Earlier this year I ran a community project sharing stories of business pivots. It was a big project for me and I learned a lot from it about collaborating in business.

I love collaboration as a way of being visible. I encourage clients to look for ways to collaborate to market and be visible as I think it’s a powerful method for those of us who are quieter or are looking to spend less time on social media. And I always learn new things about how I want to run my business when I run projects/experiments.

This is one of the bigger collaborations I’ve done so I thought I would share what I learned from it. Hopefully it provides you with ideas of what to think about if you are planning a collaboration.

01.  Timing.

I don’t know why I thought January would be a good time to run a big collaboration. Ok so I do know why – it was about pivots and I thought that over Christmas and in the new year people would be thinking about changes they want to make in their business. I hoped people would find the stories useful in thinking about the changes they wanted to make and how they wanted to go about making those changes.

And I’m sure it was good for that. But I felt so rushed heading into Christmas. And January is summer here in Australia so just while I was feeling like I wanted to ease into the year and enjoy the warm weather I couldn’t. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t do a project to launch in January again but I think I would make it a smaller, more manageable project.

I also sent out the invites just before taking a couple of weeks off in October. I really wanted to get the invites out before my break but hadn’t thought about then needing to respond to people while I was taking my break🤦‍♀️. I guess I could have put an out of office on but I think that would have been weird given I had just sent out the invites.

02.  Underestimated the work

I underestimated the work that would be required to pull it all together. I’m sure I’ll do this again! But I’m hoping I will remember next time I start planning a project of this size and start earlier. I did have a project plan but hadn’t allowed enough time for things not going quite to plan. Which leads to the next point.

03.  Ask for contributions early

Quite a few people provided their contributions later than the date I asked for them, which meant everything got smushed up just before and after Christmas. Next time I would set the due date a couple of weeks in advance of the time I needed to have things in by. Giving myself room if people were late. This just allows for life to happen to those I’m collaborating with while not putting too much pressure on me.

I found people either got their contribution in very early or slightly late. There were very few that arrived just before the date I requested they be in.

04.  Smaller and more intimate

This project felt big. Over 20 people took part. And while that was good in terms of increasing my visibility – more people seeing the project, I’ve realised in my business that I want things to feel more intimate. That I have more time to get to know the participants and their businesses and hopefully my audience does too.

I’ve also thought I would have like to have curated the project more and perhaps have gone deeper on the topic. Maybe through interviewing people for a short audio series though I did like that I gave people the option how they wanted to share their story. Plus micro audio summits seem to be all the rage at the moment which makes my contrarian self say no to doing them.

05.  I had wild ideas about sign ups

I had seen people talking about getting thousands sign up for their summit and how it completely changed the course of their business. While I didn’t expect thousands I was hoping for a lot more people signing up than I actually got.

With hindsight I can see that these summit stories are possibly like the unicorn stories you see of people making thousands in their first month in business. Not to say it doesn’t happen but that it is maybe the exception rather than the rule. Thought timing, the topic and who participated may also have had an impact. I’ll only really know by doing something similar again.

06.  Big audiences aren’t necessarily gold mines

Tied into the wild ideas about sign ups, I thought having well-known names would help me meet my sign up goals. But I should have know from my experiences with the Introvert Marketing Bundle that it is actually those with smaller but more strongly connected audiences who have the most impact. Plus not everyone will promote the project and that is ok. I know some people who run summits require participants to share so many times etc but for me I prefer to trust people to know what is right for their audiences.

It has helped drive home the point with me that I want an engaged audience and that this is much harder to do as you get bigger. I would prefer to stay smaller and have an audience that I feel more connected to. And that this ties in to my realisation last year that one-to-one is my favourite kind of work.

But what does engaged mean? For me engaged doesn’t just mean that people buy from me. It means that people enjoy and gain something from my free content. And ideally (and I’ve not worked out yet how I can facilitate this) I want my audience to support each other and share their thoughts on what I’m about.

I’ve also been thinking about how can I have stronger relationships with people on my list. And this is more than just getting them to buy from me (though feel free to do that too!). It’s about getting to know them better so that I’m spending time on things that actually help them (both paid and free) and looking at other ways we can support each other.

07. The power of being on one platform

Tying into engaged audiences, I very clearly saw that the participants who were only one platform and had really focused on that platform got the best engagement on their posts and there was more of a sense of community. I need to stop trying to spread myself across several platforms doing none of them well.

08.  Think about where your collaborators are active

Most of the collaborators were split between Instagram and LinkedIn as their main place of being visible. I thought that was going to be ok. But I don’t really like LinkedIn and found having to be on there not much fun and exhausting. While I don’t love Instagram, it’s my preferred social media platform. And because of that I have scheduling tools and know how things work on Instagram. I hadn’t realised that LinkedIn had stopped traditional carousel posts and the work around was painful.

I’ve not decided what I would do about this going forward. I had some great participants who were only on LinkedIn. Would I’ve wanted to miss out on their contribution just because they were on LinkedIn? I wonder if I could have just let them know I’m not active on LinkedIn but still prepare social media graphics for their use.

There is a benefit of being on a different platform as it means everyone gets exposure to new audiences. I share participants on Instagram and they share me on LinkedIn.

09.  Should I’ve advertised the project?

This was the first time running something like this so I wasn’t sure whether it would interest people so I didn’t put any money into advertising. If I do something similar again I think I’d put some money into advertising rather than just relying on participants and myself to organically share the project.

10.  Have a clear idea how the project fits into my business

I didn’t have a specifically offer related to pivots when I ran the project though my one on one offers can support those pivoting. I had a wild idea about being able to develop a pivot journal while also running the project – talk about being over optimistic!

The only general idea I had about how this would fit into my business is that I thought my audience would be interested in it.

I’m not so worried about this for this project as in many ways it was something to kickstart taking action again in my business after recovering from burn out. It was good to get some momentum going. But next time it would be good to have an offer that I’ve clearly articulated on the sales page how it relates to the project.

11.  The project has sparked other collaborative ideas

While I probably won’t run something this big again (though never say never), it has given me ideas for other collaborations. As well as the confidence that I could pull them off. Plus I’ve already been talking to some of the participants about doing follow up interviews. The project has given momentum to other ideas and activities, not just from a content but also a mindset standpoint.

12.  The project has given me courage

I initially thought of this as the project giving me confidence but it’s not that. Rather it has given me the courage to try things while still not feeling very confident. Doing an audio version of my story was a clear example of this (you can listen/read it here).  I’ve been thinking about audio content for a long time but hadn’t felt brave enough to do it. But I loved how well the stories came across when others shared theirs using audio and that was the catalyst to finally getting me to try audio.

It helped that it was a limited audience and I wasn’t interviewing anyone else so I could do a few takes. It has reminded me that when trying something new, choosing the version that feels the safest to do is often a great place to start.

13.  Keep chasing people

I had a couple of people I wanted as part of the project that didn’t respond to my email. I’ve since chatted to a couple of these people and found that they didn’t receive my email or if they did they missed it in all the noise we get these days. They would have taken part if they had seen the email.

I need to remind myself that there is a good chance the person missed the email and that I’m not being a nuisance by following up again. But also being ok with people not replying or saying no.

And that trying different methods of contact such as messaging people is worth doing.

14.  People will drop out

I had a couple of people who said they would collaborate and then didn’t get their contribution to me. In this case it was ok. I had a couple of extra people who were interested in taking part at the last minute.

I also had someone who had to pull out earlier in the project because of a death in the family.

We are all human and life happens and that means we can’t always do what we say we are going to do. I would hate someone to think they had to meet a commitment to me while grieving. There are a lot of things more important than business.

15.  How I like to market

After writing out the first 14 lessons I received an email from Michelle Mazur about her Making Marketing Suck Less event. She has realized from running her event that she likes project-based marketing that has a clear beginning, middle and end. Rather than posting day in day out on social media. I suspect I’m the same. Something more to think about in marketing my business!

I hope this was useful! If you would like to download the ebook version of the community project you can do that here.

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