3 Questions to Ask Up Front When Someone Says 'Let's Work Together'

The more your brand starts to pop, the more you’re going to have, what I call, the collaboration conversation. You’ll be somewhere networking or just socializing and - because you’re always ready to be an ambassador for your brand (catch the hint, stay ready) - you find yourself describing your work to someone new. Say you deliver a killer elevator pitch and in response, you get hit with an enthusiastic “we should do something together!” Do you have a next move in mind, or do you simply reply “absolutely!” then exchange contact info and bounce?

Partnerships and collaborations are important strategies for building your brand. There are a few ways that they can add value to you if you’re strategic. One way is that they allow you to gain exposure by introducing your brand to someone else’s existing audience. They can also add credibility to what you offer if you align yourself with someone who has already built a degree of trust among their audience. But I have to emphasize that you should only pursue collaborations that are mutually beneficial to both you and the partner. Asking three specific questions up front can help convert your collaboration conversation into something meaningful instead of just networking pleasantries.

1) “HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE?”

When you join forces with someone else’s brand, you want to be sure you’re speaking the same language to the same tribe of followers. You should already know some key information about your own audience, like their age range, genders, interests, how they access information, and what problems they’re looking to solve. When someone is looking to partner with you, listen to what they say about their own audience and be sure that most of these key areas overlap. It doesn’t benefit your brand if you work with someone who isn’t speaking to folks who could potentially add to your audience.

2) “HOW DO YOU ADVERTISE?”

Find out which channels and activities someone uses to reach their target audience. Do they have a strong social media presence? Do they have a blog or YouTube channel with super engaged followers? Are they thriving on traditional methods like print ads or word of mouth? Or are they going to depend on you to handle most of the reach? Depending on your own goals, you may want to focus on partnering with brands that have a much larger audience than you do currently so that you can aim for growth. It doesn’t have to be about the numbers, though. Some brands or organizations have a smaller, but very loyal following and might gain you more focused attention than partnering with someone whose fans couldn’t care less about what they post. In many cases, it's more important to work with someone who's mastered their relationship with their tribe instead of just accomplishing wide, shallow reach. Either way, pay attention to how they tend to promote their brand. If they don't have a solid answer, you might want to table the discussion about working together.

3) “CAN YOU FOLLOW UP WITH ME IN WRITING WITH MORE DETAILS?”

This question will help you weed out who’s serious about working with you and who’s just making small talk. But it’s also important for gaining clarity on what the actual partnership possibilities are AND what sort of compensation, if any, they call for. A great potential partner should be able to shoot you an email or a one-sheet that explains a little more about their brand, summarizes who their audience is, articulates their goals for working with you, and offers a couple of options for how you might collaborate. Start aligning yourself with people who make specificity a priority in their communication. It shows that they’re clear about their own goals and more likely to be intentional about reaching them. Plus, getting the right information up front is key to avoiding miscommunication and tarnished relationships in the future.

There it is! I hope you’re feeling better prepared for the next time you encounter the collaboration conversation. Later on, I’ll post about how to make sure YOU have value to offer to your next potential brand partner. But in the meantime, share your tips for what to ask up front when someone approaches you about working together. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. Cheers!

- XO, Bri