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Use collaborations to expand reach, revenue

Entrepreneurs tend to focus on their own companies and how to build them from within. While this focus is a major factor in growing a business, don’t overlook the benefits of collaborations with other firms.

With collaborations, you can get in front of new prospects, show your current customers that you work well with others, and introduce your customers to new and cool brands.

So how, exactly, do you find the perfect collaboration? A key aspect is identifying a company that isn’t a direct competitor, but has a similar type of customer.

One way to find a good collaboration is through your current customers. Survey them and ask which other companies they follow. You can also simply connect with your customers on social media and see the other companies they follow.

For Beardbrand, we seek companies with a similar mindset — that value design, quality, and customer service. We don’t want to partner with a company that is all about cheap products, big volume, or bigoted marketing.

We sell men’s grooming products. When searching for a good collaboration, we ask, “What company is the Beardbrand of wallets, of bags, of shoes, and so forth? And how can we connect with those companies?”

When considering potential collaborations, don’t limit yourself. You can partner up with companies that are larger and smaller than yours. They don’t have to be the same size as your company.

Every collaboration, and the value you get out of it, is different. Ideally you want a partnership that will increase sales. But sometimes it’s more about building a brand and showing your customers that you partner with other cool, like-minded brands.

Smaller companies can bring a soul to larger organizations. Larger companies tend to lose their soul when they grow. Partnering with emerging brands is a good way to show their customers that they haven’t lost it and they still care about what they produce.

Getting started

So, once you’ve identified a potential company to collaborate with, how do you make it happen?

Conduct your due diligence and understand the company’s business. Is it primarily wholesale, online sales, media, or something else? Understanding the business is going to help build a collaboration that works. Maybe it’s a goods-with-purchase ecommerce play (you drop the company’s sample products in all of your orders for, say, a week). Or, with a big brand, it could be advertising space or being featured on its blog.

Then get in touch. For me, email is best for initial introductions and setting things up. Generally with larger companies, reach out to the marketing or public relations department. With smaller companies, try the founder or owner.

Personalize your pitch so your email will get noticed in their inbox. Push as hard as you want for the collaboration, but move on if you’re not getting any traction or feedback.

If you’re new to all of this, start with smaller, less daunting collaborations.

Setting up the collaboration will likely take longer than you expect depending on the scope of the project. A goods-with-purchase collaboration is typically quicker than, say, developing an entirely new product with a company, which could take up to a year. Be patient. Don’t be too pushy, and respect how the company operates.

Also, decide the importance of collaborations to your business. For Beardbrand, collaborations are not a primary marketing strategy.

If you wanted collaborations to be at the core of your business, adopt a systematic process to identifying potential partners and honing your pitches. Otherwise, take your time and let the inspiration come to you. Keep your eyes and mind open. See what’s out there. When you come across a company with a cool product or vibe, it could be an opportunity.

I recently collaborated with Aaron Marino, a lifestyle and image consultant for males, on his YouTube “Alpha M.” channel. There are subscribers to his channel who also subscribe to ours. When they saw us on a video together, their reaction was something like, “I watch both of these guys. Their channels are two of my favorites.” And those people are now more connected to Aaron and me because we collaborated for this project.

Other recent collaborations we’ve done include Recycled Firefighter, which makes wallets and bags from old fire hoses, and Clarisonic, a cleaning device for men with beards.

Eric Bandholz
Eric Bandholz
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