I had lunch with a friend the other day and she was talking about how she had been invited to join a summit but then had been turned down as a participant because her email list wasn’t big enough.

This made me so cranky!

Collaboration is one of my favourite ways to grow and market my business. When I design a collaboration I want it to be beneficial for me, the people I’m collaborating, my audience and my industry more generally. Generosity is one of the values I want to bring to my business.

If you are planning a collaboration I would love for you to take the same approach. These are some of the things I think about when looking for people to invite to a collaboration:


01. The best person for my audience

One of the things I want to do is find the best person to help my audience. The size of a person’s email list is not a good proxy for being good at their craft. If you like someone enough to have found them and thought they would be someone your audience would benefit from hearing from then include them! Regardless of the size of their email list or social media following.

Too often I see the people who are very good at marketing getting opportunities rather than those who are actually good at what they do.

This isn’t purely altruistic to include people who are good at their craft rather than being good at marketing. I want my audience to trust me and to do this I need to be recommending good people to them. Not people who it will just benefit me in the short term to promote. In the long run that does me no good.

You can also see how this bleeds into how people view the online business world more generally. You don’t have to spend much time in a community for online business owners to see people talking about they purchased from a big name only to be disappointed by the actual service.

If the industry isn’t trusted generally, this will impact you and the amount of work you need to do to build trust with your audience. It becomes harder for you to make the sale – even when you know it will help people.


02. Hell Yes Collaborators

I’ve found you are much better with collaborators who are a Hell Yes regardless of email list size than lukewarm big names. And of course some big names will be a Hell Yes and then the results can be amazing!

I know that the reason why people insist on a certain email list size is that they supposedly will get the benefits of more attendees and sales. But having run a few collaborations now I feel pretty confident in saying its not the size of a person’s email list but rather how aligned they are with your collaboration that actually leads to things like sign ups and sales.

The right people are often as excited about your collaboration as you are. They will be out there promoting it with genuine enthusiasm. And their audience will pick up on this.

They are also more likely to put more effort into their contribution for the collaboration. Improving the quality of what you are putting out into the world and contributing postively to your reputation.


03. Supporting quieter voices

One of the other things I love about collaboration is the opportunity it gives me to introduce quieter voices to my audience. I’m not a huge business, I don’t have a large email list. Yet I know that people who’ve collaborated with me have found clients through that collaboration.

Advocating for other introverts whose work I love is important to me as someone who supports introverted business owners. If I can do my small part to raise the profile of a fellow quiet business owner and contribute to their success then that makes me very happy!

It also benefits me. If people see that other introverts can be successful then they are more likely to hire me to help them make changes in their business so that it work with their introversion.

Are there voices in your industry that you want to be louder? How can you help them be found?


04. Are they aligned with your values?

This feels like a pretty obvious one. I know that I don’t want to collaborate with people who aren’t supportive of gender equality. I also don’t want to collaborate with people who use manipulative marketing techniques.

But this is also where things can get fuzzy. I want to collaborate with people who bring different perspectives to my audience. I don’t want my audience to follow me blindly, unlikely as that is. I want them to question what I’m saying and take only what feels right to them. Too often in the online business world it feels like people don’t question what the latest guru is telling them. We get caught in our bubbles. Be generous to those with different perspectives.

Looking at manipulative marketing technique, what is manipulative for you may not be for me. Countdown timers is one area where I think there are a lot of different opinions. I only use them where there is a genuine deadline – like an enrolment for a group training where you need to enrol by a specific dates. But others would say even in that circumstance the timer creates a false sense of urgency. Bring differing opinions to your collaborations where you can.

The type of collaboration can impact on how far you are willing to go in selecting people who don’t agree with you. If it’s a summit where they are teaching people, you may want to be more selective than say a podcast interview where it’s a conversation and you are able to discuss and bring nuance to what is being shared.

So what are you non-negotiables? What would upset you to be associated with?


05. Do they serve a similar audience?

This one depends on the type of collaboration you are coordinating. Is it one where the collaborator is going to be teaching your audience or is it one where they are sharing their experiences?

If it is teaching your audience then serving the same audience becomes more important. I mainly work with service-based businesses. Could someone who works with product-based businesses have something worthwhile to share with my audience? Absolutely – if they were willing to tailor their presentation to my audience but that could be a big ask for them.

I would expect them to share how what is working with product-based businesses could be applied to service based business. This could be a win for them if they were looking to expand or change who they are working with. Otherwise it may not deliver a great return on effort for them.

If you are doing something like the pivot community project I ran early this year then its very useful to bring in people from different industries and serving different people to share a different perspective. There is a better chance of them getting a return on their effort with this sort of project because its also more likely to appeal to a wider audience than that which you usually serve.


Picked the wrong person?

And finally don’t beat yourself up if you find one of your collaborators isn’t perhaps who you thought they were. You are often making decisions based off what you see on social media and other content. It can be hard to get a true sense of who someone is from these surface level artefacts. You do the best you can with the information you have available to you.

Being generous to yourself includes not letting your inner critic go wild when things don’t go to plan.

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