Don't just focus on your competitors. Starting thinking about your "cooperators," encourages Colin Bates, the co-founder of BuildingBrands in his e-newsletter this morning.

Bates rattles off three key areas a company can "cooperate:"
1. Product design
2. Product placement and usage
3. Helping build an industry.

While he gives some big brand examples -- Levis introducing a pair of jeans this fall that will house iPods, United Airlines serving Starbucks coffee, and the Woolmark brand promoting the wool industry -- smaller businesses can easily adapt these strategies on a scale that fits their needs and budgets.

For example, the newsletter immediately reminded me of a short piece on Hedrick Co., and its strategy for selling its services via a cross-promotional newsletter it created with seven other business-to-business service providers. It also reminded me of Rand Smith and Maine Roasters Coffee in Portland, Me. When Starbucks came to town, he launched a buy-local effort that not only helped promote his brand against the coffee giant, but also helped fuel a "buy Maine" movement, which raised awareness of Maine-produced goods.

Whatever the tactic, cooperating with other businesses can serve as a low-cost, effective way to help build brand awareness. Which business could you tap to help you in your marketing efforts?