Collaboration is a popular word in business. What does it really mean – and why can it be the key to delivering your best marketing?

In a recent article, business development consultancy Questas says that ‘it is possible to become hugely successful by developing a collaborative ethos at the heart of [your] organisation’.

Here we explore how you can build this ethos, and look at some of the benefits it can deliver.

The secrets of highly-collaborative organisations

In an article, Forbes Magazine has set out the 12 Habits of Highly-Collaborative Organisations.

These seem a good place to start when looking at how you can use collaboration to improve your own marketing performance.

The article identifies 12 ‘principles of collaboration’ that successful firms subscribe to:

1.  Lead by example – collaboration needs to start at the top, with a culture of co-operation.

2.  Identify individual benefit as well as corporate benefit – because people care about what happens to 
them personally more than they do about the impact on their employer. 

3.  Put strategy before technology – the right approach will benefit you more than a shiny new 
platform. Get your strategy right first.

4.  Learn to get out of the way – while process and objectives are essential, prescriptive rules shouldn’t 
stifle individual empowerment or initiative.

5.  Listen to the voice of the employee – make your employees a central part of the decision-making 
process, integral to your strategy and tactics.

6.  Integrate into the flow of work – make collaboration ‘business as usual’ rather than a bolt-on 
addition to the way you work.

7.  Create a supportive environment – ensure your ethos encourages teamwork, with rewards based on 
team performance, for instance. Anything that fosters individual performance at the expense of the 
team or firm is the antithesis of a collaborative approach.

8.  Measure what matters – what should you be measuring to get a feel for the success of your 
collaboration drive? Not everything that can be measured will give you useful data.

9.  Persistence – the Forbes author believes strongly that collaboration should be a way of working, 
rather than an initiative. Commit to moving towards a collaborative ethos and continue that 
direction of travel, even if not every individual project is a success.

10. Adapt and evolve – with collaboration a long-term goal, it’s evident that approaches will need to 
change over time, as employees, corporate objectives and the wider environment evolve. Don’t be 
afraid to adapt your approach as you go along.

11. Recognise the benefits to the customer – remember that collaboration isn’t all about your own 
internal efficiency. The end goal should always be your customer and employee collaboration can 
have a significant positive impact here.

12. Collaboration can make the world a better place – a rather sweeping statement, but one the Forbes 
article believes is fundamental, pointing out that it ‘allows employees to feel more connected to 
their jobs and co-workers, reduces stress at the workplace, makes their jobs easier, allows for more 
work freedom, and in general makes them happier people’.

With list of benefits like that it’s no wonder that collaboration is a bit of a buzzword.

There’s even an institute dedicated to it – the Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW) and a specific accreditation that firms can achieve, ISO 44001,which recognises collaborative working relationships.

So – how can you create a more collaborative Marketing function?

1.  Understand the inter-related nature of marketing activity

Responsibility for marketing activity – particularly when we look at professional services rather than product marketing – cannot be confined to the Marketing team. Client-facing consultants; advisers; your Sales colleagues – all are likely to play some part in devising your strategy, delivering content and communicating with clients and prospects. 

We’ve looked before at why successful marketing content is everyone’s responsibility. Marketing – maybe more than any other discipline – is inherently interwoven with other teams. 

In the same way that content isn’t purely down to Marketing, compliance is an area where the whole business has a role to play, with Marketing having the potential to help firms reduce their conduct risk.

Reflect this in your processes and you will be able to make the most of the skills you have across the business. Look outside your own team to devise better marketing processes, content and strategies – and conversely, see how you can add value in other areas of the business.

2. Get it right in your own team first

The first step here – as with many things – might be to look at your own performance before identifying areas for improvement elsewhere. There are proven strategies you can use to improve collaboration within your Marketing team before you look at ways to work better with those in the rest of your organisation.

3. Ensure the culture is right

This may not be entirely within your power, but having a culture that supports inter-team working and reduces the temptation to work in silos is vital. 

As the Forbes ‘habits’ recognise, it’s essential to have the right leadership and sponsorship from the very top of the organisation. Trust is essential, and any reward/remuneration structures need to reflect and encourage collaboration.

4. Have the right processes

It’s easier to achieve collaboration if you make collaboration easy. While this may sound trite, it’s important to make sure your approach supports what you’re trying to deliver. 

Automating some of your processes can help here – for instance, making use of content production platforms that enable collaborative reviewing and approval. For firms where the need for Compliance team approval adds an extra layer to the marketing production process, this can save significant time and effort. 

Automated workflow solutions can make it easy to collaborate with agencies and outside suppliers on briefing and project management. They can enable real-time reviews and comments, reducing the need for hard-copy reviews and manual edits. All of which saves time and helps to maximise the efficiency of your approvals process.

Collaboration, both within the Marketing team and with colleagues and suppliers, can deliver significant benefits. Put in place some of the tips here and you will be on the right road to a more collaborative way of working.

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