What is collaborative marketing?

Quite simply, it’s teaming up with like-minded, similar but non-competing businesses and pooling financial and time resources to create more buzz and interest than you could likely generate on your own. Some collaborative marketing ventures are a one-time event and other ventures are like-minded businesses teaming up for a longer period of time.

As most small business owners know, there is never enough money in the budget for marketing and it can be expensive. Enter collaborative marketing ventures. It can be very low cost and sometimes even free (and who doesn’t like free marketing!)

When small business owners come together with a common audience, or goal, or a common mission or interest, they can band together in any number of ways to create an influence and a presence that is greater than they could simply do themselves. Sharing of resources, databases and marketing expenses are just a few of the wins that collaborative marketing can have.

The concept is not new and has existed for a long time in marketing. You can open any airline magazine to find collective ads that promote Top Steakhouses, Top Seafood Restaurants, or even Top Plastic Surgeons! There are many examples of amazing success stories when it comes to collaboration marketing – one that comes to mind is Go Pro® and Red Bull®.

It’s like a match made in heaven.  Crazy Red Bull® adventure lifestylers recording their adventures!   They creatively tapped into each other’s audiences and engaged a new audience to reach new potential customers.

On a smaller scale, retailers do collaboration well, especially independents.  Hosting VIP shopping evenings with similar but non-competing businesses, sharing time, resources and marketing budget.  They reach a wider audience, get the opportunity to market their brand to new potential customers and engage with them as they shop.

It’s mutually beneficial and win/win whilst leveraging each other’s assets (their database and/or audience).


As Stephen R Covey so famously wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, start with the end in mind! 

Think about your end goal.

What do you want?

  •       More reach
  •       To grow your database
  •       To grow your social followings
  •       To tap into a new market
  •       Engage the audience you already have

REMEMBER – it must be of value to you.

Collaborating marketing will only be successful if you have a goal to measure it against and you can see the value to you and your business in both the short and long term.

TARGET MARKET – who has your target market (potential customers) you want to get in front of or the channels you want to get exposure through, that is a non-competing business?


With collaborative marketing, you are leveraging your skills set, your community, your time instead of money.  You are leveraging each other’s assets – it’s not a financial transaction between two businesses.

Influencers collaboration is different because there you are paying for content creation and/or placement.  The exchange is financial gain for one party and exposure of the other party.

Influencer collaboration is a very effective marketing tool, but not the exchange of community, time and skills, we are talking about when talking about collaborative marketing.

Both do, however, have their place in small businesses marketing strategies today.


Unfortunately, with all the good intentions from both parties, I have seen collaborative marketing go sour.

The 3 biggest pitfalls that can ruin a fabulous collaborative marketing strategy are

  1.       The parties had mismatched expectations,
  2.       One party is doing all the work to get the collaboration up and running or keep running, and
  3.       One party (not always the one doing all the work!) is getting all the rewards.

All these pitfalls could have been and can be avoided if you go into an agreement understanding each other’s expectations and target audiences!


The answer to that question is both Yes and No!

Depending on the complexity of the arrangement, the expectations of both parties and the resources (time, energy and sometimes marketing budget) that needs to be into it, is an indicator that you may or may not need an agreement between the parties.

Having a simple MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which details in dot points what each party is expected to do and the desired outcomes could be all you need.  A simple one-pager.


Collaborative marketing works seamlessly with: –

  •       Event partnership
  •       Product partnership
  •       Brand to brand marketing partnerships
  •       Social media partnerships (running competitions or giveaways)
  •       Webinars
  •       Facebook Lives
  •       And many many other ways

Even if you are starting with no list, no social following and no cash – collaborative marketing can work for you.  That’s its beauty.


Collaboration is an incredible tool to tap into new audiences and grow any business by reaching new potential customers. It also engages your communities on another level with something new and awesome.

PRO TIP – you get to grow your own network at the same time – creating new business friendships, new business connections. 

Starting off doing something small, which grows into something very valuable and important in your marketing mix. 

So our CHALLENGE to you today is – who has your target audience that you would like an opportunity to tap into? What would your goal be if you were given the opportunity to get in front of that audience? 

Could you leverage your skills set, your community, your time and your assets with that business to create a win/win collaboration marketing strategy?