The Importance of Small Business Collaboration!

This is not a new topic, and certainly not something I'm talking about for the first time! Collaboration is key! Whether it is with other businesses, or influencers, or professional photographers, or a group of target audience members--there is only positive results that can come from true collaboration. 

Now I am not saying that all collaborations are going to go how you want them to, or the relationships forged are going to ALWAYS be worth keeping. But the lessons, both good and bad, will propel your business forward in a positive way. To help narrow down the focus of this topic, just for the purpose of today's discussion, we are going to specifically be talking about collaboration between a businesses and influencers/brand reps/marketing professionals. 

Is any exposure, good exposure? 

Absolutely not. It is important to know, that just because your business is getting exposure, it isn't always for the best. That is why it is so important to find and work with individuals who are going to lift up your company, positively represent your business values, share with your desired audience, and be someone you want to communicate with on, and off of "the job". 

How to find your ideal canidates?

This is a challenge I still face from time to time. On a weekly basis, The Saddle Shoppe is contacted by 2 or more individuals interested in promoting products. Now, I am so grateful to be a company that so many want to work with, but it isn't just as simple as that. Most often, these individuals are wanting to grow their exposure, and attain free product from my business. And as much as I want to help others grow their business, and chase their dreams, I always have to weigh the cost it will have on my business and dreams. Which is where selecting an "ideal candidate" comes in. 

For The Saddle Shoppe, an ideal candidate is someone who has supported my business, before inquiring about working together--I want to know you love and support me, as much as you are asking me to do for you. Now this doesn't have to be monetary (although for a small business that is important), but social media interactions and authentic sharing of products, is just as good. An ideal canidate is also someone who approaches me with a vision and a plan for what they want to gain from the collaboration, and how they might help me as well. In my opinion, this is professional and adds so much value to our potential partnership. The last piece, and possibly the biggest, is, is this someone I want to be my friend, and communicate with. So often collaborations and relationships fall apart because of a lack of communication. I need to know if you are someone I can talk to, express my needs and wants to, and share my dreams with!  

So what are the most recent Saddle Shoppe collaboration experiences?

As I begin to prepare for the release of 2024 planners, this "season" is my largest for collaboration and marketing. During this time of year, I partner with each of my Brand Repersentatives (which if you are interested in learning my selection process, comment below and I will do a blog post at a later date), by allowing them to select and customize thier 2024 planners. This allows me to both spoil those who have helped and supported my business all year long, but also promote my upcoming release and all of the unique options provided by the 2024 planners. 

Aside from my brand representatives, I also try to work with one to two other influencers for a big promotional push and presences. The last two years I have had the opportunity to work with Morgan Nicole (IG: __morgannicole) during this time of year to help promote my yearly planner release. Morgan was an incredible choice for this, not only because she authenitically uses the products (she's a student at TCU), but also becuase she is so proffessional in her planning process and execution. I never have to question what I will be gaining from the "Marketing Investment", and what delivered items I will have to continue helping promote the planners. Not only does her share on social media make a large impact in my presence, but the professional photos and videos I am left with to use on my website and social media, add much needed professionalism to my own page. 

How to make sure the reward is worth the cost? 

Collaboration and marketing is not cheap. Making sure that the end reward is worth the cost, can be difficult, and is something that has taken me many tries to determine for myself. I am a people pleaser, and do not like turning anyone down or saying no. But for the sake of my business I have had to learn how to do just that. 

Every business is different, and the value of collaboration (although I will preach is important for everyone), is different based on each business. If you are just a beginning business, and have no real profits yet, spending large sums of money on promotion, might not be in your best interest. And if you are large, well developed business, sending free product to individuals who don't care or support your business, probably isn't the best use of your time and efforts. So I will tell you what works for me. 

Brand Representatives are a great team of people, and promotional tool, that works for The Saddle Shoppe. I try to gift items one to three times a year, and always make sure the items I am sending are suited for the individuals I am sending them to (I don't send a bridal box to someone who is single, ect.). The cost of the materials and products sent is worth the photos, promotional posts and videos, and continued good friendship between me and those individuals. Additionally, each representative has their own discount code that they share with their audiences, which helps drive traffic to the items they are helping to promote! 

I also try to work with one paid collaborator every other month, or two months, depending on the time of year. This allows me to work with new people and reach new audiences, while not breaking the bank. If the collaborator is someone that I really want to work with, but can't afford at the time, I will always ask about future opportunities to work together. And, I always make sure that they are going to be authentically sharing (meaning our visions, audiences, and goals align) before I spend the money--just because they are a big name, or an amazing person, doesn't mean they are the right fit. 

What's Next? 

At the end of the day, I have had plenty of really amazing and really unsuccessful collaborations. But I keep doing them. Why? Because I am in this business for the people, and if I am not helping people, not making connections, not growing and expanding, and improving, than what am I really doing?

So no matter where you are in the business process, start thinking about how you want to positively collaborate with others! 

In the comments below, let me know what you think of this blog post, and let's chat about what you think/questions you have! And because the promotional work never stops, BE SURE to set your alarms for October 1st--2024 planners will be releasing and you don't want to miss them!  

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