When businesses with similar values and goals work together, amazing things can happen! Teaming up with other companies to promote our products and services is something I love to do when the opportunity is right. Over the past few years, I’ve learned some essential steps and strategies for making collaborations enjoyable and successful for everyone involved. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with other businesses.
Anytime you collaborate with other businesses, the business owners invest money, time, or products/services. That’s why it’s so important that collaborators do their part and carry their weight instead of letting one business do all the legwork.
If you’re approaching another business about a potential collaboration, it’s great to come with ideas! Put together a few suggestions for them to consider what a collaboration could look like, and of course, be open to their thoughts and ideas! That way, instead of asking them to do all the brainstorming, you’re giving them something to consider and work off of.
It should go without saying, but being friendly and courteous in your communication is crucial when you want to collaborate with other businesses and build good relationships with them. Whether you’ve established a collaboration opportunity or you’re asking them to consider collaborating with you, always be kind and considerate.
This is also something to keep in mind as a collaboration comes to life and you find yourself interacting and engaging with your collaborators’ customers. For example, if your collaboration is an event where multiple businesses are being represented, the experience guests and attendees have reflects on all the collaborators involved. When I’m at a collaboration event and taking photos, I do my best to make sure everyone has a positive interaction with me, even if my business isn’t one they’ll ultimately invest in.
There are tons of businesses I love supporting, but not everyone will be a good fit for a collaboration with Dogs of MKE. Good collaborations have to make sense. So, when you’re thinking about approaching a business you want to collaborate with (or if you’ve received an invitation to collaborate with someone), think about whether the opportunity is a good fit for your business and theirs.
Some of my favorite collaborations so far have been with people and businesses who have a genuine interest in Dogs of MKE. It’s nice to connect with collaborators who are long-time followers on social media and who have engaged with me before–I’ll recognize their names from their comments or messages!
Compared with someone who follows me and then immediately asks me to collaborate, I know those established connections aren’t just seeking to get something from me but are actually interested in what I do.
Before you hit “send” on that email to a business you’d love to collaborate with, make sure you’ve done your homework. Head to their website and check out their social media, so you have a good idea of what they have to offer, who they are, and who they serve. I really appreciate the collaboration invitations I get where it’s clear the sender has taken the time to learn about my business and what’s important to me.
Learning more about someone’s business will help you see whether your brands are compatible and whether collaborating with you might make sense for them. Plus, doing a little research will help you develop ideas for ways to collaborate and give you an idea of whether or not a collaboration with them is a good fit for your business.
I have an Instagram-centric business, so, understandably, some companies might think boosting my followers and going viral is important to me. The truth is, that’s not a priority for me. It’s always good to consider that what you perceive to be a goal or a potential collaborator might not actually be important to them. That’s why when you approach someone for a collaboration, it’s best not to assume what they want to accomplish.
Instead, start a conversation and ask them! When you share that well-thought-out collaboration idea with another business, welcome feedback on whether the collaboration would support their business goals. And if it doesn’t? See how you might be able to tweak your plans so that your collaborators benefit in a way that is impactful for their business.
I don’t expect to double my revenue or get inundated with new clients when collaborating with other businesses. I do want to know there is a solid business case for me to invest my time, services, or money, though. For a collaboration to be worth it for each collaborator, there should be something in it for all of them.
If a collaboration opportunity is genuinely a good one, I don’t need to hear things like that it will get me “more exposure” (enough with that word, already!) or that it will be “good for business.” Those things will be obvious! Instead, it’s nice to hear what someone has in mind, why they think our businesses should team up, and what the next steps are. It really doesn’t have to be too complicated.
When you approach another business about a collaboration, it’s also a good rule of thumb not to expect they’ll be providing their products or services for free. A collaborator may ultimately decide to do something for free if they think it’s worth it for their business, but it’s nice to let them make that call vs. suggesting it.
When you collaborate with other businesses, and it goes well, it can open the door to all sorts of opportunities in the future–a wonderful business friendship, connecting with potential customers and clients, or even dipping your toes into an audience who is new to you! For that reason, it’s especially important that every collaboration is an excellent experience for everyone involved.
Whether collaborators are being compensated or not, try to remember that the collaboration is not their full-time job. They’re likely pretty busy people with a lot on their plate (just like you!) so keep that in mind and show them that you value their time. Making sure to be on time for meetings you set together and doing things when you commit to doing them shows your collaborators you respect their schedules.
In the age of Instagram and the ease of DMs (I know, it’s so quick!), it’s also always a good idea to establish how your collaborators like to communicate. If you reach out to someone about an opportunity via DM and they ask you to send them an email instead, honor that request. They’ll appreciate it, and it demonstrates that you’re serious about collaborating with them!
Collaborations can be a great way to work with other businesses and connect with new audiences. When everyone involved is friendly, respectful, and willing to do their part, the possibilities are endless. Keep these points in mind the next time you consider approaching someone for a collaboration, or if you’re on the receiving end, to make sure it’s a great experience for you and your collaborators!
Want to hear more of what I’ve learned starting a business? Check out my post on my biggest lessons from running Dogs of MKE.