How To Create a Collaboration Strategy to Grow your Fashion Business

collaboration grow fashion business

Collaboration is a no brainer. Why? Because it’s an amplification of your already existing marketing strategy. If you’re already working on marketing your business, why wouldn’t you want to finds way to amplify your efforts, reach more people, and grow your fashion business?

So what exactly constitutes collaboration? It’s often a barter, rather than a paid partnership, and it works as a way to increase brand awareness and reach new markets by finding fun and creative ways to shine a spotlight on all the businesses involved. It’s a way to tap into the audiences of your fellow brands who share similar values and the same target customer.

Collaboration on it’s own can work just fine but it’s always best when paired with something you’ve already got going. Hence, the idea of amplification. So complementing your marketing strategy with strategic partnerships is a big part of the success of your collaboration strategy.

Looking at your marketing strategy and finding ways to bring in partners to make that strategy even stronger, is at the heart of a powerful collaboration. This month the members of the StartUp FASHION Community were given access to the expertise of Baily Hancock, the collaboration expert behind Baily Hancock Consulting. Baily has worked with General Assembly, Bossladies Magazine, LEVO League, Warner Brother, and more, including StartUp FASHION!  She shared so much with our members that I wanted to share a little bit of it with you, our blog readers.

What I loved about my chat with Baily was that it became quite clear that fashion brings a lot of opportunity to collaborate. Baily emphasized that if you think creatively about the lifestyle of your customer and what services they use or activities they take part in, what products they love, and what matters to them, then developing a collaboration strategy becomes so much easier and more naturally and authentically grows your business.

Baily talked about the importance of customer research, having a give and take mentality, and how to put together a strategy that works.

Get Very Clear on Your Audience Profile

It’s very important to get really clear on who your customer is and collect all the information you know about her. The more you know about the life of this person, the easier it will be to find collaborators and create something she is excited to hear about. Otherwise, you’re just sort of winging it and that’s not only a waste of time and money but will most likely crumble the possibility of an ongoing relationship with your collaborators.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your audience:

  • Let’s think about your average customer, and their week- what are they doing all week long?
  • Tap into the lifestyle of your audience, what other products and services do they use in their lives?
  • What are the touch points where you can hit your customer? i.e. is there a newsletter you think they probably love?

When you take some time to answer these questions, you are so much closer to launching successful collaborations!

Apply Collaboration to Your Business Goals

It’s super important that you get clear on your goals. You need to know why you even want to collaborate with other businesses in the first place. If you understand what you’re hoping to accomplish, you can better communicate your needs to your partners and find ways to collaborate that will have a real impact on your business.

You need to be able to answer the following about your business:

  • What are your business goals for the next 3 to 6 months?
  • Look at your marketing plan—are you focused on increasing email subscribers, connecting with your customer more offline, or maybe entering a new market? What’s
  • Based on the business goals you listed above, in what ways do you see collaboration supporting them? Just jot down ideas like “A sweepstakes can help me increase our subscribers.” Or “co-producing an event can help me connect with my audience more offline.

Once you’ve answered the questions above, use those responses to create a menu of 5 to 10 ways in which your company partners with other companies so that you’re not reinventing the wheel with every collaboration.

Then start making a list of companies you’d love to collaborate with and why.

Prepare Partner-Specific Ideas

Once you come up with a list of possible collaborators, even though you have not yet spoken to any of the companies, you should come up with a few possible ideas that will support your business goals (cross-promotion, content creation, event production, etc.) for each possible partner. Keep the ideas general but the attach types of collaborations with each potential partner.

I’d love to partner with Company A on an event.

I’d love to partner with company B on content creation.

I’d love to partner with company C on a sweepstakes or giveaway.

These ideas will evolve and become more detailed once you better understand the other company’s goals. But it’s important to have some initial ideas ready to share if they ask.

It’s about finding a balance between having a few ideas ready for your phone call and being open to hearing their goals so you can meet them where they are.

Flesh Out Your Ideas

Once you start having those initial collaboration calls with companies you’d love to partner with, you’ll need to use those conversations to create more detailed ideas, figure out who would be responsible for what, and create goals and metrics.

Now that you’ve talked to them, it’s time to take into account both your business goals and their business goals and refine the initial ideas you created before your call.

It can sometimes be challenging to come up with creative ideas for collaborations. But don’t overthink it. Baily emphasizes the idea of starting with the most laow-hanging fruit, those ideas that seem like they could work well and don’t require a massive commitment and undertaking.

When working on your ideas, here are Baily’s 3 top tips:

  • Go low pressure, start simple with an Instagram takeover or FB live, or co-produced content
  • Think about what kind of thing you would want to attend or experience
  • Think about the collaborations have you click on, what sparked your interest

Here’s a little example for you…

Let’s say you’re a vegan handbag brand. And you want to collaborate with Jane Smith Botanicals natural skincare. You’re initial thought was that you’d love to co-host an event because one of your business goals is to do more things offline. During your call you learn that Jane Smith Botanicals is well acquainted with hosting live events, they do one almost monthly, and that they really want  to focus on upping their online content game in the next 6 months.

So a compromise to meet both your goals might turn into co-hosting the vegan lifestyle panel, live streaming it to Jane Smith Botanicals’ FB page, and you writing a guest post event recap for their blog. They get live stream video content and solid blog post content out of the deal, and you get an opportunity to connect with your audience in real life.

The point with collaboration is to find ways that benefit  all partners involved by helping everyone get closer to reaching the business goals they have in place. And to have fun doing it!

If you’ like to learn more about working with Baily, you can check out details about her collaboration consulting right here. 

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!