Ever since reading The Secret Collaborative Economy, I’ve been so much more aware of the role of collaboration in the success of small and solopreneur businesses. One of the great things I learned both from the book and from the author is that always approach other people by asking what you can do for them first. Establish your desire and ability to help them before you think about asking for a favor.
I’ve been keenly aware of this in my own collaborative efforts and have changed my tactics a bit in the process. I’m working much more on keeping relationships alive so that the channel is open when I or the other person need a favor. When I ask for something, I try to make it valuable to the other person as well. I try to make it easy on them, and make sure they know how to get the most out of what they are doing for me.
I’ve also become much more aware of bad examples of collaboration requests, particularly when they come from people who I’ve never heard of and they are asking me to do something with little or no discernible benefit to me or the people I serve. Like most people, I’m busy and a self-serving request from someone I’ve never heard of has a slim-to-zero chance of being acted on by me.
Here’s an example of a poorly framed request: I received a request to blog about an article on someone else’s blog. I had not interacted with the blog or the company that published it, and they aren’t a well-known company in my niche. The request came from a PR firm and not the author or company representative. It didn’t address me by name but instead said “Hi there,” as the greeting. The request didn’t specify any benefit to me or why visitors to my site would benefit from this post.
Pretty bad form huh?
How could they have done better? Here’s my list:
- Use my name in your request so I know I’m not just part of a mass-market email blast.
- Explain how my blogging about this would benefit me. Are you providing a solution to something I’ve identified as a challenge? Is it brilliant information on a topic I’ve said I’m interested in? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but give me some idea of why I would consider your request.
- Specifically explain how this subject helps my niche and their unique needs. Include something such as “I see that you serve solopreneurs, and the xyz version of our product is specially designed for very small companies.”
- Have the author, or at least a company representative, do the outreach. Having the request come from a PR firm looks not like collaboration but like you paid someone to blanket as many people as possible with the request.
- Make sure the article subject is relevant to my niche. In this case, the company serves much bigger entities than I do so it is unlikely that anyone I attract will be interested in their product.
How can you be a better collaborator? Share your ideas in the comments, and check out The Secret Collaborative Economy for ideas.