The Targets and Nordstroms of the world have a notable luster to anyone working in the influencer world, (and let’s be real, they have a luster for us, shoppers, too) but the power of local collaborations pack a punch.

It’s easy to lose sight of the mom and pop shops in a sea of chain-stores and online super-brands, but small businesses make up over 29 million businesses in America employing just under 50% of United States employees.

By consciously choosing local collaborations bloggers and influencers are able to impact the vitality of their community, influence the national economy and reap some serious personal benefits.

So, what can local collaborations do for you?

First, they create relationships–real, in the flesh, relationships, and those are worth their weight in gold. Without a doubt, word of mouth is the best promotional material a business–on the streets or on the internet–can wish for.

Local collaborations allow you to capture the attention of a local audience, show them how dang cool you are and start spreading the word about what you have to offer.

The internet is a powerful tool. Your voice can influence your followers to click through to content, make a purchase or support a friend, and local businesses aren’t exempt from that benefit.

Approaching business owners with details on your reach and success stories with other brands is important.

Savvy entrepreneurs will already understand the value you are offering, while others may need some education. It’s important to remember that, like you, these business owners are working hard day-in and day-out.

An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur because of the heart. Their business is their baby and approaching them with gratitude and genuine interest in what they’re doing is vital to a reciprocally beneficial relationship.

Ready to start reaching local? Here’s how to get started:

 

Brainstorm Authentically

When you begin to explore options for partnerships authenticity is key. Think about the places you love and why you love them the way you do. Is the staff extra helpful? Do they carry a locally-made brand? Can you leave the store without a bag full of treasures? These are the places you need to partner with.

The concept of “fake it ‘till you make it,” will not serve you in this arena. Not only will it feel burdensome to create a relationship with a business you’re just not that into, you’ll be wasting the time of the entrepreneur and your audience.

Every business has their people. Focus on finding your people and the partnerships you are excited to share with your friends and followers.

 

Lead with Respect

Business owners have folks saunter through their doors every day asking something of them. They’re tired. They’re working hard. They don’t have time for all this.

If you’re picking authentic partnerships, they will recognize you as a shopper. If you’ve never spent a dime in their store, they probably won’t be interested.

Express your respect for their time and consideration, tell them what you love about the work they’re doing and open the conversation about the future with plenty of space for them to express what they need from you.

This is not an opportunity for free stuff. You are creating a foundation where you both respect what the other needs and brainstorming a collaboration that works for everyone.

 

Show the Numbers

Chances are if you nail the first interaction with a business owner you’ll generate some interest. Just the same, chances are money will be a stumbling block.

Small businesses don’t have the marketing budgets of national retail stores. Many of them don’t have marketing budgets at all.

It will be important for you to clearly convey the value you are bringing to the table, so have detailed numbers on your local reach available. Explain the immense power that comes from sharing this business with your audience and be willing to negotiate.

The beauty of small business is the flexibility and opportunity to think outside the box. Maybe your go-to salon can’t cut you a check to share them on Instagram, but you could create a hair-tutorial campaign that allows you to capture their audience and for them to capture yours.

Money is important, but sometimes money isn’t on the table. Be wary of being taken advantage of, but don’t walk away when you’re gut tells you there’s something there.

 

Seal the Deal

You have your dream-collaborator, you’ve shared what you can do for each other and now it’s time to do the thing. Get it on the calendar, sign a contract–follow through with whatever process makes the most sense for your business and their business.

Once you’ve navigated the perfect partnership it’s time to execute before it becomes lost to the land of, “That was such a good idea, why didn’t we do that?” Many good ideas fall victim to time and time is something a business owner has little to give. Go forth and make it happen!

 

Follow Through

This work that you are doing is more than just sharing something beautiful on the internet. You’re championing for someone in your community who is working hard and you’re doing your part in nurturing an entrepreneurial ecosystem that serves the place you call home.

Think about how you can take the ideas from the points above and hold on to them through your entire partnership. If you are respectful and appreciative of the business you’re working with, who you truly adore as a shopper and a fan, the chances of your success are high and the chances of a continued partnership are higher.

Economic development isn’t a term you hear across the lips of bloggers and influencers often, however, it’s a large part of the work you do.

You’re sharing stories, inspiring the world around you, filling the internet with big ideas and supporting likeminded people, but you’re doing more than that too.

You’re a strong thread in the fabric of your local economy and your value extends far beyond that grid on my iPhone.

As you plan your collaborations for the months ahead think about where you like to spend your time most. There are dozens of relationships waiting to be cultivated in your favorite coffee shops, boutiques and salons with entrepreneurs, artists, makers, farmers and passionate people who, just like you, are putting their heart and soul into putting their mark on the world.

Reach out and show some local love. You just may be surprised what bolstering your local economy can do for you too.

 


THE AUTHOR: Jessica Brauer

Jessica is a born-and-raised Wyoming gal, dreamer, traveler, communications consultant, and freelance writer. A former wedding-cake baker turned community champion, her entrepreneurial spirit has carried her through many phases of life. She believes in the healing powers of tacos, travel, and hula hooping in the sunshine and makes a mean chocolate cake.