Small businesses can massively benefit from collaborating in their marketing. By pooling resources and expertise, businesses can create engaging and informative content that reaches a wider audience generates more leads and strengthens brand recognition. Someone just needs to take the first step, let's explore how collaborating can benefit your business and your collaborator, the ways you can collaborate, how to approach people and how to set expectations. These collaborations can act like or stem from networking you are doing in and around your target audience or local community. Sometimes the right places to network in are with other business owners who serve the same audience but for a separate need. Sometimes you'll want to collaborate with a client or a content creator to show off your business or offer.
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First, let's break down the benefits of collaborating. Benefit number one is increased exposure. Collaborating with other businesses allows you to tap into their audience and increase your reach. By creating content together, you can cross promote on each other's social media channels, blogs and podcasts reaching a wider audience than you would be able to on your own. This added exposure can lead to increased website traffic social media followers, and if the content was relevant for your business, it can ultimately bring in more leads and sales.
Benefit number two is shared expertise. Every small business has its own cap of experience. Collaborating with other businesses can help you fill in the gaps and leverage the expertise of your partners. By joining forces, each business can focus on what they do best and make high quality content that resonates with the audience.
Benefit number three is cost savings or a larger return on investment. Collaborating on marketing content can also save you money. By sharing skillsets like collaborating with someone who will take care of the design, you now don't need to employ a designer. By combining your tech gear and skills you reduce the need for more tech collectively. So I've got this microphone, that's one less microphone to buy. This means your return on investment can be higher since your expenses are lower. It does also mean that you fill a seat in some situations that would otherwise be filled by someone you pay upfront for their time. On a podcast with no guests, but that still hosts conversations you'd need a co-host and if that's your team member, they get paid. If you host the podcast with someone who also has benefits and goals that would be matched by having a podcast either in the same way as you or in a complementary way, you can then get off the ground without that cost and split the eventual profits later, if you monetise the show.
Benefit number four is strengthened relationships. Collaborating with other businesses can help strengthen those individual relationships and grow your network. By working together on marketing content, you can build trust with that person. This means you're more likely to refer to them, ask them questions in the future and work together again. You can also establish a new network of contacts through each of those relationships that can lead to future collaborations and referrals. This type of networking can be especially valuable for small businesses because we rely more heavily on word of mouth referrals and recommendations to grow the businesses while keeping the spend low. It also means that you don't totally have to rely on someone else hosting a community or event to make those connections.
Benefit number five is increased creativity. Working with other businesses can also spark creativity and generate new ideas. everyone brings their different perspectives and expertise to the table which can lead to new and innovative content, design or messaging ideas. This can help your businesses to stand out in the market and set you apart from competitors and the status quo. Those are the biggest benefits to collaboration.
Now that we've established how great it is, let's make it a little more realistic. Before you organise a collaboration or put the feelers out to your network, it can help to understand what a collaboration looks like, what the bones or the container is.
The collab feature on Instagram allows for two accounts to share a feed post or Reel. This allows for a post you work on together somehow to be seen by both's following. This works by one creator posting and tagging another account as a collaborator. Once that other account accepts the tag it shows in the feed as both of yours, but first just goes out into that first accounts' feed. It tends to muddle what the algorithm so it is best that the person is waiting for the invite, and able to accept it.
On other platforms, it's as simple as tagging the person who appeared in your content, but since there's more ownership on one end, it's not quite as equal and doesn't show on their profile as prominently. On quite a few social media platforms and YouTube or Crowdcast, you can stream a live conversation with one or a group of hosts. You might be hosting a live podcast, a Q&A, a webinar, but you have promoted that you're going to be live at a certain time so people from both audiences can come and watch the structure of that video is then completely up to you.
On platforms like Instagram you can share a post to your Stories. The same exists on Facebook with the Share feature or TikTok with the repost. The original post might be a collaboration itself or just something worth sharing. It can be a simple repost or the person re-sharing and can add to the conversation with text or a follow up story, or duet on TikTok, or remix it on Instagram, to use part of the other person's content and then add their own input. This is one that you can start doing without any formal collaboration. Just start sharing people's posts when they are relevant to what you post or responding to what they see it in a TikTok or Reel or referencing them in some new piece of content.
You can collaborate on Pinterest with group boards, pinning other people's content or by joining communities on Tailwind. Pinterest is a combination of social media with search baked in. Tailwind is a tool that you can then use to shedule, smart loop and repost to and pin from communities.
A guest blog allows you to share your expertise in a niche area in front of an audience that would be perceptive to that information. Those viewing that website that you've guested on, can now stumble across you. Theoretically, the site owner has also shared something about it on social media. So it's not only the site traffic that sees it. In the same way, if you had a guest poster, you'd be best to also share it to your own social media channels, tag them, send them graphics they can share as well, maybe mention it in your email list.
Blogs add an SEO element where there's another website linking to you. This can also happen with podcasting or webinars, but that link is on a page that has keyword rich depending on how you wrote the post and also permanent. That link can be weighted depending on the domain authority of that website, but the more sites that link to you the better. Links from social media don't count for this type of backlink, but website links are great.
There's also the search matching element for blogs that works quite well. In the same way that a podcast app has search for a podcast episode or YouTube videos might show in search on Google or YouTube. Obviously, if you've written on someone else's site or show you don't get that traffic yourself unless they click the author bio link. Because of that, you might want the search traffic to head to your site and rank highly yourself for the important keywords. So I often find it's best to write guest posts on topics that I have already shared about on my site, but taking a different stance on them so that they are unique content, or topics that intersect mine and the other sites' brand that wouldn't necessarily fit on my site. Then again, if the site's traffic is massive, I'll just take the pros with the cons. Being a guest on a podcast has similar benefits and works in that same format, but it's more of a conversation. You just show up for the time that's allotted, so depending on how much of a writer you are, podcasts guesting could be faster. When you have your own podcast, you might invite guests on, partially for the conversation you'd have, which would be interesting to your existing subscribers, but the added benefit is that they also share that episode with their audience when it drops, and hopefully some that listen will also subscribe to the show and stick around. This is why it helps to have consistent topics and formats. There's also the option to collaborate on a podcast to create a new show where you and a friend or a group of you start a podcast. You could do a content swap, where in the same week, you are each on each other's content. This was massive in YouTube a while back, but I would actually say that you might have more benefit, if you would have gone on their podcast this week, and you promote it and they do as well. But then you have them on your show three to six months down the line and both promote it again, it can feel more organic and you can make sure it's truly two separate occasions with completely different discussions. There's nothing stopping you from having them on again to talk about a different topic to create those recurring opportunities to share, but each new guests bring new audiences so you don't want to go overboard with the repeat guests.
Being a guest on a podcast has similar benefits and works in that same format, but it's more of a conversation. You just show up for the time that's allotted, so depending on how much of a writer you are, podcasts guesting could be faster. When you have your own podcast, you might invite guests on, partially for the conversation you'd have, which would be interesting to your existing subscribers, but the added benefit is that they also share that episode with their audience when it drops, and hopefully some that listen will also subscribe to the show and stick around. This is why it helps to have consistent topics and formats. There's also the option to collaborate on a podcast to create a new show where you and a friend or a group of you start a podcast. You could do a content swap, where in the same week, you are each on each other's content. This was massive in YouTube a while back, but I would actually say that you might have more benefit, if you would have gone on their podcast this week, and you promote it and they do as well. But then you have them on your show three to six months down the line and both promote it again, it can feel more organic and you can make sure it's truly two separate occasions with completely different discussions. There's nothing stopping you from having them on again to talk about a different topic to create those recurring opportunities to share, but each new guests bring new audiences so you don't want to go overboard with the repeat guests.
Email list guesting is also a possibility. If you have a consistent decently sized list, it might be beneficial for someone to write a guest email or for you to do the same on someone else's list. Keeping consistent with the existing format is important, but the whole point is to interrupt the usual flow with an email from a different author that the audience would be sure to find interesting.
Content creator collaboration is more suited to their audience in say, an ad placement. This option might still be in a paid capacity or look like sending something to someone for free and hoping they like it enough to feature it. In this case, your product or service is involved, but you are working with someone with an established audience so it's best to let them do their thing. We see time and time again how brands will hire someone with an established brand to be seen in a situation or talk in a way that doesn't match their existing content.
Since this person has an audience already, they've learned what their audience likes, doesn't like, what they engage with and what turns them off. Empower them to do their thing instead of trying to steer the ship for them. After all you went to them for their connection to their audience. If you have a face of your brand, this content could involve them too. But let the content creator take the lead and trust in their process. It's not to their benefit to feature something in authentically so they know what they're doing. This is best done after you've had feedback on your offer and made improvements, but otherwise be open to any information the content creator provides you with, either from their own input or from the comments they receive. You could give them some facts and figures of your product but not a script or specific talking points or requirements. Just let it flow.
Without doing a blog post or some other kind of content swap, you can still link to other websites and have them link to you. In this area, it feels icky to only link to them if they link to you as well, so you'll need to show some work on your end and then position it to them as to why they should link to you back. It might also work more like a circle where within your network each site links to who makes sense, and everyone ends up with some links. You can also reach out to sites that mention you but don't link to you and ask them to link to your site providing them with a link that makes sense. You might like to suggest some additional collaboration on top too. This linking is super common for softwares where you might have a post talking about the pros and cons of a few options or have a favourite tools type of page and link to each item you mention. There's also affiliate options where people get the kickback for the traffic they direct, but that's less of a collaboration.
You can also create an offer together where you merge your individual offers and sell it together. This is also a revenue sharing business model, so it's not the simplest of options. But it is an option to consider. Because it is more directly impacting revenue, you'll need contracts, requirements for each of you. And it should be more of an even distribution of work to revenue, you can then use each of your individual platforms and all of the previous marketing collaboration spaces to share about and promote that shared offer. You can use any of these formats or create something new like a combination of these to collaborate with other businesses, clients or customers.
To get started with small business collaboration in marketing content, start by identifying businesses in your industry or niche that you would like to work with. It's best if they either have their own audience that will see the content you create together, or that showing that you worked with them adds some extra legitimacy for you. It's also possible to do this simply for the practice of the thing. But it adds something a little extra if they have the other criteria too.
To get the ball rolling, you might like to ask yourself: what other businesses serve my exact target audience, but for a different need? Which of my clients or customers would be a good fit to show off? That is you want to work with more people or businesses like them for that offer. Who can I have an interesting conversation with on or off camera? Who could be my ideal customer but who isn't currently? Who could be a great referral partner for my business but isn't currently? Who do you refer your clients and customers to already, or a great business that you could refer to in the future?
Before reaching out to collaborate, it is best to create some kind of other connection. This is why I recommend first collaborating with those in your established network. Once you've forged that connection, you might like to start with a direct message where you float the idea of collaborating, but let them know you can send them some more information. You'll want to send something short and sweet. But that is clear on your objectives. If they say yes, take it over to email so it's easier to manage for you and for them. Use automation whenever possible to limit the back and forth, like an online booking calendar or a form to collect the information you need from them.
If you're approaching a client you'd like to spotlight, let them know that you'd like to share a post showing off their business or the results they had, sharing as much of that post upfront as possible and let them know what you need from them to share. If anything, you might need their logo or a photo of them, but you might already have those and can mock up the post completely before you reach out to them. When collaborating, it's important to establish clear goals, timelines and expectations. This will help ensure that the collaboration is successful and that everyone is satisfied with the outcome. It also helps them to know what they're saying yes to. Ask yourself and be clear on: how much of their time you'll need? Where will the content be posted? And therefore whose brand design or brand voice should it match, if either of them? Do you need them to provide anything? For example, a logo access to something statistics, are they writing the blog post and you're sharing it? Or are you writing something for their website so you need some access and a bit of a framework of how they structure their content, or a tone to write to? Is there certain criteria that information needs to meet like, where should they get that statistic from? Does this collaboration involve them coming to a specific place at a specific time, or can it be done online? Do they need to show up camera already, or will you provide beauty and wardrobe? Will you provide them with final sign off or do they need to let you know if they want something edited out after the interview? Sometimes it's best to just not promise any results when you pitch this to them initially. If you're going live on Instagram together, you can't say how many people will show up live or watch the replay. That's okay because they can review your following and benefit from the practice itself of having a live conversation. You might choose to create a media kit to collate that audience information and send it over to the right people. Don't be afraid to reach out to other businesses in your industry and explore collaboration opportunities, you never know where it might lead.
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