Marketing collaboration has been popular for a few years but it saw a huge boost over the pandemic months when businesses had to look for virtual ways to build traffic and sales. 

And yet, not many businesses do it right. Marketing collaboration is a broad term with many benefits, and yet brands usually understand it as a one-time influencer marketing campaign.

Here are the most common mistakes most businesses make when attempting to build a marketing collaboration strategy. Understanding these will help digital marketers avoid and even recalibrate their digital marketing strategy effectively.

1. Only targeting influencers

When most businesses decide to set up a collaborative marketing campaign, they usually start with influencer research.

There is no shortage of tools allowing you to identify and even reach out to niche influencers. Most of those tools rely on publicly available metrics – like following and daily activity of social media profiles or traffic of a blog.

There are a few distinct disadvantages of limiting your campaign to that approach:

  • Social media celebrities are very busy. It is often hard, if not impossible to hear back.
  • Popular bloggers are bombarded by outreach emails and are very picky when it comes to who they would like to work with.
  • Influencers will seldom get really passionate about your company and product. They will close a deal, do their job and move on. They have too many projects to worry about. This is especially common if you choose to approach influencers who once worked with your competitors or were their affiliates.

As a result, your outreach efforts will have a low response rate and often a short-lived outcome. No wonder too many businesses give up on marketing collaboration after a single try.

There are a few ways to overcome this first disappointment by approaching your campaign in a less obvious and more creative way.

Lesson #1: Connect to peers and fast-rising stars

Active bloggers, reporters, and social media that became active 12-18 months ago are more likely to promote your brand with passion and inspiration. What’s more, these are tomorrow’s influencers who will likely never forget you.

That’s the concept of growing together that will benefit your brand and build a strong community of brand ambassadors who will keep promoting and defending your reputation in months and years to come – that’s what makes collaboration really powerful. There are lots of examples and case studies of brands working with all kinds of social media users that have engaged small communities.

Lesson #2: Find influencers among your customers like Wendy’s did

Depending on the nature of your business and the audience your product attracts, you are likely to have quite a few (or just a few) influencers among your current customers.

Or these may be active social media users or even bloggers, not yet influencers.

Either way, they already know your brand, and keeping them engaged will drive more sales and brand awareness.

Send out a survey inviting your customers to take part in a challenge or a charity campaign, and from those form fills you will get to know your customer base better.

Many ecommerce platforms offer demographics and social media analytics to their customers. So you may be able to get some insights from your current solution without reaching out to customers.

One of the best examples of letting your customers empower your social media efforts is Wendy’s campaign which ended up setting a world Twitter record. The #NuggsForCarter, saw brands like Google and Microsoft hop on to the conversation. The campaign wasn’t planned but the fact that Wendy’s agreed to play along vouches for how powerful the brand’s social media strategy is.

Lesson #3: Try B2B collaboration like LEGO

Business-to-business collaboration is another – often overlooked – opportunity. There are likely lots of products that compliment yours, so there may be lots of co-promotion opportunities you can find.

LEGO is one of those companies that are really great at co-branding campaigns as they tend to work with so many diverse brands and it never fails to benefit both sides. Their most recent collaborations with Stranger Things and MOMA are just two examples of many.

LEGO - marketing collaboration with Stranger Things

The key with LEGO collaborations is that they venture out into many different niches and by doing this they are able to expand their customer base beyond their obvious target audience (that is kids). Look at the two co-marketing campaigns: One is in art and another is in a widely possible show. The first one expands its audience to art lovers, and the second one results in lots of press mentions.

All you need is to keep looking for those and making connections.

2. Failing to develop relationships

Most collaborative campaigns result in one-time initiatives after which both the brand and the influencer move on with their lives to never engage with each other in the future.

And yet, just like search engine optimization (SEO), collaborative marketing offers an accumulative impact, that is, it should be easier from campaign to campaign because it should rely on existing connections.

Collaborative marketing is very much lead development: You generate leads, nurture them, and turn them into prospects and customers. But even then your job isn’t done because you want them to return as repeat customers, again and again. This is where SEO and sales, customer support and content – everything comes together.

Nike Membership is one of the best-known examples of creating a loyalty program that keeps the brand’s customers and collaborators always engaged.

Apart from traditional membership perks (free shipping, points, and discounts), Nike added the powerful community component to their loyalty program: members can join training and run clubs, and exchange style inspirations. This way customers return again and again becoming a really engaged part of the community:

Marketing collaboration strategies - Nike

When developing your marketing collaboration strategy, don’t overlook the relationship management components of it because – just like in sales repeat customers are your best customers – in marketing repeat collaborators are your best collaborators because they are likely to become part of your community and drive more and more sales in the future.

In fact, the end goal of collaborative marketing is to create a strong community of content and brand amplifiers who will be promoting your product without you actively asking them to do that.

But speaking of goals…

3. Focusing on immediate gains

When brands decide to invest time and effort into marketing collaboration, they usually prioritize immediate results: an increase in traffic and sales. This is understandable because every business has to focus on ROI but just like in many other areas, including SEO and even PPC, there are many more – possibly more important and often long-term – benefits of collaboration:

  • Developing new traffic sources: As we watch the direction Google is going, SEO is likely to become more challenging every year. Collaborative marketing will likely open up more traffic sources for you but only if you keep your eyes open for those opportunities.
  • On-going education: Meeting new people to collaborate with will keep your team exposed to new learnings. Content amplifiers have their own marketing tricks to share, personal successes to learn from and failures to be aware of. Nothing is better for marketing education than being inside the community of people doing marketing for a living.
  • Building trust: People you’ll work with will become associated with your brand sharing their reputation with you. 
  • Introducing new content formats: You have been shying away from new content formats like TikTok ads or Instagram Reels but you can always find fresh talent who will create those shiny assets for you through collaboration.
  • Trend following: Working with niche influencers and peers means being in the loop about what is currently being discussed in your industry and outside of it. Combine that with Twitter monitoring and your team will soon become experts in timing all your marketing campaigns perfectly well.
  • Co-promotion: Helping someone is often more rewarding in the long run than monetary compensation because it tends to result in long-term relationships.

Failing to include these goals in your planning and reporting means missing out on long-term results which are able to make your business stronger in the long run.


  • Marketing collaboration has become very popular with businesses across all niches (especially during and after Covid)  but very few businesses realize its full potential
  • Working with peers, rising stars, active customers and other businesses may yield better (long-term) results than focusing on social media influencers
  • Don’t limit yourself to one-time campaigns. Develop your relationships with your amplifiers and try to turn them into your brand advocates.
  • Beyond a temporal increase in traffic and sales, collaborative marketing can drive more important results, like a stronger reputation, a better-educated team, and consistent traffic sources.

Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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