Collaboration is what you need

Collaboration is what you need

Let’s face it, owning a small business can be lonely. It’s easy to get lost in your own thoughts and self talk and start to doubt yourself. This is especially the case if you are working from home and don’t have co-workers to bounce off. Add to that the other responsibilities, chores and tasks that need to be done and you can easily find yourself talking to the microwave for inspiration.

The good news is that if you own a small business, you aren’t alone. There are over 546,000 small businesses in New Zealand with 20 or fewer employees. Many of these are single director businesses, sole traders, side hustles and hobbies that turned into businesses. Imagine what happens when these businesses connect and collaborate!

The Power of Collaboration

I discovered the power of collaborating earlier this year through a Collaboration Challenge hosted by Golden Brands. This was a fabulous opportunity to meet other businesses in lots of different industries and be gently encouraged to reach out to brands we could share and create value with. We were guided through the process including planning, ways to reach out, confidence building, what to offer and how to follow up and follow though.

So what counts as a collaboration? Despite various definitions, I’ve learnt there are no hard and fast rules and as long as there is mutual value in creating a connection. Here are some examples that I have tried out which you might want to give a try.

  • Joint Giveaways – This can be a great way to increase your reach on social media through giveaway rules which require you to be followed to win. However, expect some drop off in followers at the end – sorry to break it to you! Here's a link to one I am working on using Instagram.
  • Product Creation – I worked closely with a small group of business to create a Mother’s Day gift box. Yes, we made a few sales but the biggest win were some closer connections with female owned businesses and of course my beautiful earrings from Illyrian Gems.
  • Post Exchanges – They post your content and you post theirs – simple.
  • Value Partnering – Reaching out to businesses who could use your product or service and offer a discount, wholesale pricing or growth through social channels with mutual promotion of your partnership. This is something I have done with Vanessa McGovern from The Mortgage Supply Company to create some custom gift boxes for her clients.
  • Guest Blog – Something I plan to do soon – watch this space! Ask someone who will resonate with your audience to write a guest post for your blog.
  • Promotion – Agreeing to promote another business’ product or services. I included Jane Pascoe’s flyers in my gift boxes for a month with a special promotion for her Movement Membership. Find her at Jane Pascoe.

Collaboration Examples

Lessons Learned and Top Tips

So that all sounds good but what are some of the pitfalls I hear you ask. Reaching out is scary enough, they might say no or even worse they might say yes and it turns into a disaster. Here are some of the most important lessons I learned during my collabs so far:

  • Start Something – Getting started in the hardest part so it’s good to kick off with a brainstorm of potential collaboration partners and then get this down to a short list. Sometimes it’s easiest to start with someone you already know or a personal connection as they are already familiar with your work and you have built some trust.
  • Find your match - Just like in your personal life you won’t connect well with everyone. You will be spending a fair but of time with the business owner you are collaborating with so find someone who gives you energy and is fun to work with. Ideally set up a video or phone call and have a chat first – you will know in your gut if it’s going to work.
  • If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no – You can’t really go into a collaboration half interested. It takes a lot of everyone’s time, so you need to be committed to put in the time and work.
  • Provide some value – Think about what you are offering and what’s in it for someone else to collab with you. It can’t all be one sided and there needs to be mutual benefit. A good example of this was a recent collab with Stickerdot who make the cutest stickers in a huge range. The value exchange was promotion on my Instagram in return for some free business stickers.
  • Find your tribe – Your brands really need to work well together. You are likely to be sharing ideas, products, promotions and social content. Make sure your values, customer base and aesthetics work together.
  • Follow up – If you don’t get a response to your collab idea straight away, don’t be disheartened. Just like you, everyone has a life and are often juggling a few balls. They may have just dropped one when your email landed in their inbox. Follow up, you’ll be surprised how many responses you get.                              

StickerDot Collab

The impacts and benefits of a collaboration approach have been huge for my business but also for my personal growth. The best part has certainly been the connections I have made along the way. Even though I work from home on my own, I now have a much larger network of online business friends who I could reach out to for ideas and opinions. It’s also been really good for my social media reach to have more people sharing my content – it’s always nice to know you’ll have someone who likes your post straight away.

So, I encourage you to get started, get your thinking cap on and get collaborating. If you have any stories to share or top tips then you can leave them in the comments below – good luck!


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