Partnering with other like-minded brands can be a great way to build both of your businesses, but making sure you have successful collaborations is key.
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When MASAMI, the clean premium haircare brand I co-founded, launched in February 2020 and Isle de Nature, my luxury bee-powered home-fragrance company, launched in September 2020, we had to be creative about our marketing — not only because we are self-funded (and therefore bootstrapped), but also because Covid challenged much of conventional marketing wisdom. We couldn’t rely on digital acquisition tactics alone (the ROIs have been challenging), events were clearly off the table and OOH (including the subway takeovers of DTC brands of the past) was no longer an efficient vehicle.
One of our solutions was to partner with like-minded brands to help each other grow our respective audiences. An advantage of this strategy is that is doesn’t cost anything (except some product and some time and a bit of creative thinking). The additional important benefits of this strategy are that if you partner with the right brands, you’ll gain exposure and credibility — and ideally new customers. Plus, you are adding value to your customers by helping them discover a new brand they may love.
We had some early success with MASAMI partnering with other clean-beauty brands, which led us to expand our partnership strategy to include premium lifestyle brands that shared our values. For us, that means looking for brands that care about sustainability, high-quality ingredients, ethical practices and ideally, are founded by an underrepresented group (women, minorities or LGBTQ+ founder). We’ve built long-term relationships and programs that are multi-faceted. We’ve done giveaways, gift-with-purchase exchanges, blogs, Instagram Live, webinars and more. And the more we do, the more ideas we have to expand the partnerships further. We don’t look at these partnerships as one-off events, but on-going relationships that can be nurtured and grown.
If you’re thinking about leveraging brand collaborations, we say go for it. But keep these tips in mind to make sure you forge collaborations that last.
1. Make sure your values and expectations are aligned
There’s nothing worse than spending time and energy on a program only to find you’re not on the same page. Take a little time to “vet” each other and ensure you are looking for the same things (for example, to grow your social, your email or your exposure) — and that you can feel 100% confident recommending each other’s brands to your customers. You don’t need to stick within your category; some of the most interesting partnerships come from outside. And keep in mind that you can partner with organizations as well, not just other brands. As long as there’s a meeting of the minds and you believe the partnership will legitimately add value to your customers, you should be able to feel good about it.
2. Think bigger than one event
Even though the partnership may start small and anchor around a giveaway or a single event, you should think about how else you can amplify and extend the partenrship. Our best partnerships are where we can create multiple touchpoints and tactics to support each other. We had such great success doing this with one premium skincare brand that it even created a section on its website for brand partners.
3. Shout out each other often
Have a generous mindset and include other brands when and where you can across your marketing activities. We regularly shout out indie brands we love in our Instagram stories and interview other female founders on IG Live. When you support a partnered brand via press, podcasts and webinars (and wherever else you can), those brands will likely return the favor.
4. Get personal
These days, you can’t really launch or run a brand without putting yourself out there. People love to see who is behind the brand, so interviewing each other on Facebook Live or IG Live can provide a deeper brand story and a connection to your consumers. It allows them to interact with you and ask questions. It’s also a great way to bring a human face to the brand and showcase your personality. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to repurpose the content on YouTube, pull snippets for social and more.
5. Share learnings
We are all in this to learn and grow, so don’t be afraid to share what works, what doesn’t (even if it’s ugly) and share any analytics around the programs you put in place. Everyone will be smarter as a result. We also often share other marketing tactics, including introductions to platforms and other partners and opportunities. We even have a Clubhouse for Founders over 50 (which of course is open to anyone) where we share strategies and tactics — and get very granular — about what works.
We are clearly big advocates of leveraging brand collaborations as a key marketing and growth strategy. Our philosophy is that if we all just help each other out, we can be stronger together.