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Why should brands collaborate? Here’s my personal experience.

We've just wrapped up a really successful partnership with a membership organisation of practising accountants in the UK. In this article, I share my three big learnings from our collaboration, and what we'll be taking forward, and do differently next time.

We’ve just wrapped up a really successful partnership with the ICPA, a membership organisation of practising accountants in the UK.

For Base Creative, it was a great opportunity to bring additional awareness to our marketing propositions, in particular to an audience we’re keen to work more with.

For the ICPA, it enabled them to provide valuable resources and content to their membership.

But with all strategic partnerships or collaborations, it’s much more than cross-promotion. I talk more about the value of partnerships in my article, ‘Collaborations – what’s the point?’. However, for now, I want to share three big learnings from our ICPA partnership, and what we’ll be taking forward (as well as doing differently) next time.

(For the purposes of this article, a collaboration or partnership will be two parties working together but no money is exchanged).

Produce content that will outlast the partnership

Often, content will be a big output from a collaboration or partnership. A whitepaper, a creative piece, a microsite, an event, and so on.

But it’s important to think, “what happens to the content we create at the end of the partnership?”.

Having a strong idea about what content could last beyond the partnership helped us to understand what content we should be producing as part of the partnership. We wanted valuable content that would have a place on our website and social media feeds in future.

The ICPA partnership was a series of three webinars, specifically on local search marketing, marketing efficiencies and budgets. These were originally delivered live, with Q&A sessions that added additional value for the recordings.

These recordings now sit on the Guides section within the agency’s website, and will likely remain valuable and shareable among accounting firms over the next 6-12 months.

Be sure you know what your audience find valuable

I’m a huge fan of using data and insight to provide direction. Assumptions and ‘gut feelings’ can be influenced by changeable emotions and lead to undesirable outcomes.

Before embarking on our webinar preparations, we agreed that sending out a survey to the ICPA memberships first would help us to understand what their challenges were, and where and how Base Creative could add value.

The feedback was great, and had the following advantages:

  • Audience research is like gold dust. It provides direction for our propositions and helps us with how we should pitch for our services. The insight gleaned from the survey results was data we could take forward into all of our deliverables (marketing and production activity).
  • Some of our initial assumptions were wrong. The original ideas for the webinars were not areas that the surveyed audience group cared as much about. We adapted or completely changed our content as a result.
  • We got to talk about fees. While many wanted ideas around boosting their exposure in Google, and finding the right tools to create production efficiencies, the cost of running a digital marketing campaign and agency fees came out high. As a result, we ran a webinar specifically tackling budget challenges. It was the most attended webinar, with the highest level of engagement (measured through the live Q&A and post-webinar feedback). This meant we could comfortably talk about our agency fees, which in turn led to a handful of qualified enquiries.

Understand what’s motivating the other party (and be outspoken about what’s motivating you)

When we approached the ICPA to discuss a collaboration, we were clear about the benefits for their members. We were ready to produce a series of 20-30 minute webinars exclusively for their membership on a topic that we believed was highly valuable to this network.

However, we were less outspoken on WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Internally, the team and I had already put a measurement plan together that outlined measurable objectives.

But we didn’t share this.

Instead, we spoke about the WIIFM in a very high level way, glossing over our expected outcomes that filled our early Zoom calls with assumptions and ambiguity.

In our minds, as long as we were clear about what the deliverables of both parties would be (marketing, promotional activity, who’s sending what to their respective email lists, the webinar content, and so on), we could conclude that our goals would be met.

Some goals were met (exposure to a focused audience), some less so (leads and enquiries). But what may be more significant is the opportunity cost.

What more value could have been created between both parties had we been more open about the things that are valuable to us?

To answer that, I could only speculate.

Herein lies my biggest learning. Unlike a client-supplier relationship, a collaboration or partnership has a different dynamic that’s worth appreciating. It’s okay to ask for more. Often, the cost of providing ‘more’ can be insignificant to the other party, while being truly valuable to you.

A great book by Deepak Malhotra, titled Negotiation Genius, teaches the benefits of claiming and creating value together, and that by doing so results in the genuine ‘win-win’ that labels partnerships successful.

There have been smaller learnings from this experience, but most significant is to think beyond the collaboration, to do your research, and to negotiate better outcomes for both parties. Or more specifically, consider how ‘evergreen’ the content you’ll create will be, make sure you know and understand what the (potentially new) audience cares about, and be really clear about what’s in it for you.

Iain Scott

Iain Scott

Founder & CEO

With 18 years in the digital industry, he’s worked through the ranks and now runs the team that does all the hard work.

I’ve got plenty to say

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