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It’s half term this week in the UK and I’ve been on holiday. (An actual holiday too, rather than a few days of not working.)  Taking a break when you run your own business is tough, and being with three kids under five is exhausting, but luckily (?!) I was struck down with a really bad cough and cold, so working just wasn’t an option.

All this enforced rest has given me time to reflect and one thing I keep coming back to is a video I watched a few weeks ago that made an impact on me.

Gaining traction

It was by Gary Vanderchuck and he talks about how you need to hustle to get things to happen in your business.  Go out there, pick up the phone, send emails, and just make things happen.  You can watch it here, to get some context.  

It’s actually about how to get advertisers to pay to be on your blog, but what it sparked in me was the inspiration to get collaborating in order to grow my business and just, well, get out there.

After watching it, I reached out to a handful of people I thought I could work with in some way. Half didn’t reply, those that did said no!   I put it down to experience and moved on.  However, I now think that wasn’t the place to stop.

I got sent an email last week from someone who’d written a blog post (a good one by the way) and asked if I could link to it from one of mine.  It was a well-written email, probably sent to lots of people and when I read it, I thought ‘hmmm, a bit cheeky – but good for you!’

I’ve decided that, if I really want to make an impact this year, I need to be brave and try and build collaborations / partnerships – by going out, finding the right people and just asking them if there’s a way we can work together or, in some cases, if they can help me.

Something about me, that you may not know

Some of you might not know that I also have another business – a children’s yoga franchise.  The main way I get classes, particularly in the beginning, before I’d built up a good reputation, is to call nurseries and pre schools and say “I run these classes, they’re really good, let me come in and show you.”  I am not a natural-born saleswoman, but if you believe in your product or service it’s easier to convey that and, I think by default, then easier to sell it.

99% of the time, once they’d seen my classes they signed me up. Either on the spot, or a few months after we’d met.

The same thing goes here.  I truly believe that if I can get my products into people’s hands they’ll like them and tell other people they like them.  If I can get them into the right hands (i.e. those with a big enough following) it’ll get me infront of more people and more potential customers. To make that happen however, I need to ask.  While it doesn’t feel particularly natural, or comfortable – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

The actionable bit

If you’re also in e-commerce, here are some ideas of people you could reach out to, where you might find them and what you might ask them:

Who they areWhere you might find themHow you might collaborate
Other people in exactly the same boat – i.e. other ecommerce sellers.Facebook groups will be a good place to start. Check out this post for some suggestions.They’ll be a great source of knowledge, inspiration and support.
You might even find businesses in the same niche that you can collaborate with on things like giveaways, or competitions. Remember, you have the same customer, but a different product – so don’t automatically see them as competition!
Bloggers / Vloggers / InstagrammersOn whatever platforms they have a presence on.  You can always search on You Tube for ‘product reviews of [whatever your niche is] and see who comes up and how many followers they have.

There are lists out there showing top bloggers in different specialities.  If you contact them, most will tell you about their subscribers.  You can also look at their social media profiles to get an idea.

There are ways to search for Instagram influencers too. I’d recommend Googling this.  There are tools out there, but I haven’t used any (yet), so don’t have a recommendation.

Here’s a post that will help with all of the above.

You might need to pay them to feature you / your product.  Some might do it for a free product, if it’s something they’re interested in. The only way to find out is to ask!
Other business owners (particularly local ones)I attend a local business networking event. There might be something local to you and there’s a lot of value in meeting people face-to-face.So far I’ve found a photographer, my accountant and someone to embroider my towels at these events. Don’t underestimate their potential for finding people who might be useful to you – or who you might be able to help. Don’t see them as an opportunity to sell.  This may come later, as you build up a reputation and people start to recommend you to others.

I’ve also met people who run shops selling children’s goods (see below for suggestions) and other people selling baby products (see above for suggestions).

RetailersTake a look online or walk / drive around your local area.
See if there are any tradeshows you can attend and meet lots of potential buyers at once. I believe you need to pay – however, it could be a good investment.
Approach small businesses in your area and ask if they’d be interested in stocking your product.  I would recommend phoning and making an appointment in advance (you don’t want to get all that way and the decision maker isn’t even there) and working out your pricing upfront.

If you feel really brave you can contact the purchasing departments of large retailers or chains.

So, are you going to join me in making the (business) world a more collaborative place? In the spirit of collaboration, comment below – particularly if you have any new ideas we can all benefit from.