A question I am frequently asked by new clients is, ‘How can I market my small business on a budget?’

Fortunately, there are lots of low-cost (if not free) ways to market your business – you just need to be resourceful and make smart, strategic decisions wherever possible.

Brand collaborations for example, are a brilliant way for small businesses to increase brand awareness, build their customer-base and to drive sales – and all for free! We asked Kate Box, founder of Kate Box Knitwear to tell us about how her partnership with speciality tea and coffee brand Cupsmith benefitted both their businesses. Over to Kate:

Kate Box: Founder of Kate Box Knitwear (Photo: Tina Bolton).

Our partnership came about via Instagram

Having applied for my first Christmas fair (Farnham Maltings, Surrey) I began to follow the Maltings’ Instagram feed. I was intrigued by the eclectic mix of creative businesses they showcased at their fairs and in turn, promoted through their social media channels.

One brand which caught my eye was Cupsmith – a local, family-run tea and coffee business. A great coffee enthusiast myself, I was really drawn to their fresh, friendly, modern ideals whilst staying true to their values of authentic, traditional quality and service. I loved everything about them!

Then out of the blue, I received an email from Cupsmith founder, Emma Crawford! Emma asked if I would like to stock some of my knitted accessories, wrist and neck warmers in their pop-up Christmas shop at their own roastery during December (2016). As a new business, this was an enormous boost for me and I leapt at the chance!

Brand collaboration: Kate Box Knit and Cupsmith (Photo: Cupsmith).

A perfect partnership

Emma and I settled on a range of products that we both thought would sell well to the discerning coffee drinker, and I got on with knitting product. My stock was delivered in November just before the grand opening of Cupsmith’s Christmas pop-up shop – located at their beautiful countryside Roastery just outside of Farnham, Surrey.

I restocked three times before the Christmas selling period was over and was thrilled at their sell through.

Christmas collaboration: Kate Box Knitwear & Cupsmith in pop-up partnership (Photo: Cupsmith).

How did you promote your partnership?

Cupsmith and I both promoted our collaboration through Instagram and our respective blogs. Cupsmith also took the most beautiful Christmas-themed photographs featuring their coffee and my knitted accessories. The photography showcased both of our businesses brilliantly, and promoted our collaboration in an authentic way, which I loved.

How it benefitted both brands

Our partnership exposed both of us to each other’s audiences – customers who wholeheartedly complimented, understood and delighted in the products of the other. Over the winter period I saw a healthy increase in my social media following.

Product sales via Cupsmith gave a significant boost to my Christmas sales. In particular their percentage of sales versus stock taken was high, which indicates that Emma knows their customer’s tastes very well indeed!

Whilst working together we understood each other’s pressures and in particular to me, the huge learning curves we faced over a busy Christmas period. I feel I met a kindred spirit in Emma and have since emailed her for advice which she has generously given. It’s relationships like these that make working independently so worthwhile and it didn’t cost us a penny!

3 top tips for a successful partnership

1. Choose a collaboration with someone/something you would actually use yourself. It’s hard to promote something that you don’t believe in, use or even like.
2. Partner up with a business whose aesthetic and marketing values are similar to your own. If their marketing approach is going to be shared on your social media platforms it needs to be something you’d be proud of too.
3. Choose someone who understands the pressures you are under. In my case, partnering with someone who didn’t understand the pressures running a small business whilst parenting young children would have been difficult.

If you found these tips helpful, you might also like:

Top tips: How collaborations build brand awareness

Small business collaboration supports growth

How to market your business on a shoestring budget

Bootstrapping your way to success