Let’s be real, growing your audience is exhausting and you’re tired of just getting new customers one by one.

But what if I told you there was a strategy for growing your customer base a heck of a lot faster?

Think about it. There are other businesses, clubs, and organizations in your industry that already have the same or similar audience as you. Why start from scratch when part of the job has been done for you?

It’s a little thing I like to call the Partner Process for Audience Growth Hacking.

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The Key to Getting More Customers Quickly is Audience Growth Hacking

Instead of getting more customers one by one (ain’t nobody got time for that), with Audience Growth Hacking you’re finding fast methods to funnel a lot of new customers at the same time.

And one of the best ways to do that is with the Partner Process.

Basically with the Partner Process, you find partners in your industry that have a similar audience to yours and give them something of value and they’ll return the favor. You scratch their back, and they’ll scratch yours – in the form of giving you access to their larger customer base.

Think of it like the relationship between the Pilot fish and sharks.

The Pilot fish eat the crud off the shark (win for the shark) and the fish get the protection of being a badass shark groupie (win for the fish).

sharkfish

As long as you aren’t a parasite and you actually offer value to your partners, then you’ll get value back, just like a Pilot fish.

It’s really a win-win, and the method does bring results if you put in the work.

First Things First, Know Your Peeps: Clearly and Specifically Define Your Target Market

Before you can look for other chunks of your target market, you have to really know who it’s made up of.

Create 2-3 Buyer Personas with the worksheet in the post linked here to make sure you have all the crucial information.

Think about your customers as individuals. Even give them names! Then describe them in detail. The more you know, the more value you can give them.

Take note of:

  • Personal values
  • Big priorities
  • What they are into (hobbies, activities, organizations)
  • Problems in their lives
  • Favorite brands
  • Style, etc

Even what you think is too personal and probs not relevant actually, totally is.

It’s all relevant because you want your content to resonate with them on a personal, human level. You want them to think,

“GET OUT OF MY MIND!”

But not in a creepy way… in a way that’s awesome for them and your business.

If you “read” their “minds” then they will feel like you really get them. Which you will. Because you actually took the time to do so, duh.

Once you’ve got that down, you can go ahead with the Partner Process.

Here are the 4 steps you need to follow:

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Okay, so now that you know who exactly you are targeting, it’s time to find groups of them that are already organized.

And if you have a computer and some basic Google skills, you’re set.

The idea is to find where your target market is, online and in real life. Are they in online forums related to your industry? What clubs would they be a part of? What blogs do they read and engage with online?

These are the places you’ll want to get in with.

So let’s say you’ve invented and sell the latest and greatest, miracle (like seriously, it’s really non-stick) baking pan.

You know the people that would buy your miraculous pan are probably going to be bakers. What kind of places would you find bakers?

Online recipe sites, and baking/cooking blogs of course!

Then think outside the box and find some schools, programs, clubs that offer baking and cooking classes. They would be interested in your product because they could use them during their classes, which would be instant promo and awareness for you.

So literally Google search: “best baking blogs” and “baking classes in Orange County” (or wherever you are).

PS. You could start by reaching out to local partners, but you can also go for ones anywhere really, because you don’t have to be there physically – just your marketing content, and maybe your product!

Filter through the sites and partners you find, and make a list in a Google spreadsheet, or word doc to keep track of all your potential partners.

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Through your research in finding partners, you’ll probably get inspired with some collaboration ideas. The best way to get a feel for what kind of pitch a partner will like is to really take a look at their website and see what kind of content they share, topics they cover, or kind of events they throw.

Your pitch should match their standards and interests if you want any chance of them saying yes.

But in general there are a few different types of collab you can pitch to partners:

  • Guest blog posting
  • Website sponsorship
  • Event sponsorship
  • Offer their audience/customers a deal on your product (with an exclusive coupon for example)
  • Throw an event together
  • Run a contest with them on Instagram, Twitter, etc. (PSst! Keep an eye out for my post on how to run a successful social media contest with influencers in the next couple weeks!)

Depending on your business, and their business, the ways you can collab will be different. Be creative and use your best judgement.

Here’s a few cool examples to give you some ideas:

iZZi Gadgets + Wu Tang

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iZZi Gadgets makes phone cases with rad lens systems, and well, Wu Tang is Wu Tang. They came together to make custom skins for the iZZi cases.

MadeFreshly + Tuts+ and More


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I put together a contest earlier this year, bringing together a group of awesome business experts to make a week-long Facebook group chat for the winners.

Oprah + Teavana

oprah_chai Here’s one you’ve probably heard of, and maybe even drank in a Starbucks! You might not be able to get a custom tea named after you, but you could work with another business on a smaller scale with the same idea.

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Alright, so now it’s time to pitch your awesome product and collab ideas with your potential partners.

But WOAH there, slow your roll homie.

You can’t just cold-pitch most partners.

Most of them (especially if they are more established and popular) get a ton of emails sent at them on the daily, so even if you have a great pitch, sometimes you won’t be able to get through to them that easily.

(And then again, if your pitch is fantastic, some people will get right back to you).

BUT, there is a way to seriously up your odds of getting your potential partner to open your pitch, read it, actually consider it, and say the magic word: YES.

The idea is to form a relationship with these guys before you ask them for anything.

How do you do this without coming off as a clingy web-fan boy/girl?

Start a conversation with them.

The folks over at Groove have an awesome engagement strategy they use when they are building relationships with partners that works great:

groove_engagement_checklist

This is the method I use, and I’ve noticed that potential partners are a lot more willing to work with me after I’ve started a conversation on their blog, added quality comments on twitter, or basically just show that I GET THEM before I pitch them anything.

By connecting with them here first, you can then ask them if you can shoot them an email. This way they will:

  1. be expecting your email, so it will stand out in their overflowing inboxes,
  2. already be interested in what you have to say,
  3. be more likely to seriously consider your pitch since you aren’t just a rando sending them yet another email – you’ll be a real person they’ve already talked to

Ready to send your pitches, but not sure how to write the make-or-break email pitch?

Your email should look something like this. It has all the fundamental pieces you’ll need to get that “yes”:

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You’ll notice it:

  1. has a casual and personable introduction
  2. mentions where you’ve talked for some context
  3. gets straight to the point with an awesome (not boring or lame) idea
  4. makes a point to say how this collab will benefit the potential partner
  5. ends with an engaging question to encourage a response (is NOT open-ended)

Got your email ready? Hit send! Now comes the waiting game….

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If you follow the influencer engagement checklist, then you should get some responses back.

Now, I’m not guaranteeing a 100% response rate, and even with the best execution and pitch sometimes a partner will just say no for whatever their reason.

Maybe they don’t like doing collabs, only do collabs with bigger companies, or are just too  busy at the moment. (But hey, these reasons are making them say no NOW. That’s not to say you can’t work with them in the future!)

It’s really not a no… it’s just a “naw, right now’s not good”.

In this case, make sure to use your manners and still thank them for their time.

A quick, “No worries, just thought I’d run it by you. Thanks anyways!” will keep your relationship going and a line of communication still open for future collabs.

If you haven’t heard word back either way within a week of when you sent your pitch, go ahead and follow up.

Your follow up email should read something like this:

influencer follow-up email

Keep it short and to the point. It’s really just there to remind them if they forgot to respond, or if your first email got buried.

Chances are if someone hasn’t gotten around to checking their email ‘cause it’s so full (or your email got buried) then they might not see your follow up email either.

So get their attention another way. If they have a twitter, send them a short and sweet tweet!

“Hey Chancho, sent you an email with a rad collab idea. Did you get it?”

This way your message is public, and they’ll feel some pressure to answer you. Honestly, they might have no idea about your original pitch and might ask you to send it again. But hey, that’s cool cause now you have their attention and they’ll be looking for your email in their inbox!

And you know what’s an even bigger score?

WHEN THEY SAY YES! :D

This is the part where I let you fly away from the nest little one. This is where you make your fantastic idea come to life and start working with your partner.

But something super important that you need to remember is that even after your contest, or promo is over (or even if you have a continuous deal) you need to maintain your relationships with partners.

Tweet and share their content on your social media accounts as little shout outs, and email once in a while to check in. You can always shoot new ideas their way, and as your relationship grows, they might pitch ideas to YOU!

How Do We Know Audience Growth Hacking Works? It’s Been Done!

The Partner Process has boosted the growth of lots of stores. ShopSweetThreads for example, is a MadeFreshly store with also a brick-and-mortar that designs and sells vintage and vintage-inspired children’s clothing in Long Beach, CA.

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The owner, Shella says that because of partner relationships and collaborations, “Our business is now exposed to not only a different market, but to a wider audience”.

And with that audience comes more customers.

Bingo.

A couple of their most successful partnerships have been…

Their collab clothing line co-designed by Tori Hendrix of Sitting in a Tree Design:

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Lucca Valentine Collection for Paush

And holding a Valentine’s Craft Event designed by Jacquelyn Kazas and Leah Carriger of Beijos Events:

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In both cases, the partners ShopSweetThreads chose made sense for the target market they are going after. They offered their own audience to Tori and Beijos Events and a place for these businesses to promote their brand, while ShopSweetThreads got access to the audiences of these partners and got their brand promoted through them.

Win win.

Shella’s best piece of advice for businesses using partnerships to grow their own customer base is to:

“Find a partner to collaborate that is related to but not a direct competition to your business that you know your customer would enjoy seeing and supporting.”

See, it’s been done and there’s no reason why you can’t be the next business to get that same success. It’s just a matter of doing the work for the Partner Process!

Remember the 4 Steps of The Partner Process for Access to Targeted Groups of Customers!

Step 1 – Do Some Trolling: Research to Find Partners with Similar Audiences

Step 2 – Get Your Wheels Turnin’: Brainstorm Collab Ideas

Step 3 – Make it Happen: How to Reach Out to Partners

Step 4 – The Follow Up Stage: Keep Partner Relationships Alive

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Rachel Daley
Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the ecommerce platform that makes your passion pay off. Click here to get her actionable tips and inspiration for entrepreneurs every week!