I can’t tell you how much it pleases me to use the word ‘collaborate’ to be able to create a business article with Vanilla Ice lyrics in the title. I’m sorry, I’m just an incorrigible dork and couldn’t help it, the urge was too great to resist.
A collaboration (i.e. working on a short-term project with another business so that it benefits you both) is one of the best forms of marketing out there and I highly recommend them no matter what stage you’re at in your business.
They’re especially useful when you first start out and don’t have much of an audience of your own and are one of the fastest, most effective ways to grow your audience and increase your exposure to your target market and ideal clients. Collaborating means so many more new eyeballs on you and your business than you’d easily be able to generate on your own – and being introduced to them by someone they already know and trust means they’ll trust you so much more quickly too! It’s a fantastic way to elevate your brand.
Building relationships with other business owners isn’t just great from a marketing point of view – you also benefit from the business support and development that comes with working with other business owners. You can learn a lot from each other and another brain means fresh ideas you might not have thought of too. Running your own business can be a lonely game at times, and having a little business buddy for a while can be so enjoyable and invigorating!
10 STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION
1) Ensure your brands and ideal clients are aligned – there’s no point working with a business who has a different ethos or values to you, or who serves a different ideal client – doing this will just introduce you to loads of the wrong people. Take time first to figure out exactly who your own ideal client is and what your own brand stands for – then you can seek out likeminded brands to collaborate with.
2) Identify potential types of collaborators – where do your ideal clients hang out? What other businesses serve them? Get down a big list of as many as you can. Research them all – look at their websites and social media – get a feel for who they are and what they do.
3) Create a shortlist and nurture these – pick your top 10 from the list above and create a plan to nurture these relationships so you can move them from strangers to potential collaborators – work this into your daily / weekly marketing system.
4) Get clear on your goal for the collaboration – is it to get more bookings for a specific type of shoot or grow your audience? Usually one will not happen without a bit of the other, but it’s worth getting clarity on this so you can ensure that whatever reciprocal arrangement you agree on definitely leads towards your own goals for the collaboration.
5) Consider what you could offer each other in your reciprocal arrangement – sometimes you might offer each other the same thing (e.g. promoting each other’s blog posts on social media or running a competition together) but sometimes you might offer each other different things – you might offer them some photography in exchange for them promoting you to their mailing list, or you might offer them a photography training session in exchange for being on their recommended supplier list. Take into account each of your audience sizes and reputations – if there is an imbalance (e.g one of you has a lot bigger audience than the other) then you may need to address that in your reciprocal agreement with the person with the smaller audience offering a little more to compensate.
6) Confirm a provisional proposal to present to your first choice collaborator – come up with a couple of ideas so you can present them with options. Remember that the proposed reciprocal arrangement may well be different for each different collaborator (as it will depend on exactly what they do and what their strengths are, compared to yours) so it will take a little time to think through what might work best for each specific business. You don’t want to waste their time by approaching them about a collaboration and then making them wait while you think up some ideas – so have these ready to go when you approach them.
7) Approach your potential collaborator – keep it short & sweet – at this point you don’t even know if they will be interested so don’t waste their time with a long email. Personalise it so you can show them this isn’t a generic approach, and check if they’re interested first before sending over your ideas.
8) Plan the collaboration together – once they’ve said yes, work together to produce a clear, detailed, written agreement of the specific terms and your reciprocal agreement. No one should be in any doubt as to their responsibilities. All parties should sign this.
9) Execute your collaboration – make sure you make it a positive experience for your collaborator by overdelivering where possible and ensuring great organisation and communication throughout – don’t make them regret working with you by being slow to respond or losing key information. You want them to be shouting about how great you are once the collaboration is finished.
10) Review – create a folder for this collaboration, write down the entire process, save all relevant documents and ensure you review it all immediately afterwards – what went well, what didn’t go so well, how you could have done things differently, ideas for future collaborations etc. Then you can just tweak, rinse and repeat for next time!
In The Shutterhood there is a Booster training on Collaborations – this goes through all of the 10 steps above in depth and detail – a step by step process and template to follow to ensure that it all runs smoothly. It contains loads of specific suggestions for potential collaborators (split into wedding / family / personal branding / pet photographers), where to find them, as well as heaps of suggestions for ways you can collaborate (both with just one business and several at the same time).
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