How to Plan a Collaborative Marketing Event

by | Jul 22, 2015

What is collaborative marketing?

Collaborative marketing events (CBEs) happen when businesses team up to share resources to generate more leads, sales, or recognition. This usually happens between two or more non-competing businesses that might have similar customer interests.

For example, an energy drink maker might team up with a mountain biking company to sponsor a downhill event. Redbull isn’t in the business of making mountain bikes and Cannondale, to my knowledge, doesn’t produce overly-caffeinated beverages that give you wings. However, each customer base could overlap in the adventure sports category.

A good argument could be made that collaboration is even more important in rural areas where smaller businesses must rely on local and surrounding communities. By teaming up, non-competing rural businesses with similar customers can leverage the strengths and trust of their individual brands to powerfully market events that will generate new sales leads and potential revenue. In this way, two can be better than one.

What we did

Our research team wanted to know what would happen if two local businesses teamed up for a collaborative marketing event. Using our existing ties to our local community, we connected a retail garden center with a local photographer and asked them to collaborate together on an event. They chose to host a Christmas themed photo session at the garden center in the month of November.

Both businesses were free to plan, strategize, and market the event as they saw appropriate. On the day of the event, our team took field notes, surveyed customers, and interviewed the participating businesses at the end of the event.

Our recommendations are below and can be seen in an infographic by clicking on the following image. 

Set goals prior to the event

Establish short-term and long-term goals for the event. An example of a short-term goal would be “to sell x amounts of perennials in one-gallon container pots the day of the event”. However, you may be short-changing yourself and leaving profits at the door if you do not factor in long-term goals as well. A long-term goal may include increasing repeat buyers over the quarter or increasing store traffic by x-percent from e-newsletter coupons.

These goals should be measurable and follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal structure.

Set up a Social Media Strategy

Create an event page on Facebook..

  • An Event page will include the date, location, and specifics of the event.
  • Users can invite their friends to join the event.
  • Event goers can “check in” and post photos to the event that can also be used for your Facebook page. They can even do this after the event has finished.

Hashtag it

  • Although Twitter isn’t used as much in rural areas as it is in the “big city”, it is still an important marketing tool, especially if you live near a larger town or city.
  • Instagram is also growing in popularity, especially in the 18-35 age range.
  • A hashtag can increase the visibility of your event before, during, and after.
  • Make sure the hashtag doesn’t already exist and keep it short and simple.

For Pete’s sake use Pinterest

  • Pinterest is becoming the juggernaut of the social media world, especially among women.
  • Create a shared group board with your partner for the event and allow users to pin to it.
  • Create a contest for your event attendees

Create your Call to Action

 In our study, the business owners who weren’t happy with the event didn’t have a plan to capitalize on the influx of people visiting their garden center for the first time to participate in the photo shoot. Customers need a call to action.

These new customers are here to visit another business, not yours. However, you have a chance to earn their business if you play your cards right. Have a sale item that day or pass out coupons for a later event.

This would also be a great time to get these potential customers to sign up for your e-newsletter for promotional items, like a Facebook page, or follow another social media feed. Offer them a coupon in the newsletter if they sign up and be very clear they won’t be receiving constant emails from your business or spam.

In our survey, half of the customers visiting the garden center for the photo shoot said they would consider coming back. However, customers didn’t have a chance to sign up for any type of list nor were they given any type of coupon or incentive to come back. The host business was just at the mercy of their memory. A call to action could have helped.

During the event

Make sure all of your help is trained on the specifics of the event, even with things that relate with the other business. Here is your moment to delight them. Make sure their experience is a great one.

After the event

Great job, you finished your CBE but your work is far from done. Did you get email signups? Make sure you send a welcome email within the next few days and a coupon. Did you get new Facebook likes? Try sending a message to your new fans and thank them for coming. Post a coupon on Facebook to incentive your new fans to regularly follow the page.


How many people came to the event? If you gave out a coupon at the event, did you find a way to track how many customers used the coupon? What percent of revenue can be directly tied to that event?

If you use social media, did you have an increase in subscribers, likes, or followers? Over the next month, did any of those new fans or followers come into the store to purchase something? Do you have a plan to track these metrics?

Review and Discuss

How did the event go? What could have been better? Have an honest discussion with your event partner where you can decide if you want to do this event again. If you decide to move forward next year, identify some of the things you would make better.