The 5 steps for setting up a Marketing Collaboration

Over 60% of start-ups and small businesses are working together to find new customers because it can be one of the most effective and cost efficient ways to grow a business. At one end of the scale, businesses are co-creating completely new products, or running whole marketing campaigns or on-pack promotions together. At the other end of the scale, savvy start-ups get together day-in-day-out with other brands to promote each other’s brands and share each other’s products to expand their own reach. So here is The Nurture Network’s guide on how to set up a successful Marketing Collaboration and get results on a budget:

1. Be strategic about Marketing Collaboration

All effective marketing starts with a clear idea of what you want to achieve, and developing collaborative marketing activities is no different.

Firstly, identify what you want to achieve. Intrinsically linked to your business strategy you can identify whether you want to reach more people; whether you want to reach a very specific or niche group of people; perhaps you want to improve your brand reputation; or even reward your current loyal customers in some way. Knowing your objectives will enable you to be clear about what activities you would like to do with another brand.

2. Think like your consumer

Having your consumer at the very heart of all your marketing decisions is vital to effective marketing. When it comes to choosing a brand to collaborate with, your consumer is the best place to start.

What brands does your consumer group buy and interact with? What brands do they aspire to? Which ones complement your brand? Identify all the brands that your consumer interacts with and you will have a long list of brands that you can collaborate with to meet more people like the consumers you already have.
Create this as your long list then start filtering…

3. Be true to your brand

The final filter for selecting the best brands to collaborate with is brand-fit. The most effective marketing collaborations are when the very essence of the brands involved genuinely work well together: Whether it is having a common cause, matched brand values, or a similar tone of voice something must be complimentary to make a successful relationship, rather than a superficial one.

When McDonalds was announced as a brand partner of London 2012 they came under some pretty heavy scrutiny, because the perceived brand values jar with each other. By contrast, Nike and Apple working together to create fitness accessories that talk to each other, makes perfect sense and gives added value to the consumer. Similarly, when innocent drinks wanted to teach kids about healthy food and drink we teamed them up with veg-garden-in-a-box company Rocket Gardens, and created an on-pack campaign. Get the brand fit right and the benefits spread three ways across the brands involved and the consumer.

4. Cash is not king when it comes to collaboration

There will always be a role for paid-for sponsorship deals (i.e. McDonalds), but we champion the relationships that are based on mutual benefit rather than cash exchanges. Once you know who you want to reach and what you want to achieve the trick is to identify what you have of value that you can offer potential brand partners.

You could give away products in return for free advertising; offer up competition prizes for editorial coverage; feature other peoples’ competitions in your marketing in return for feature in theirs – the opportunities are endless. Don’t get caught up thinking you have nothing to offer because you’re small or don’t do much marketing. If you have just one shop, there will be non-retail brands itching to access the group of people that walk through your doors every day. If you have a great social media following, or an e-newsletter that is well received by a large or specific group of consumers, then these are your assets.

5. Focus on the relationship to make it happen

In return for reaching new customers and promoting your business for little or no cost, be prepared to invest time in creating a strong relationship with your brand partner.

Be open and honest about what you both want to achieve, and agree your joint objectives up front. If you get the right balance you will both want to repeat the activities again and again, which really pays back on the time spent finding, meeting and working together.

Be flexible and creative early in the planning stage. Once you have a central idea for working together look at all parts of your respective businesses and see how and where you can spread your idea across multiple marketing channels. By amplifying the activity across email, print, adverts or social media you will get better return on investment for the time you are putting in.

Plan ahead and agree clearly who does what by when. The best ideas can fall down at the execution stage – so make time to go through the detail and agree responsibilities up front. If there is any copy, creative or artwork required for your activity set up a process so that both parties can sign it off by the deadlines. And identify some key measures that you both feel are good ways to track success by.

Get Involved
A huge portion of your marketing plan can include elements of collaboration – from minor competitions in your newsletters, to events, and full blown campaigns. The only limiting factor for collaboration is finding brands to do it with. The majority of brands we work with finding this the biggest limiting factor as often it takes meeting someone whilst networking to get the ball rolling. Fortunately, in response to the increase in Marketing Collaborations sites like BrandGathering are emerging to help brands find other brands to collaborate with – and you can sign up for free now as a founding member

Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.