Networking is crucial to business success because it allows organisations to connect with potential customers, partners and other industry professionals. By bringing together like-minded individuals and facilitating mutually beneficial relationships, networking groups (like Agencies social) hold an array of benefits for businesses large and small.
Many operate with different chapters geographically, and often will only allow one member from each trade or industry within each group. In the case of Agencies Social - the group TAMLO belongs to - we share the same industry but are set apart by our locations and cultural expertise.
Agencies Social is a digital marketing and social media agency network consisting of 11 organisations across Europe, Asia and America.
For TAMLO, the value that comes from being part of this network is huge. For starters, we’re able to expand our offering for clients who want to break into new markets, calling upon the wider group’s expertise in a particular country.
Here is what we’ve learned through our experience in a global network:
Competitors are not the enemy
In recent years we’ve seen successful collaborations between competitors such as Microsoft and Intel, Vimeo and YouTube.
Historically, though, there’s been a fear of competition. As James puts it: ‘If you were to broach the topic of collaborating with your rivals with a business school professor in the 70s, they’d ask you why you'd want to. But the concept of eradicating the competition is an outdated one.’
A study by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute found that the pros of collaborating with competitors often outweigh the cons. In fact, they proved that collaborations lasting anywhere from three to five years tend to have a 50% chance of mutually reducing company costs.
New networks means new prospects
‘And anyway’, says James, ‘you may compete on some products, but not all, so why not collaborate on those ones? Plus, while two organisations might seem like they have similar offerings, the way they position themselves could be very different. Monopoly is never a good thing, we see that time and time again throughout history, it’s not good for people.’
It might be obvious, but it’s still worth saying: networking is great for business development. As long as you don’t view a networking group as a means to sell or a shortcut to success (see point 4), you can end up reaping the rewards.
Building relationships with other businesses (including competitors) often leads to recommendations and the potential for new business to be passed your way. If another business doesn’t have the capacity or the expertise in a specific area, they can look to you.
This is exactly how things work at Agencies Social. ‘Agencies around the world can help each other out by collaborating on projects together’, says James. ‘More and more we’re being asked to pitch not just English, but also French and German content, so we can immediately reach out to our French and German members.’
Asking questions leads to important reality checks
From tips and advice to industry insider knowledge and increased cultural awareness, networking groups allow everyone to deepen their expertise. For TAMLO, it’s about understanding other markets and exchanging information and ideas.
As James explains: ‘We take the opportunity to ask agency leaders things like: “How’s it been for you over the last couple of years since COVID?” or “How are you taking on the challenge of large language models and AI? Do you care about that?” These are things we at TAMLO are concerned about.
‘Regarding AI, we have found that agencies are trying different tactics to integrate AI in the right way. So being part of this group, and having the opportunity to ask questions helps make sure we are on the right path.
‘It’s actually helped us realise that we need to focus our strategy more. It is clear that some of the agencies have really good ideas on how they're going to drive their businesses forward. Ours isn't as clear. In terms of future growth, being part of a group like this allows you to see where you fit on the spectrum.’
Don’t underestimate the power of community and connection
An under-acknowledged benefit of belonging to a networking group is the camaraderie and sense of wellbeing it brings. Advice, support and insight from others in a similar field creates a sense of solidarity and, simply put, happiness. Because of course, networking isn’t about selling, it’s about building relationships.
For small businesses, being part of a networking group is an excellent way to stay connected - to others and to the bigger picture. And particularly for remote workers or one-man bands, they can help immunise against loneliness.
‘We have quarterly meetings where we encourage all the agencies to join so everyone is part of the conversation’, explains James, ‘and we’ve just had our first face-to-face meet up in Germany. It was great fun, and off the back of that we’ve decided to do employee exchanges. So, we’re planning to send staff members to work somewhere else in the world, in the future.’
Networking groups also stop organisations and individuals from falling too deeply into their own echo chamber. For TAMLO, forging relationships with other agencies across the globe is paramount to our own growth as an agency, particularly since we specialise in localisation. More and more Japanese brands want to market to Europe, so we can’t call ourselves ‘culture connectors’ if we don’t have a good grasp of all the cultures we’re trying to connect.
Plus, as James points out, ‘It’s just so interesting to work with different cultures and see the different dynamics!’
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Being part of a proactive networking group has been eye-opening and hugely advantageous for TAMLO. We’re seeing new and exciting collaborations between agencies in the group all the time and we know there will be future projects that we’ll be partnering with others on. Watch this space!