Why #collaborationovercompetition is the key to business success
Earlier this week I collaborated with Jess Ruhfus of Collabosaurus fame to host an event talking through all things deep and dirty in the world of collaboration marketing. That’s a lot of collaborating in one sentence, huh? And hand on heart, it is one of my absolute favourite topics (and deserving of more than one mention in a single sentence), because without it, my business probably wouldn’t be here today.
The power of collaboration is undeniable – it’s an absolute game-changer when it comes to business – particularly for me as a small business, because it exponentially increases your network and exposure without huge investment. And it’s also really good for the soul. Because together, we help lift each other up. My motto? Collaboration over competition. ALWAYS. ‘Cos, in the magic words of Ryunosuke Satoro: “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
Understanding how to collaborate really does mean the world is your oyster. When you find the person or brand whose vision and values align with yours, it’s total magic. Why? It adds value to your business. It opens up new audiences and networks. It’s fun, and it usually leads to new friends as well as new business.
Why a content hub is a simple, cost-effective foray into the world of collaboration marketing
So, first up – it’s super important to understand that entering into a collaboration is about understanding what your value is and what you bring to the table, and how that piece of the puzzle fits with your collaborator.
For O&C, it was about recognising our skill, talent, and ‘why’. This helped us identify who our ideal people are and then work out who we would talk to that is currently operating in that space.
For me, as a social media, PR and digi marketing obsessive I was pretty clear on the general area I wanted to be targeting – it was about lifestyle and business peeps, branding, digital, social media and PR queens!
That’s not to say you can’t go outside your lane and collaborate with someone doing something entirely different (and for product-based businesses, this juxtaposition can be magic!). You just need to have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it, for both parties.
So, a super simple area for O&C, as a service-based biz, was to collaborate on words – and for us, that’s O&C blogs. This works in two ways.
Good quality content is crucial for boosting a website’s search performance on Google. It establishes your authority and authenticity to not only Google but also with your audience. And when you collaborate on this content, you are also opening doors. A simple Q&A is relatively quick, easy and cost-effective way to collaborate and forge a new connection. It’s what you do with that connection that really drives home the value.
And while all the women we have collaborated with could be considered ‘competitors’, they are anything but. Every single one of the fabulous women that I’ve worked with on a piece of blog content has gone on to be not only a friend, but a referrer, a client, a project partner, a business mentor or general life cheerleader.
Because here’s the thing: growth isn’t achieved by huddling our secrets close to our chests. Sharing knowledge and joining forces with other brands, (yes, even our ‘competitors’) can add huge value if our strategic and creative directions are aligned.
We explored a few strategic content collabs with people that I really respect in industry, (number one on the selection criteria – I have to love them). The second criteria was that they had to have audiences that were of strategic value to my business, read: same target market (their followers were the same people who would work with my business) and thirdly, they had to have a sizeable following to help grow O&C visibility.
Some of our fave content hub collabs to date?
What we collaborated on: How to win business
Key collab results:
A lifelong friendship (er, hello, she’s hosted this event with me!)
Doubled my website traffic (keep in mind I launched my website 3 months prior, so we were moving from a small audience)
Increased O&C’s brand reputation – this collab had great strategic value for O&C’s brand to be seen alongside a smart and well-known player in industry
Visibility with Jess’ audience – who are businesses in my industry with whom I can also collaborate
Several client referrals from Jess since – three of our wonderful clients have emerged from introductions from this wonderful lady
Value for Jess in the form of free PR – supportive, third-party promotional content about her and her business that she can use in her own content marketing strategy to build trust with her following.
What we collaborated on: How to lift your social media game
Key collab results:
An internet friend turned real life friend
Increased O&C’s brand reputation – great industry insights aligning O&C brand with an industry expert
Doubled traffic from May to June with this blog promotion across Stevie’s socials
Value for Stevie in the form of free PR – supportive, third-party promotional content about her and her business that she can use in her own content marketing strategy to build trust with her following.
My favourite collaboration case study, ever? Farmer Cookbook, hands down. The cause? Drought (followed by flood) relief for our Aussie farmers.
The product/collaboration: A cookbook showcasing farmer stories, interspersed with favourite recipes from celebrity chefs and cooks.
The collaborators: Too many to name! Operations were spearheaded by the dynamo Jody Vassallo, with PR and marketing spearheaded by O&C truly, and then an actual army of stylists, photographers, writers, editors, designers, tin-shakers and more.
The outcome: More than $70,000 raised for the CWA, who are distributing the funds to farmers in need.
The pay-off: First and foremost, we did a seriously good thing. And that not only feels great, it will make a real impact for farmers. The journey also paved the way for everyone involved to showcase their skills and creativity, forging connections and furthering reputations.
The collaboration came about from a local doggo park friendship, but also from working with Jody previously on a project of hers. She reached out to us because she wanted to partner with an industry expert, and we took the not-for-profit work on because we wanted to extend our media relationships into the food and lifestyle space and build our networks.
The things that have worked: Both parties have been super clear from the outset about what they wanted to get out of the project. First and foremost, we were urged to do something to help the farmers. We know and understand that collective power is far more than our power as individuals. Jody was very clear about what Farmer needed – a mouthpiece to amplify the project – and an extra set of hands to project manage the moving parts.
From an initial outline email of what we could both offer in exchange for the collaboration, we kicked off and it’s been a great opportunity for us to have coverage appear across all of the major food titles, mainstream metro and regional media outlets including TV and radio.
Some of the challenges: Not necessarily having time-bound boundaries. We haven’t worked on book publicity before and let me tell you – it’s a long program. That said, it’s meant regular, great connection with industry media which we have then utilised for several clients.
The key outcomes: Having a GREAT news story to share has been extremely beneficial for the O&C brand when it comes to media conversations. We’ve had almost a 100% success rate which is almost unheard of in PR. And for Farmer Cookbook – they’ve saved over $35,000 in market rate PR and social media services, meaning more money goes back to the farmers.
Some collabo-insights from SXSW
I recently had the opportunity to attend SXSW, a film, music, interactive media and comedy festival held in Austin, Texas. There were some interesting conversations about collaboration making headlines, including Josh Rubin, founder of the Cool Hunting, hosting a chat with Mercedes-Benz chief design officer Gorden Wagener and hip-hop artist and fashion designer A$AP Rocky.
It’s very common in the music scene for artists to collaborate – and celebrity collaboration with brands is ever more pervasive in our world.
But I wanted to touch on this one because I thought there were some interesting insights highlighted in their chats about the strategic intent for each brand.
A$AP is a fashion-obsessed rapper, he’s collaborated with a bunch of fashion designers including Guess and Adidas on capsule collections and with the likes of Lana Del Ray, Mary J Blige.
As a brand, Mercedes-Benz has been around for 130 years, so there is a mandate to retain their connection with the past, while creating relevance with new target customers.
To do this, they created the TVC campaign, ‘Grow Up’, about the journey of growing up which saw Mercedes partner with people of influence that represented and were idolised by the customers that they didn’t currently have a relationship with. The campaign tackled the challenges and complexities of common chapters of growing up: relationships with lovers, career and family in really non traditional (albeit quite typical of today – broken families, lesbian relationships, casual dating) ways, “reinterpreting traditional values and attitudes towards Mercedes while showcasing their modern-day interpretation and relevance within generations X and Y.”
Mercedes needed a stamp of authority from someone of relevance to younger generations, and A$AP is all about markers of success. A$AP has a great philosophy on collaborations, and I think this is an important reminder for those of us researching brands and people to partner with – you want a natural alignment. In his words, “As with anything you pursue with passion: I rely on my instincts. A partnership has to feel natural and organic from the start. There’s no point going into a project and just hoping that, in the end, everyone will have the same objective and the same ideas.”
To this point, it’s SO important to have your collaboration goals and outcomes clearly articulated from the beginning – before you reach out. For Mercedes, the goal of the collaboration was about wooing a new generation and I’d wager it was about shifting perception of the historic, luxury brand. A$AP, on Mercedes, said: “Mercedes is iconic. In the hood, having a Mercedes shows you’ve made it. So being associated with the brand is amazing for me”. Through the collaboration Rocky had an opportunity to further his brand association with luxury – but also with a brand that was a definition of success from his childhood.
His closing quote? “I’m in a position to dictate what is cool”. I suppose when you get to 9.5M followers, you don’t need to keep your ego in check. On collabs, however, he says he prefers to be “a customer first, so there’s natural alignment”.