Business Collaboration Series: Product Collaboration

February 16, 2012

product collaboration

What can you do today to expand your business? One of the easiest roads to a larger market share is a new product line. How can you add products quickly with less-than-normal development work? Collaborate.

In conjunction with this month’s Marketing Snacks issue, we’re talking about business collaboration on the blog this month. And one of the simplest ways to get businesses working together is on a product collaboration. Here are five ways you can work with another business to develop a new product or a new line of products.

1. Licensing

You see licensed designs everywhere you look in the retail world. Professional and college sports team merchandise, movie, television and character merchandise. Odds are, if you look in any child’s closet, you can immediately point out five items that are collaborations between a manufacturer working with licensed imagery. The interesting thing is, that this works on a much smaller scale as well, with less popular imagery.

When Sara Tams of sarah + abraham ran across Meg Bartholomy’s Olliegraphic shop on etsy and fell in love with her illustrations, an idea for collaboration was born. “we were able to work out a royalty-based arrangement that has been great for both of us. The Olliegraphic line that I offer has been well received by my customers, and in addition to paying Meg royalties, I provide a link to her website on my Olliegraphic product pages so that my customers can contact her for custom designs and/or printables.”

Always be on the lookout for imagery that would appeal to your customer base and contact the designer/artist/owner to see if  you can license their imagery for use on your products.

2.  Create a “mashup” or combined product

How could you expand your existing product line without adding additional manufacturing? Create a new product that includes a product someone else already makes. Pixie Chicago wanted to expand her line of printed stationary and create a baby shower gift set. Partnering with Chic Mama Diaper Cakes and offering a Baby Shower Gift Set allowed her to expand her line while capitalizing on someone else’s area of expertise. “By working together, Chic Mama and Pixie Chicago hope to expand our customer base and help each other’s business grow.” I got in touch with Cassandra of Pixie Chicago and asked her how she feels about her collaboration now that it’s been in place for some time, “Working with Chic Mama Diaper Cakes has been wonderful. We created a cohesive product line that many mother-to-be’s would desire. Plus, collaborating with another company helps with marketing, as both companies are now advertising your products.”

Can you offer a new product if you combined forces with a complimentary business?

3. Create a Package Deal

If I was currently in the photography business (I’ve been out of it for several years), I’d be marketing experiences rather than images. I’d team up with a local stylist and makeup artist to offer bachelorette or girls-night-out experiences. And I’d offer men a photographed adventure experience.

What complimentary service businesses can you team up with to offer a package deal, expanding the reach of both your business and that of your collaborators?

4. Sell someone else’s product

One time-tested way to expand your business is to continually add new product lines. How can you collaborate with another small business to expand your sales? One local coffee shop I love to spend time at when I’m in their neck of the woods offers really great food. For me, eating out is a treat and if I’m already treating myself, I love to have a little taste of something sweet. I don’t need to indulge in a whole dessert, but a taste is perfect. This coffee shop has teamed up with a local cupcake shop to offer mini cupcakes. These are literally one or two bites of happiness. Just right to satisfy an after lunch craving. Starbucks is now offering mini desserts as well, but I love the fact that my coffee shop is cross-promoting another local business. Both of them benefit.

What type of product would naturally compliment your offering?

5. Create a dual service

Service businesses can get in on this action as well. Is there an afternoon when your business is slow? Can you create a combination service with another business that afternoon each week, offering a new product in a new location? This can take a more creative approach and may require more unique marketing than some of the other products mentioned, but could result in a significant expansion to your customer base. For example, a physical trainer and massage therapist offer an outdoor training session followed by a massage in a unique private location on one afternoon a week when you’d like to increase bookings. Choose interesting locations and charge a premium. Make it the most sought-after bookings of your business.

What premiere service can you create in collaboration with another local business?

Think creatively about these five ideas and create a new product this week. Better yet, get together for lunch with several other local businesses and brainstorm other ways you could collaborate on new products.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

luke w February 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

Excellent article. Collaboration is a newly fertile area, and reaping the benefits of it requires businesses to carefully sew the appropriate communication tools and networks between departments. Increased communication can lead to increased efficiency inside proper processes. Communication is no longer limited by geo-location, so no longer do collaborative lunches only have to be local affairs.

Luke Winter

Community Manager



Michelle February 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

Great point Luke, our limits are no longer local…especially when you consider all of the great collaborative tools out there now, like OneDesk and others.


Leah May 13, 2012 at 10:14 am

Another great way to expand if you create a product is going to the wholesale route. I know a few companies that are in the “gifts” business. They don’t know how to get customers on their own and their business is entirely wholesale. They pretty much get all their orders from online businesses that dropship their products.


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