an ideal opportunity for locally-run, home-focused service businesses to come together to create a unique community-focused ecosystem of proven businesses. These localized trust pods would offer vetted one-door access to the services customers need from businesses, and the owners and employees they know and trust.

I envision a shift from national or global databases of service companies, which draw on customer reviews, to a more intimate connection between local businesses, the employees who coach our kids and shop where we shop, and the customers who come together to rebuild community resiliency.

Working together brings many benefits, and some cautions too: every participant needs to see specific, bottom-line value while being open to the ideas and leadership of others who, in another time, may have seemed more like a competitor than a collaborator. If we can overcome those hurdles, the power of partnership can help us rebuild faster and better.


Doug MacMillan is president of The Letter M Marketing in Guelph, ON. To reach him, email [email protected]