Disclosure: I’m going to apologise in advance because this post may get a little bit ranty.
When you’re sitting down working out your budget for the year, you include a figure for marketing, yes? The marketing budget is the umbrella for all your business marketing costs. An arm of that marketing budget is your advertising. Advertising funds could be used for Facebook ads, print media, physical markets, audio or visual adverts, influencers, or other collaboration with other businesses.
My entrepreneurial journey.
Believe it or not, I’ve been an entrepreneur on and off for 16 years now. My first business was selling Tupperware. Yup. I was a Tupperware Chick. I loved it. And if I didn’t have physical incapacities I’d probably still sell it now that I’m 35. Believe it or not, there were some great perks to being a Tupperware consultant. The stuff practically sold itself. It had been a household name since 1938. It wasn’t until 10 years later that Tupperware parties became a thing. And they haven’t looked back. It was something I loved and believed in – and still do.
I had to make sure I had money to buy the specials catalogues every month. Regular catalogues. Toys for game prizes. Host gifts. Host packs. Pens. Order Forms. And let’s not forget products to keep my kit current. Even though Tupperware is known far and wide, I still had marketing and advertising costs. But that’s enough about my years as a Tupperware consultant.
Marketing a new business is tough.
After my (first) wedding in 2008, I ventured into wedding planning. I had one client instantly. I worked for free to build my experience and portfolio. Sure, I planned my own wedding, and I used to plan corporate events, but it’s something else to plan someone else’s wedding. Everything went really well, the bride was really happy with the vendors I sourced. She also understood that I needed to step away from the wedding industry when my marriage exploded. That was the end of Amore Events (my second business).
Next, Little Goldfish. Started for all the wrong reasons (needing money). Still holds a piece of my heart. Still technically exists, only in a different incarnation to its beginnings in 2011. The money I spent over the years trying to get my business and product in front of the right audiences is scary. Markets, fairs, expos, online stores and portals. We were two full-time uni students then, too.
With one subject left at uni, in 2015, I no longer qualified for Austudy. I had to find a job. I still needed to pay the rent and the bills, so went onto Newstart. It’s every bit as horrible as you imagine. I didn’t want the pressure of fulfilling their requirements whilst finishing uni. Instead, I enrolled in NEIS. My job centre told me I couldn’t register with Little Goldfish because it was registered with ASIC. Turns out I could have, but I didn’t find out til the end. Alexie RicRac Sustainable Vintage Wares, my fourth business, was born. It was a hard slog, and was going splendidly until my mentor told me at our last session to shelve it as it would be difficult to pursue with a newborn. By the way – I wasn’t pregnant when I started NEIS, but by October 2015 I was.
My business true love.
Mayday VA is my fifth (!) business. I never thought I’d pursue work in the virtual assistant/freelancer field, but here I am, loving every second of it. This passion is not unnoticed. My husband supports me fully. He sees the value of investing in this business. This time round, I believe in what I am doing. I have had my fair share of impostor syndrome, but I’m quick to recognise it and tell it to stay the hell away. Not only that, I’ve invested in my business. I haven’t spared a cent. I’ve got business insurance, I’ve got proper legal contracts, and I’ve got gorgeous visual branding. My business cards and my website are also a part of my marketing budget.
Marketing and advertising don’t come cheap.
But what if you don’t have a marketing budget? Or there’s not as much to go ’round as you’d like? There are other cheap(er) ways to get your product or service in front of your ideal audience. One of those methods is collaboration.
Over the years, Little Goldfish has been involved in several collaborations. Some were fundraisers, some were competitions, others were for product awareness.
What is collaboration?
Generally speaking, a collaboration is the joining of two or more people or businesses to produce something that benefits all collaborating parties, and their audiences. The key phrase I’d like to emphasise there is that it ‘benefits all collaborating parties’. And here is where the rant begins.
In recent times, more and more businesses approach other businesses with similar audiences, and ask them to collaborate. So, Business A asks Business B if they’d like to collaborate. With no explicit details given, Business B asks Business A what they have in mind. Business A straight away offers their product in return for social media exposure. They see it as a win-win for everyone. Business A is giving their product away to Business B and is getting their product in front of their target audience. For the cost of their product. And maybe some postage. That’s it. Wow! That’s a pretty good deal, right? Wrong.
Business B has to come up with ways to use the product that doesn’t look too much like it’s an advert. They have to photograph the product numerous times. Maybe even make a video. Or write a blog. Push it on their social media channels. And they don’t actually really have a use for the product. Nor does it really benefit their audience. But Business B didn’t want to let Business A down. How does this collaboration benefit Business B? In my eyes, it just doesn’t. To me, this is unpaid advertising. Someone hands over their product, someone else does all the work, and the product owner/creator sits back and relaxes.
How can you collaborate with other businesses successfully?
There are so many ways to conduct a mutually beneficial collaboration. Just because my example above is not favourable doesn’t mean that I don’t love a collaboration. Quite the opposite actually. A brilliant collaboration leaves you feeling so flipping good, you want more!
Here’s a very short list of ways you can collaborate with other businesses:
- Guest Blog Post – builds your authority, you get experience writing, they don’t have to come up with content
- Podcast Guest – they get an interview, you get to talk about whatever it is they want to discuss with you, people get to know you, build your authority
- Product Collaboration – you’re makers or designers and you can bring something to the table for a fabulous new product
- Brand Rep/Influencer – you give your product to certain members of your audience/community (these people usually want and need your product and are already in love with your offer) in return for images and reviews. Not to be confused with my example with Business A and Business B above
- Giveaway – two or more businesses contributing products/vouchers/services for a competition, usually one big prize
- Instagram Story Takeovers – record a short video, and send it to the other business
- Instagram Lives – Q&A style, interview style, product launches, anything goes
Do you want to know the beauty of all of these collaboration opportunities? They are all free or low cost to you as a business owner. Each opportunity is mutually beneficial for all parties involved. I’m sure there are more that I haven’t touched on too.
Have you participated in a collaboration before? How did you find the experience? Let me know in the comments.