If you want to grow and market your business, you have to start thinking about collaboration with other entrepreneurs. Otherwise, your business will always be stagnant.
Collaboration allows you to expand your reach and sometimes, without incurring other costs. It provides you with additional resources and focuses you on utilising your strengths and core competencies. It opens up other opportunities as you will be privy to another set of audience that you may not have had access to, before.
Collaboration is a smarter way of marketing and if you’re not collaborating with other entrepreneurs because you don’t know how we will show you some ways to get started.
Having said that, let’s put it out here that collaboration is not an easy path. It’s a great vehicle for growing your business and marketing your business quickly but it is also not for everyone who is not ready to partner up. We have had our fair share of collaborations that fizzled and we’re going to tell you what NOT to do.
7 Important Steps For Successful Collaboration Marketing
1. Have the right mindset
Think of collaboration like dating with an intention of marriage. Before you go out to look for partners to work with, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to work with others.
If you are not ready to work with others, your collaboration will fail. In a collaborative project, you need to share ideas and be frank about what you can offer. If you are not ready to open up to another entrepreneur, collaboration is NOT for you.
You need to have a giving mindset when you work with your partner. You can’t go into a collaboration with the intention to take or benefit 100% while leaving nothing for your partner. You also can’t be a good partner if you are not willing to do your share of the work – again, work could mean promotion and marketing work, or it could even mean investing time and money.
These are some of the ‘rules’ that you need to discuss with your partner before you get too excited about the project that you want to work on.
2. Work with people you trust & understand their business maturity level
Have a good look at your list of contacts. Who are the people that you know, like and trust? You need to trust them before you pitch them with the idea of working together. Some people are wonderful as friends but terribly hopeless as collaborators for a project or business idea. We had a friend whom we trusted a lot but she wouldn’t make a good partner because she had just started her business and she was still unsure of her own audience.
When you partner up, look at the levels you’re both coming from. Is your partner someone who has just started her business while you’ve been in business for more than 10 years? Different maturity of businesses means you need to find partners who understand what level of business you are at. There is no point partnering with someone who is struggling with her marketing and brand while you’ve passed that stage years ago and are now ready to go into the international market. You’ll be frustrated as your goals are not the same.
3. Serve the audience you both have
When you collaborate with a partner, you need to know that you both serve the same audience. Your products or services may complement each other but the core audience is the same. For instance, we would be open to collaborating with a company secretary, accountant, HR consultant, social media consultant or business coach because our core audience is entrepreneurs.
We wouldn’t do so well if we collaborated with a makeup artist or fashion stylist unless they deal with entrepreneurs. Finding partners with the same core audience gives you both a leg-up and strengthens your businesses. It’s a bit like the Avengers!
4. Talk about rules and results
Collaboration is about finding people with the same mindsets who want the same things that you do and want to reach out to the same group of audience. Beyond that, it’s also about drawing up rules for each other before you start your collaboration. Have a frank discussion about what matters to both of you such as results.
Don’t let assumptions kill your collaboration. What results are you both trying to achieve? Different people have different expectations; what works for you may not work for your collaborator. Also, what are the rules of engagement? What about workload and responsibilities? Who will be doing what? Manage the expectations upfront by talking about them. Work on the tough conversations especially if it’s about profit-sharing, investment, commissions and funding requirements. If it’s a complicated project, draw up an agreement and have everyone agree and sign on the dotted line.
Once we wanted to partner up with a social media consultant to run a series of workshops but it didn’t work out as he didn’t want to share any of the costs of running the workshop!
5. Start with a mini project, online or offline
Your collaboration should start off as a mini project to test the waters. Try out a small project with a deadline and agreed upon result. It could be an event that both of you want to organise and host together or a contest or giveaway. It could be as simple as offering to guest post on each other’s blog or website.
The idea is to get both parties warmed up and to see if there are any hiccups or disagreements. If a mini project fails, the impact isn’t so disastrous. You can both part ways without hating each other for life. You can also observe your partner’s work ethics (or lack of!) and find out for sure if what she is able to commit or carry out the other projects you’ve both lined up.
6. Consider one-off or long-term
You don’t have to start each collaboration thinking it’s a long-term agreement. You can easily commit to a one-off project such as creating a contest together and offering each other’s products as prizes. This could be a one month project ending with the announcement of the contest winners. If you like your partner’s work style and personality, pitch her again next year for another collaboration. If you didn’t like the way she worked, you can ease yourself out of the collaboration as it was only a one-time project.
Long-term projects are trickier but this only happens when you’ve tested the water with a mini project or two. Long-term could mean committing to a year of working together or even 2 years. We are currently working with our partner on an educational series and this is an ongoing project for the next 2 years.
Factor in a review or post-mortem of the project once it’s completed. This allows you to see if the collaboration worked well or if it didn’t, what went wrong. If it’s a long-term project, ask for a review meeting after a year.
7. Invest real commitment and time
The real investment for you and your partner is time and a true commitment to the project. If you take on a project because you want to gain from it without wanting to put in the time to think or do the work, it will not work. Both of you must care about the results and the results aren’t about the money earned or products sold.
It’s about helping both your audiences/customers with what you offer. Money, as Nic often says, is a reward for serving your audience/customers well (have you seen Nic’s Where is The Money video?). Money should not be the goal so don’t start thinking of collaborating with someone just to earn more money as the only objective!
To learn more about strategic collaborations and how to cultivate the right partnerships for business, join us at our 26 June Marketing Mojo at China House Cafe. Nic will be giving more examples and help you work out who your potential partners could be and how to approach the partners without sounding like you’re just after their customers!
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