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Five sell-out success brand collaboration strategies for startups

How brand-generated collaboration led to repeat sell-out events with a $0 budget – and how you can do it too.

collaborative marketing

In today’s competitive business landscape, startups are facing increasing acquisition costs and marketing budgets required to reach new customers. However, there are always innovative solutions to growth challenges, and my new home fragrance brand No.2 Co is paving the way by forming regular strategic collaborations with other brands.

No.2 Co has mastered the art of marketing collaborations and achieved sell-out success four times over in just six months, all without a marketing budget. Here’s my road map for creating successful brand collaborations that can help startups thrive.

What is a Brand Collaboration?

When two or more businesses team up on a win–win marketing campaign that plays to their strengths and adds value to the customer. Think Airbnb x Barbie, Gelato Messina x Tim Tam, or Fendi x Pasta Rummo, where businesses team up to build hype, brand awareness and sales with clever cross-promotion.

Strategic collaborations aren’t just reserved for the big brands; brand matchmaking platform Collabosaurus sees startups like No.2 Co achieving significant results by focusing on targeting interest-based niches and teaming up with businesses of a similar size.

collaborative marketing

1. Use Cross-Promotion to Get Discovered

One of the most powerful elements of a brand collaboration is the ability to cross-promote across multiple channels. Each time businesses team up, they’re doubling their organic reach opportunity.

For No.2 Co, we collaborated with local content experts Create Creme and The Honest Jones on a range of eye-catching photography and videography. By collaborating with these brands, No.2 Co not only produced stunning content but also reached customers through cross-promotion.

The collaborative efforts were shared across all social media channels, email lists and websites, resulting in a digital guerrilla marketing effect. This exposure introduced No.2 Co to a new audience, helping the brand get discovered by potential customers for the first time. In turn, we shout Create Creme and The Honest Jones from the rooftops and refer other ecommerce businesses to them.

2. Drive Sales Spikes with Different Collaboration Types

When it comes to brand collaborations, there are numerous types to explore, each with unique marketing outcomes. Social media competitions, for instance, can boost awareness and engagement but may not directly drive sales.

On the other hand, collaborations involving gift-with-purchase or limited edition products can create a sense of urgency and fear of missing out, which drives sales. No.2 Co’s collaboration with artist Olivia Navarete increased sales and boosted our average order value by an impressive 30 percent. Together, we created a limited edition gift box set that generated reach and awareness for emerging artist Olivia Navarrete, while boosting our sales numbers at No.2 Co with a new product release.

collaborative marketing

3. Position Your Brand with Smart Alignments

Brand positioning is crucial for startups, and smart collaborations can significantly influence how a brand is perceived. By teaming up with YOTPO for exclusive lunch events, No.2 Co found itself positioned inside the bathroom of an oceanfront mansion in Sydney, aligned with major brands like Shopify and YOTPO.

No.2 Co did a ‘bathroom takeover’ activation at the lunch, gifting guests a full size bottle and adorning the mirrors with decals and flowers. This event provided a unique opportunity to showcase the brand’s luxury bathroom fragrance to an audience of successful female founders and influencers.

We used Collabosaurus to find this connection, knowing that alignments with established brands is an incredible way for startups to create the perception of being larger and recognizable.

4. Grow and Engage a Genuine Community of Brand Fans

Collaborations can be a powerful way to grow and engage a genuine community of brand fans. For instance, No.2 Co experimented with a podcast collaboration around the topic of self-care with Highly Enthused.

While other partnerships have leveraged currencies other than cash, the Highly Enthused partnership was a paid sponsorship structure that allowed us to get targeted exposure via the podcast episode and an email list of engaged fans.

Increasing engagement across social media and email is achievable with strategic collaborations, too. Our collaboration with Laithwaites Wines, By Dreamers and Roumage on a luxurious Italian-themed Instagram giveaway generated 120-plus entrants and significantly boosted each brand’s social media communities. Attractive, high-value giveaways add a ‘surprise and delight’ element to marketing collaborations that often drive increased engagement rates.

Partnering on community focused marketing initiatives like this also ensures that you have optimal promotional capabilities. Rather than promoting a campaign alone, startups can team up and reach new audiences with promotional activity across multiple brand channels.

collaborative marketing

5. Hyper-Target Customers in Ideal Niches

To maximize the impact of collaborations, it’s essential to partner with brands in complementary industry spaces and niches. For No.2 Co, our customer demographic is Australian-based, lovers of design aesthetic and houseproud (they’re entertainers, too!).

It made sense to collaborate with interior stylist Sourced Styling Studio on a content and email list collaboration, which enabled us both to reach customers in our ideal niche and build evergreen content that strengthened SEO. This hyper-targeted approach allowed No.2 Co to reach potential customers who were highly likely to be interested in our luxury bathroom fragrance products.

No.2 Co’s success through brand collaborations showcases the power of creative marketing partnerships for startups. No.2 Co sold out four times over, thanks to clever brand alignments, using the Collabosaurus match-making tool to quickly source collaboration partners.

Businesses big and small can achieve significant growth while keeping marketing costs at a minimum, with a little creative marketing and aligned connections. So for startups looking to thrive in today’s competitive market, strategic brand collaborations might just be the secret to sell-out success.

Jessica Ruhfus is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of No.2 Co and Collabosaurus. With a background in fashion publicity and marketing education, Ruhfus was frustrated sourcing cool brand partnerships in events, products and social media. So she launched Collabosaurus in 2015, which has now attracted more than 10,500 brands, including Porsche, ASOS, Bondi Sands and Marks & Spencer. Ruhfus won the 2019 B&T 30 Under 30 award in Entrepreneurship, and has spoken for Apple, Vogue, General Assembly, Microsoft and The College of Event Management.

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