Build Your Customer Base through Collaborations

Picture of Katie Fleming

Katie Fleming

Co-founder and COO of Owner Actions

A group of managers work on ideas for collaborations

Of all the ways to grow your business, one of the simplest is setting up collaborations with people who work with your audience—but in different capacities.

In this brief guide, we’ll help you explore some of the ways you can use collaborations to expand your visibility, boost your brand reputation, and stay front of mind for your core audience.


What kinds of collaborations can help me grow my business?

Several groups of people may have influence with your buyers. These include:



Influencers are social media personalities with large follower counts. One of the more recent trends for businesses is to provide free samples to these personalities so they’ll post pics of themselves using (and enjoying) a product. Often, businesses provide a discount code for these influencers to pass along to their audiences to encourage them to try the product for themselves.

This method is effective because it offers “social proof” that your product lives up to its hype. Audiences want to see the successes others have with an item that’s unfamiliar to them. And, they want to visualize themselves having the same wins, removing the same hurdles, or enjoying the same lifestyle as the person they follow who happens to use your product.

If you want to experiment with influencer marketing, start by identifying Insta celebs who have audiences that align with your target demographic. You can search by hashtags that matter to your typical customer and see who’s talking about those topics (and receiving an enormous response for doing so), or you can use Smartfluence’s micro-influencer lookalike finder tool.

Once you find a few you’d like to work with, DM them a pitch. Tell them why you appreciate their pages, how collaborations could benefit you both, and the product you’d like to feature. Get their feedback and be willing to adjust your approach to incorporate their creative ideas (provided they align with your brand voice). Then, manage the success of your collaboration by tracking metrics or using a solution like GRIN.


Brands with large followings

Brands with large followings tend to have highly engaged audiences. You can benefit from their reach by setting up some collaborations. Form a plan to share each other’s products, allow them to co-create and feature a collaborative product, or ask them to contribute to the design of one of your current products.

Often, this work requires a substantial time investment, and it can be difficult to find a business that’s willing to commit. However, you’re more likely to succeed if you already have a somewhat strong following of your own and if the brand you plan to work alongside has a similar—but not entirely overlapping—audience.


Other retailers

If you create items and sell them yourself, you could take another approach. Set up a popup shop within a popular retail location. Many retailers are on board for these limited-time engagements because they bring more people to their sites to browse what they have to offer.

You can benefit, too. By displaying your merchandise in a frequently visited shop, you’ll likely gain foot traffic and views from people who’ve never browsed what you have to offer. In addition, new groups of people will be able to touch and experience your products for the first time and make a connection with the person who created them. The increased traffic, the tactile experience, and the connections you foster can help you boost your sales tremendously.

Make sure the popup experience is worth the effort you put into it. You’ll likely pay a small fee to rent space within a store or provide a small cut of your sales. Your goal should be to cover your costs and earn a profit. However, breaking even is also ok if it means gaining more exposure and interest in your brand.


Companies offering compatible products or services

Finally, look for opportunities to work alongside businesses that create accessories, inputs, or lines of products that have a similar appeal to your market. Think about how you can highlight each other’s offerings. Create co-branded packages that appeal to the audience you share. And importantly, introduce each other to followers of your brands.

One popular way to do this is to offer a co-branded giveaway. Pull some of your favorite items together into a single prize package. Then, market the giveaway to each of your audiences. Encourage entrants to follow each page, and give them additional entries for following one another’s pages on other platforms.

Be sure to share your efforts on social media. Tag one another and interact in the comments to show how you’re similar to your collaborator’s brand and that your own business is one worth following.

Thinking of setting up partnerships, collaborations, or pairings where sales revenues will be divided? Work with an attorney. This pro will help you protect your work and ideas and navigate how costs and risks will be shared.


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