Episode 140

Episode 140: Leveraging Partnership Marketing To Grow Your Business with Ashley Mason

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What you’ll learn in this episode:

In today’s episode, Ashley Mason, founder of Dash of Social, shares her journey of starting a content marketing agency and specializing in social media and influencer marketing. She discusses the power of partnerships and how they can benefit both parties involved.

Ashley also talks about the importance of finding the right partners and offers tips on how to choose them. She shares examples of successful partnerships, such as co-authored blog posts and joint events, and emphasizes the impact they can have on businesses. Ashley also discusses the Massachusetts Business Network, a community she created to provide free resources and support to local businesses.

Join us to hear to also here how we brainstormed some ways that you can use this marketing strategy to grow your business right now!

By the end of this episode, you’ll be on your way to building strong partnerships in your marketing and skyrocketing your growth as a result. Enjoy!

In this episode, you will learn to:

  • Why Partnerships can be a powerful way to grow your business and reach new audiences.
  • What to look for when you’re choosing partners and how to know when it will be a good fit
  • How key partnerships, like co-authored blog posts and joint events are effective partnership strategies.
  • How partnerships can benefit both parties involved and lead to increased visibility and sales.

Mentioned in this episode:

Dash of Social on Instagram

Dash of Social’s Main Website

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About Ashley Mason

Ashley Mason is the founder of Dash of Social, a content marketing agency specializing in social media management, blog content, and email marketing. Working closely with their clients, Ashley and her team help small businesses and tech startups craft and execute value-driven marketing strategies designed to establish thought leadership, grow online communities, and drive brand awareness.

Additionally, Ashley founded Massachusetts Business Network in 2022, which is the only statewide publication that provides free to low cost resources that support organizations with increasing their visibility and establishing thought leadership through its podcast, blog, and directory.

Ashley is a graduate of Stonehill College, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. She is a TEDx speaker, has been named a 40 Under 40 Honoree by Cape & Plymouth Business Media, and was recognized as Best Social Media Specialist by Boston Business Women.

Ashley currently serves as a Board Member for the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association (BVNA), Middleboro Public Library, and South Shore Young Professionals (SSYP). When she isn’t working, you can find her running on her Peloton or curled up on the couch with a book.

Jessica Miller [00:02]

Hello, Ashley, we’re so excited to have you on the It’s Your Offer podcast today. Welcome!

Ashley Mason [00:07]

Thank you, Jess, for having me. I’m super excited to be here.

Jessica Miller [00:10]

Yes, this is going to be an awesome conversation. For our listeners, tell us a little bit about you and your business so that they can get to know you.

Ashley Mason [00:18]

Absolutely. My company is Dash of Social, which I started back in September 2016. We’re a content marketing agency based in Massachusetts that specializes in social media, email marketing, blog content, and overall marketing strategy. We primarily support companies within the service space industry, working with a lot of small businesses, but also with a lot of tech startups. So it’s fun to have kind of both ends of the spectrum that we support.

Jessica Miller [00:44]

I love it. I love it. Ashley, tell me, did you – I’m assuming you did not – start as a social media agency. So, tell us what inspired you to do that, a little bit about your journey?

Ashley Mason [00:55]

Yes. So I’ve always been entrepreneurial minded since a very young age. So I always knew when, since I was a little girl, that one day I would own a business, but I just never knew what that would be. I’ve also always loved to read and write, anyone who follows me on Instagram sees all the books that I’m always reading. And I love to just write either for business or just for fun. So starting a blog was something that I had actually also dreamed of as well, just being able to kind of chat about my life, things that I find interesting and connecting with other people. So back in 2012, I was actually a sophomore in high school at the time, I have started a fashion and lifestyle blog, because I wanted to find a way to just have a creative outlet that time in my high school career was a really challenging year academically. And so I wanted to find a way to just kind of have some fun and relieve my stress. I treated this blog as if it was a part time job and spent probably at least 10 to 15 hours on it per week.

Ashley Mason [01:51]

But I eventually realized that there were two struggles that were happening. One, only my family was reading the content. And two, I was spending all this time on it and not really getting any return from it. So I kind of said to myself, if I’m going to continue doing this thing, I need to actually reach the right audience, which is high school and college age girls. And I also need to or would like to get some type of money or return from it. So when thinking about how it could achieve both of those goals, a realize that social media was the way to do so. So at this point, it’s about 2013. Instagram is one to two years old. So I’m getting on the platform as it’s brand new. And I was able to grow my blog through social media, primarily through Instagram and Twitter. So through that, I was able to, of course, reach the right audience. And also a became a micro influencer in a sense, I started working with various companies to attend press events, review their products, and get compensated just to write about their companies and what they’re offering, I realized that the majority of the companies I was working with barely had a social media presence, if any at all.

Ashley Mason [02:56]

And it made me realize that that was such a missed opportunity for them, because I had my own experience of how I was able to use social media to build a brand. And they were missing out on that. So I had started to kind of pick up an interest in social media just from what I was doing for myself. And I wanted to learn more about it, and then also support these brands who had supported me. So I offered them pro bono services to manage their influencers that they are working with, start to build their social media presence, and help to develop an overall marketing strategy for them. I also kind of get my feet wet and dipping my toes in the water. So when I started doing this, for them, I kind of had this aha moment where I was like, All my life I’ve known I’ve wanted to own a business never knew it would be. Now I know 100% that I want to go into marketing. And from there, just from the relationships that I had built, I started freelancing and picking up clients kind of ad hoc, so to say here and there, until I eventually started Dash of Social a few years later in 2016.

Jessica Miller [03:55]

Wow! Okay, so I want to dig into this. So when you were looking across, or you were working with these companies, and you were looking across the companies, were they in all different industries? Or was it one specific industry that you were working with?

Ashley Mason [04:08]

I would say it was primarily product-based companies. So it was clothes, it was accessories, kind of in that realm geared towards more like late teens, early 20s for girls and young women.

Jessica Miller [04:20]

Okay, so when you were working with them, and now you have this experience of being in the company, seeing where this opportunity was, what offer did you create? In a sense pitch to them to help them? What was that offer that you came up with? Was it mainly a social media platform? Or was it a more robust offer? What was it and why did you think that that was the thing that they needed?

Ashley Mason [04:43]

Yeah, it was two offers, I would say so I would say it was first social media management because they weren’t even posting some like how can I people know what you sell if you’re not even telling them what you’re selling if they’re not sharing anything? So I felt like they needed to have their social media presence built up so they could Get people to simply discover them. But I also offered them influencer management because I had experience as an influencer myself. But then I also was gaining the experience from like the brand side. So I had both the brand and the influencer side, and felt that that would be a good way to tap into partnership, marketing and be able to help them manage their influencers, and therefore get different audiences and reach more people. Yeah,

Jessica Miller [05:24]

okay. And so with those offers, if you could think back to that time, what was the problem that you helped them see that they were having that those offers would be the solution for?

Ashley Mason [05:36]

Time, I think it’s really, with any business owner, they struggle with marketing, particularly just not having the time, many of them have the knowledge to do marketing and know how to do their social media and know what they want to do with it. But really, it’s just not having the time or capacity on their plates to dedicate towards it when they already have a million other things to focus on.

Jessica Miller [05:56]

Okay, so your clients knew the power of social media, understood that they could reach their customers, make more money, but the problem that they were experiencing was finding the time and I would assume the expert, really the expertise on those platforms, to be able to pull that through?

Ashley Mason [06:12]

Exactly, like in a sense that for the little that they were doing, they were kind of just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that it sticks because they were like, we know we need to get something up. But we don’t have the time to really sit and think about what it is. So it was really good opportunity to be able to partner with them for that.

Jessica Miller [06:27]

Okay, so helping to drive the strategy as well. And then having the tactics of social media, whether it was in the capacity of working with the influencers that they were working with, or taking their social platforms, to the next level to drive sales.

Ashley Mason [06:40]

Exactly.

Jessica Miller [06:42]

Yeah, that’s amazing. What was one of the most powerful outcomes that you would say came from that? Like, obviously, they had their social media strategy, and they created results from that. But what was something that kind of blew your mind? Is there a specific company where you’re like, we did this thing? And I couldn’t believe that this came out of it?

Ashley Mason [07:02]

Yeah, I would say it was kind of surreal for me just being an influencer in general, because I remember I would receive emails or comments on Instagram or DMS, of people being like, thank you so much for sharing this product. Like I’ve now bought it. And I’m like, people bought something because I posted about it. And it was really gratifying to know that something simple that I did, such as throwing together a blog post and a correlating Instagram post to go along with it actually drove results from that sense. So I was able to be able to also track through affiliate links, the traffic that I was driving to these companies, websites, from my own content, I think being able to see a huge surge, and link clicks and purchases from there, I think really helped to show that the power of influencers, and also social media can do so much for a brand.

Jessica Miller [07:50]

Yes, I feel like it was also, you mentioned partnership earlier, like it was your first foray into partnering with brands and showing them the power of that partnership.

Ashley Mason [08:00]

Exactly.

Jessica Miller [08:01]

Huh. Let’s talk about partnership. Because I know this is something you’re really passionate about. And I am too, I think it’s one of the most powerful ways that you can sell your offers and grow your business. So you, through your influencer experience with these companies, working with their influencers, you started to really see the results. And I love this in brass tacks, like here is the data. I share this thing, they click on this link, they go over here, they buy this, whatever it is, and there’s a sale. And it’s so linear, and you can see it. So you started to see that and you started to see the power of that. What happened next, when you started to kind of lean into this partnership perspective.

Ashley Mason [08:38]

It made me think about who I can partner with next, whether it’s a company and other or another individual where we can mutually benefit one another. I think that’s the key when it comes to partnership marketing is it should always benefit both parties. And it had me thinking, who can I collaborate with? What can we collaborate on to get seen in front of each other’s audiences and provide something valuable to both audiences in hopes of perhaps getting new clients maybe getting new social media followers, increasing our email list, whatever it might be?

Jessica Miller [09:09]

Yeah. Do you have a sense of how do you pick those partners? You know, I bet our audience is like, Yes, I bought into this. How do I know who’s a good partner? How do I pick this person?

Ashley Mason [09:18]

That’s a great question. So I typically look for a few different things. One, I look to see if they of course, have a similar audience, I think don’t think it necessarily makes sense if you don’t have an overlap, and that way of who you serve and how you serve them. I also think it’s important to look at what these people might offer. If it’s a service-based business. I typically look for people who offer complementary services to what I do. So we don’t do the same thing. But what we offer goes really well together and can really Coralie in that sense, and I also like to make sure that the person is dependable and who’s someone who’s able to follow through on it because ultimately it can be very frustrating when you as one person are doing all the work with putting the off work together, promoting it being able to help build it in and drive awareness to it and the other person isn’t pulling their weight, yet they’re kind of getting the benefits or the positive outcomes from the work that you’re doing. So I think those three pieces can go a long way. And by being able to focus on them and helps to ensure that you’re vetting the right person. Yeah.

Jessica Miller [10:19]

And where do you find those people? How have you found the best way to find where they are, or connect with them?

Ashley Mason [10:26]

Usually through social media, so I feel like I’ve met a lot of the people that I have in my circle through Twitter, through Instagram, I’ve also found people through various networking groups, so chambers of commerce, Facebook groups that I might be a part of, I think there’s a lot of different ways to kind of think about the communities that you’re already in, see who’s in those communities and be able to find a way if it makes sense to work with them or partner with them in some capacity.

Jessica Miller [10:51]

Yeah, that’s so good. I’m almost wondering too, did this plant the seed for your networking group? Was that kind of impetus for creating your community?

Ashley Mason [10:55]

It did. So what you’re referring to is Massachusetts Business Network, which I started in November 2022. I’ve always viewed myself as a connector and someone who loves to just be able to build relationships with people, and also connect people to each other. So being able to find those different connections that I think can make a positive impact, I would say, knowing that I love to kind of find ways for people to collaborate, drove that drive, or really kind of helped me to think about how I wanted to give back to the Massachusetts business community. But I also would say the pandemic drove a lot of that too. I was very fortunate with the sense that the pandemic exploded my business because everyone needed marketing. But because of the small businesses that I worked with, I also saw the devastation that it caused to so many small companies. And so I wanted to find a way to provide free resources and support to these companies, when they might not necessarily have the budget to do so themselves. And that’s when I realized that Massachusetts business network would be a good avenue or good outlet to provide and do that for them.

Ashley Mason [12:06]

Yeah, and tell us a little bit about it. How is it? You know, how does it serve your audience? How is it different than other maybe other networking groups?

Ashley Mason [12:14]

Absolutely. So we aim to educate, inspire and connect to any business or professional within Massachusetts. So what Massachusetts Business Network offers, it’s really kind of like an online hub, I call it so we have a podcast, we have a blog, we have a business directory. And we also offer monthly webinars or lunch and learns where we bring in experts through partnership, marketing, and cover a variety of topics that we can teach that business owners and professionals would really be interested in. So we’ve done stuff on marketing, Jess was a part of our goal setting webinar, we’ve done stuff on finances, just kind of thinking about these topics that people want to know about, and provide information and education to them for free.

Jessica Miller [12:56]

I love it. And in your experience of engaging in a lot of different type of partnership relationships, what are maybe a couple of really powerful partnerships that you would recommend to people thinking about, for example, just as an example, seeing a lot of value with you know, doing joint live partnerships on social media, or what mediums and tactics from a relationship partnership relationship perspective, have you found that almost any business could potentially utilize these and it’s going to be really valuable for them?

Jessica Miller [13:30]

Absolutely. One of my favorites is actually doing like a co-authored blog post, I think a lot of people tend to kind of overlook blogging. But blogging is huge for search engine optimization and being able to help your website get found on various search engines. So one thing that I love to do for both my clients and then also for Massachusetts business network, specifically, is think of a topic or a question and then find people or professionals who can answer that question and almost do some type of like, quote, based blog post where I share their quote, link to their website, and then share the published blog posts with them. And now 10,20, 30 people are now sharing that blog post with their audience. And so now I’m able to get seen in front of several other people. I also love the power of joint events, whether it’s a webinar or whether it’s an in-person workshop, where you’re teaching a very specific service or some type of business strategy or tactic that people can implement. Being able to have that face-to-face connection, I think goes a long way and really helps to build those relationships and also provide value.

Jessica Miller [14:37]

Yeah, I love that. I love those two examples, as well because if you’re a service-based business or your virtual, you can really leverage something like a blog, and I think this is the universe being like “Jess, you need to write your blog”. I absolutely do not have a blog and I know the power of it. So it’s I think that’s a really amazing vehicle to do that and I never thought about Writing it with someone else like that just triples that leverage, which I love. And then for maybe more brick-and-mortar businesses, events are very powerful. It’s also powerful for service-based providers. But I was just talking to one of my clients, Bonnie this morning, she owns a med spa up in the Portland area. And she is the event, queen, like people are coming to her now requesting to do events in her space, because not only is the space amazing, but she also is just amazing at putting it together. So they get the space, the leverage of her network, but they also get all of her expertise. So it becomes such a powerful asset in their business. And I just think post pandemic, people need FaceTime. Oh, they really want to see each other in some capacity. So where are those in person events? Makes sense? I think it can really be very, very powerful.

Ashley Mason [15:54]

Definitely, yeah, when I was a blogger, that was a popular thing. In the blogging sphere were shopping events. So partnering with a boutique or with a store and hosting a shopping event and kind of bringing your readers or bringing your audience into that store. And they would perhaps get a discount or a free offer free products, whatever it might be. So

Jessica Miller [16:13]

they would blog about something. And in that blog, they would let them know about the in-person event and like basically pull people to that event. Exactly. I love this. Yeah, that’s awesome. You know, it brings up a really interesting point about the concept of partnership. But also, I think there is this beautiful area of opportunity for especially more traditional businesses, more retail brick and mortar based businesses, to lean into and understand and learn the power of leveraging the internet, and social media, to bring people into their stores, a lot of the tactics that we look at promotions and things like that, with the brick and mortar businesses that I work on the consulting side, is looking for those opportunities. And over here in the digital world, with your social media agency. And also with my virtual business in that capacity, we have a whole different perspective about marketing and the power of the internet and the ease of being able to do that. That is really sometimes not understood by more traditional brick and mortar businesses. And there’s such a great opportunity to leverage that without having to break your whole business model. Unlike selling online. It’s really about leveraging online to get people in the door, versus taking your you know, brick and mortar business and moving it to an online business. So you know, I wonder if you’ve seen that too. Yeah,

Ashley Mason [17:42]

I can actually give a great example of this. So something that I’m involved in personally is called Silent book club. There’s a chapter for anyone who’s local to Massachusetts, and Easton. And basically, the whole idea is you show up to the designated venue once a month, and you just bring whatever book you want. And you just read in silence. And it’s one of the best things with this chapter. It’s Yeah, it’s amazing. With this chapter of silent book club, we actually go to shuffle town, which is a brewery and Easton. And so shovel town and this eastern southern book club chapter have partnered together in order to host the event. So shall the town doesn’t charge silent book club to host us, we don’t have to pay to attend it. All we do is show up, but we’re ordering their beer, we’re ordering their food, right, we’re really giving back to shuffle town. And last month, there was actually almost 100 attendees, so shall the town 100 people in the door who might not have ever known about the brewery previously, because of silent book club. And so that’s a huge impact that can be made on a brick and mortar location like that, and being able to just get seen in front of new people who are now entering your space who never have previously.

Jessica Miller [18:51]

Oh, my gosh, this is the power of partnership and the internet. Yes, exactly. They are hitting the jackpot. I love this. And to your point earlier, it is like Win-win-win. Right? It’s a win for the book club. It’s a win for the brewery. And it’s win for the people who are attending that event. And not to mention every other person like all of those people touch so that web just becomes so huge. And the thing that I love the most about it is if you think about the output, like the return on that investment of time and energy, the amount of effort it takes for any of you in that equation is a fraction of what the impact is. Yeah. And so Dare I say it’s easy, and it feels easy, but it actually is because there’s so much leverage there. By locking arms by being very strategic, knowing what you want to create making it a win win. It’s just like a total love fest and I talk about that.

Ashley Mason [19:48]

It’s so true though as one person, you automatically have a ceiling on how much time energy and effort you can commit to something but when you bring in one person, two people, three people, four people from There, now you have all of you coming together in order to reach a common goal. And you’re all contributing time, effort, money resources to this. And so like you said, just, there’s an opportunity for a much bigger impact from there. Yeah,

Jessica Miller [20:13]

and I think this just falls right into the vein of creating more with less, really, I think growing your business is understanding those things that are working, understanding how to leverage your network, your relationships, the things in your business that makes sense for your business model, and creating a whole lot more from a smaller amount of input. And to your point, about 100 people showing up at this event, every time you run this, every time you create these assets, they become more powerful. So the first time, right, it’s 10 people. And then you get clear, and people started sharing it and the momentum builds, and it gets more and more powerful. So now there’s 100 people. And that’s really the power of refining that offer, making that customer journey really simple. And then leveraging partnership to really excel that growth and make it seem so easy and fun. So what is better than that? So good, right?

Ashley Mason [21:07]

And the more you do it, the more you can fine tune it. So the first time we’re like, oh, now I know A, B and C that I want to change or do differently the next time and the more times you repeat that, then you start to really fine tune it narrow things down, maybe even niche down and then have a better offer in the future.

Jessica Miller [21:24]

Yes, yes. And I think the important thing to remind people of in this journey is fine tuning and optimizing by holding this thing constant, figuring out what those levers are that you’re going to tweak. And then going forward, a lot of people get caught in this place where they change, like they blow it up, they don’t give it the time to optimize, they’ll add something, you know, they start adding more offers. Basically, this concept of doing so much more thinking you’re going to get more. And the truth is taking that thing, running it, assessing it debriefing it rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat and making it more powerful. And then everyone in that everyone that touches it just gets better. So it’s so it’s so great. I love it. I love it. Actually, this is so great. Everyone is going to want to know where they can find you on social media or wherever you are out on the interwebs. So tell us where we can find you.

Ashley Mason [22:18]

Absolutely, you can head to my websites which are dashofsocial.com and massachusettsbusinessnetwork.com. I’m really active on social media for dash of social on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. So feel free to hang out with me there.

Jessica Miller [22:31]

I love this. Ashley, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. And for all of our listeners. Thank you so much for being here. Until next week. We cannot wait to see you there. Thanks again, Ashley.

Ashley Mason [22:42]

Thanks for having me, Jess.