How to respond to a collaboration email: A quick guide

What's the best way to respond to a collaboration email? Or end a collaboration? Read through our quick steps.

Kimberlee Meier, Writer
22 January 20218 Min Read

What's the best way to respond to a collaboration email? Or end a collaboration? Read through our quick steps.

There isn’t a better Monday morning surprise than opening up your inbox to find someone wants to collaborate with you.

And then, the uncertainty sets in. How should you respond to emails like this?

You need to remember that regardless of the brand reaching out to collaborate, you don’t have to say “yes” immediately. Like any email you receive, collaboration outreach emails are just the start of the discussion. 

You need to hash out terms and conditions. See exactly how your companies will work together. And most importantly, figure out if you’re the right fit. So what exactly can you say to them to get all of this out into the open?

Let’s break down how to respond to collaboration emails, from the moment they hit your inbox right up until an agreement is reached. 

What’s the deal with collaborations, anyway?

Collaborations are a partnership. They work best if both sides agree on what goals the collab should aim for, who you’ll target, and outline clear expectations for both brands. Remember when Kraft and Starbucks decided to collaborate? It… didn’t go well. 

The idea seemed simple. Starbucks would make coffee, and Kraft would distribute and sell it in grocery stores. 

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The collaboration didn’t live up to expectations. Sales slumped, and fearing that they were missing out on market growth, Starbucks dumped the deal—but were only free once they paid Kraft $2.7B in compensation. 

What does this example tell us? That brand collabs with poor communication, execution, or expectations can fall flat and carry pretty epic consequences. 

However—if you partner with the right brand and collaborate effectively, it can be a game changer for your company. 

Research by Partnerize found that 54% of companies say partnerships drive more than 20% of total company revenue. Customers like collaborations, too. 68% of consumers can make buying decisions before speaking to a sales rep once they’ve seen a co-marketing campaign.

As HubSpot’s Sophie Bernazzi highlights, collaborations work best when the success of one brand brings success to its partner brand, too. 

“Co-branding can be an effective way to build business, boost awareness, and break into new markets, and for a partnership to truly work, it has to be a win-win for all players in the game,” she says. 

“Both audiences need to find value -- like chocolate-loving fans of Betty Crocker and Hershey's.”

The good news is that many early discussions in a collab can lay the groundwork for a successful partnership or highlight the need for you to pass up the opportunity. 

Here are 4 steps you can follow to respond to collaboration requests, so you end up with a successful partnership, not a sinking one. 

4 steps to respond to collaboration email

Even with the offer of a collaboration, we both know that it should just be the start of the discussion. After all, both brands will have specific goals for the collaboration and different budgets and opinions on how you can get there. 

In your reply, you should make a good impression, talk up why your company will be a good partner, and hit them with a counteroffer to get more details. Let’s get started. 

1. Start off on the right foot

Collaborations are like marriages: you will need to work and battle through times when things don’t go as planned to succeed. Start your reply with a good dose of optimism. Tell the brand that’s reaching out that you like the work they’ve done so far and your company has been keeping an eye on their progress. 

Hitting them in the feels with some compliments like this should do the trick: 

“Thank you so much for reaching out. We’ve been watching (their brand name)’s progress for a long time, and a possible collaboration has been on our list for quite a while now!” 

Now, onto business. 

2. Explain the key benefits the collaboration could bring

The next step is painting your brand in a good light. 

The company that has approached you to collaborate obviously sees something worthwhile in partnering up. But you should also take the opportunity to highlight what else you can bring to the table. 

  • Could you share content or perhaps produce some lead magnets together?

  • Will the collaboration be a one-off, or could you create a series of products/features together?

  • If you have a large social media following, could you offer up some space on your feeds for the other brand to take advantage of?

If you are a good fit, offering up real estate on each other's social media feeds, websites, YouTube channels, or newsletters should be a given. After all, the partnership will be more successful if both of your customer bases are interested in it. 

Put together a list of benefits and write them out in a bullet-point format for the reply email, like this: 

✅ Opportunity for an Instagram takeover on our Instagram channel, which has 150k followers

✅ Collaboration opportunity for our monthly newsletter, which has 100k subscribers

✅ Slot on our Podcast, which has 50k monthly listeners

While you should only include channels that you are willing to feature the collaborator, giving them a benefits list like this can prompt them to make a counteroffer. 

Which brings us to our next point….

3. Scope out your counteroffer

Time to get down to business. 

Any collaboration should be negotiated until both parties are happy. It’s essential to know the specifics as early as possible so you can decide whether the partnership is a good fit. 

Start by asking: 

  • What is (their brand) looking for?

  • What is (their brand name) goals of the collaboration?

  • What content do you plan on featuring? Will our social media/email channels be involved?

  • How long would you like the collaboration to last?

  • What is your expected budget for the project(s)?

Once you know what the company’s specific goals, wants, and asks are, it’s easier to understand whether the collaboration opportunity will be right for your brand. You can write out this part of the email like this:

“Just to get a better idea of what the collaboration will look like, would you mind giving us an idea about: 

  • What are your overall goals for the collaboration?

  • Are you thinking of guest posts on each other’s blogs, or do you also want to join forces on Instagram, Facebook, and email content?

  • How long would you like to collaborate for? Do you have a specific product you want to focus on, or are you thinking more long-term?

  • So we know what to expect, how much of your budget you are planning to allocate to the collaboration?

Then, wrap it up. 

4. Say seeya—and make sure they know if you’re interested

Don’t overthink your sign-off, but make it clear that you are excited about the possibility of collaborating, and you hope to hear from them soon. 

Any of these will hit the spot:

  • Looking forward to chatting more about this

  • Thanks again for reaching out to collaborate

  • Appreciate your time, and hopefully, we can make this work!

Then, add your name or signature, and you’re ready to hit send! If we tie all 4 steps together, your email response should look something like this: 

Pro-tip: If you want help making sure your response hits the mark, ask a team member to jump in. Front’s Shared Draft tool allows you to collaborate with the rest of your team when you’re replying to a collaboration offer. You can invite people to edit and add suggestions to your reply in real-time to make sure it hits the mark before you hit send. 

How to end a collaboration email

Ugh. It happens. Sometimes collaborations just… aren’t going to work. Your calendar might be full. Or the offer might not be a good fit, even though your brands are. 

If that’s the case, make sure you respond anyway and explain that you can’t partner up right now. Most of all, make sure your reply is polite, empathetic, and leaves the door open for future opportunities. You never know!

Here’s what we mean:

“Thank you so much for reaching out to us and thinking of us for a possible collaboration. 

I’ve just looked at our calendar for the next 12 months, and while I agree a collaboration between our two brands makes sense, we are completely booked for the timeframe you’ve proposed. 

However, I would like to keep in touch and see if there is a way we can collaborate once some calendar space clears up, in (possible date here)?

Thanks again for reaching out to collaborate!

(your name)”

Short. Simple. To the point. 

Wrapping up on collaboration emails

Brand collaborations are fun—but they’re also serious business. Before signing off on a partnership, you need to hash out the finer details. Getting a clear idea of what a brand is expecting, what they’re willing to offer, and what they want in return can make the difference between a successful collaboration or one that sinks. 

The devil is in the detail. Once you know what each side can bring to the table, it’ll be easier to figure out if the collaboration is a good fit and if the goals are realistic. And now you know how to respond to collaboration requests—it’s time to get typing!

Written by Kimberlee Meier
Originally Published: 21 January 2021
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