If you’re wondering how to get the most out of your marketing strategy, remember this:
Marketing doesn’t have to be a single-player game. Nor does it have to be a zero sum game.
Marketing can be a co-op exercise where you embrace teamwork and join forces with valued partners.
Find trusted partners outside of your company and work together to collectively reach your business goals.
With effective partnership marketing, you can enhance brand awareness, reach new customers, increase leads, and grow your business to new heights.
Keep reading to learn my tried-and-test best practices for partnership marketing. I’ll cover how to stay organized, research your partners, and more.
10 Partnership marketing best practices
Partnership marketing is sometimes referred to as co-marketing. That’s because you strategize and execute marketing in conjunction with your partners.
Co-marketing is a strategic collaboration between two or more organizations (or individuals) as they work together to achieve their goals.
The word “strategic” is key here. A successful marketing partnership needs a solid strategy.
Marketing partnerships don’t happen by chance — they require careful planning and consideration. With the right planning in place, you can build an effective partner marketing strategy for your business.
96% of B2B business leaders expect to increase revenue through marketing partners in 2022. Four out of five business leaders also plan to increase the number of partners in their ecosystem, according to the 2022 channel/partner marketing benchmark survey by DemandGen Report.
Ready to experience growth through strong business alliances? Here’s what you need to do.
1) Research ideal partners for your brand
You can’t choose just anyone to do co-marketing with. You need a partner that will lift your business to new heights — someone that complements your brand, has shared (or similar) values, and will help you reach your business goals. Do your research to find the perfect partner for your brand.
Start your partner marketing research by clarifying your brand goals: What do you want to accomplish with co-marketing? And what KPIs will you use to measure performance?
Next, make a list of all the potential partners you could approach. These partnership prospects should be relevant to your business in one way or another — for example, they’ll share a similar audience, be in a complementary field, or have the same goals as you.
At this stage, it can be handy to look at the current and past partners of your prospects. You might want to scratch off any who collaborate with direct competitors or prioritize prospects who have had successful collaborations in your field before.
Check their reputation too. Your ideal partner should have a positive brand reputation. The last thing you want to do is damage your brand image through association.
Once you have narrowed down your list of potential partners, you can start approaching them. Remember to build rapport and frame the partnership request as being mutually beneficial.
Example: Red Bull and GoPro are a partnership marketing match made in heaven
Back in 2016, Red Bull and GoPro announced a partnership wherein GoPro became Red Bull’s exclusive content partner.
The commonality between Red Bull, an energy drinks brand, and GoPro, an action camera company, is that both want to empower their users to live to the fullest.
The alignment is evident from GoPro’s mission to “free people to celebrate and live more in the moment” to Red Bull’s commitment to “giving wings to people and ideas.”
With Red Bull’s catalog of extreme sports events and GoPro’s ability to capture the action, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Fans of both Red Bull and GoPro are likely to be adventure enthusiasts with a passion for living life to the fullest. By working together, both brands can strengthen their mission and raise their platform.
To help their partnership go even further, Red Bull launched the Red Bull Content Pool, a media and news platform where journalists and business partners can find photos and videos from Red Bull events to use in their editorial and news articles.
2) Test the waters before diving into a full partnership
A co-marketing campaign is a great way to test brand alignment before engaging in a full partnership. Without first testing partner compatibility, you run the risk of committing to a poor fit partner, or one that doesn’t deliver as much value or effort as your brand.
After you’ve tested the waters with a smaller partnership campaign, you’ll be able to measure the success of your partner alignment. If customer sentiment was positive and all other metrics are pointing in the right direction, it could be a sign that you’ll make solid long-term partners.
Simple co-marketing campaigns minimize the risk of investing in long-term marketing partnerships. Some ways you can test alignment before engaging in an official partnership include:
- Co-hosting a webinar together
- Publishing an industry report or survey together
- Guest blogging on each other’s websites
- Creating a joint guide to promote to each other’s audiences
- Organizing an in-person or virtual event for your audiences
- Developing a collaborative eBook
- Doing a newsletter swap
- Executing a social media takeover on each other’s channels
- Co-creating a sales demo of your tools
Choose a co-marketing activity that best fits your goals and the interests of your audience. Test performance after you’ve executed your trial partnership and use that information to decide whether to proceed with a full marketing partnership.
Example: LinkedIn and HubSpot join forces to co-create an eBook
HubSpot and the LinkedIn Sales Solution co-created an eBook to help marketers improve their social selling efforts.
HubSpot is a provider of sales and marketing software and a well of knowledge while LinkedIn is a professional social media channel with powerful sales capabilities. As such, the relationship made perfect sense. There would be strong audience alignment between the two brands allowing them to expand their reach and strengthen brand reputation through association.
Marketers and sales enthusiasts could download the eBook for free in return for sharing their email address (and a few other details). This gives both HubSpot and LinkedIn the chance to grow their network of potential leads.
3) Craft a mutually beneficial partnership agreement
Lay out the terms and conditions of your relationship to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership agreement.
Clearly defined agreements and requirements should lie at the heart and soul of any business relationship — whether that’s with other businesses, clients, subcontractors, or partners. Set parameters help ease business operations by providing a clear overview of the provided services and expectations for how the agreement will work.
Agreement documents provide security and protection for both partners by ensuring everyone understands their rights and responsibilities. When creating your partner marketing agreement, make sure it benefits both parties.
The exact details of your agreement will depend on your partnership type and goals. At the very least, you should look to include:
- Overview of the partnership agreement
- Goals of each partner
- Rights and responsibilities of each partner
- Project timeline and marketing plan
- Reporting plans
- Content ownership
- Confidentiality clause
- Where to find important resources
After you’ve covered all bases with an agreement, you can get into the fun part — crafting your partnership marketing strategy.
4) Clarify goals and expectations
Partner marketing needs to be underpinned by clear goals and expectations if it’s going to be successful.
Define what you want to achieve from the partnership and ask your partner about their goals too. When defining partnership marketing goals, decide how you plan to measure those goals by setting trackable KPIs.
Some goals you want to achieve through partner marketing may be:
- Increase webinar leads by 200% in 6-months
- Increase website traffic from partner channels by 150% in 3 months
- Generate $20K in sales through partnership marketing campaigns in 6 months
The goals you choose will be unique to your business. Setting clearly-defined goals and sharing them with your partners will help you determine the best partner marketing strategy for success. You and your partner can work together to collectively achieve your goals.
At the same time as defining your goals, get clear on expectations too. Laying out expectations with your partners reduces friction. You will both have a clear understanding of what you get out of the partnership and what you’re expected to put in. These expectations keep everyone on the same page and make sure the partnership is a fair relationship.
5) Collaborate and make decisions as a team
The saying “teamwork makes the dream work” rings true for partnership marketing. As long as you and your partner work together as a team, you will reap the rewards of partnership marketing.
Treat your partner as an equal by collaborating on decision-making. Your partnership marketing agreement should outline the rights and responsibilities of each partner. But you also need to make a conscious effort to work together as a team.
You need to make a lot of decisions when planning partner marketing campaigns. Whether that’s your marketing messaging, content requirements, launch dates, or something else entirely — partnership marketing is loaded with decision-making opportunities.
Work with your partner to make decisions together, ensuring the outcome benefits both partners. Support decision-making by creating a project timeline with key dates and milestones. You can also schedule frequent partner meetings to check in on progress and discuss anything that needs finalizing. Shared documents, calendars, and brand guidelines all help too.
In short: make decisions together and keep a log of any campaign decisions that need to be or have been made.
The remote worker’s guide to effective asynchronous communication
6) Full transparency: track everything in live documents
Transparency matters. Embrace transparency by tracking all partner marketing information, resources, and activity in live documents. These documents will be actively updated and should contain the most up-to-date information at any given time.
Use live documents to track everything from partnership KPIs to leads, project timelines, and calendars. Along with live documents, create shared folders containing any partnership resources and assets.
Partners should be able to access the exact information they need at any given time. Ensure partners have equal access to all partnership resources to reduce any bottlenecks caused by poor communication and collaboration.
Take a look at my free content resources library for some valuable content templates you can use and adapt for partner marketing.
7) Schedule regular meetings and check-ins
Keep in touch with your partner. Don’t just set up the partnership then ghost your partner.
Regular meetings and informal check-ins help keep your partnership on track. Use structured meetings to track progress and make sure you’re not missing anything of value. Informal check-ins build rapport and keep your partner relationship healthy.
At the same time, meetings shouldn’t be a waste of time. If you’re planning to host a partner meeting, set a clear agenda. You and your partners can prepare for the meeting in advance and compile any necessary information to make the meeting as efficient and productive as possible.
Meetings help you clarify your partnership goals, realign expectations, map out your plan, and streamline your strategy. Without meetings, you run the risk of losing connection with these very things. Not keeping in touch with your partner could put the whole partnership in jeopardy.
When partners don’t talk to each other, crossed wires happen. Important tasks get dropped and partnerships don’t perform as well as they could. As soon as you create space for conversation, all these problems melt away. Whether it’s through structured meetings or informal check-ins, get some dates in the diary to catch up with your partner.
8) Provide value for your partners and track it
Focus more on the value you provide for your partner, than the value you gain from the partnership. It sounds counterintuitive but give more than you take and the more you will receive in return.
The reason you set up the partnership might be to gain more leads or raise awareness for your brand. But if you only focus on what you get out of the partnership, it could hinder the whole relationship. Instead, focus on what you can give to your partners. Can you offer them leads in return? Can you help with content creation or provide training and expert support? Think about what you have to offer that would be valuable for your partner.
Focusing on the value you provide partners lays the foundation for a strong relationship where you both have each other’s best interests at heart.
Be sure to track the value that you bring to the partnership, so you can justify further requests.
9) Measure and analyze partner marketing success
Measure and analyze the performance of your partner marketing efforts. Tracking how well your co-marketing works is instrumental in understanding how those partnerships are helping you scale and grow your business.
Anyone entering into a partnership wants a return on their investment. Whether it’s in the form of leads, stronger industry connections, or increased profits, you entered a partnership to achieve results. Yet, many marketing partners fail to measure the success of their partnership.
The metrics you use to track the success of partnership marketing will depend on your goals and the types of campaigns you run with your partners. Anything from email subscriber and lead generation rates to conversion rates, partner-generated referrals, and cost-per-lead could all be measurable partnership marketing KPIs.
You will likely end up tracking a lot of different metrics when analyzing your partnership marketing. Automating aspects of partnership performance monitoring and analysis can improve efficiency and minimize human error.
In response to a report analyzing partnership journeys, a senior manager for a global hotel brand stated:
“Automating our tracking allows us to track a lot of information about our partnership programs and our customers. It allows us to be up to speed during personal interactions with our customers. Service is still at the core of what we do.”
The more data you collect, the more you can learn about your partnerships and customers.
How well you and your partner work together could also influence the success of your partnership. Carve out time to analyze your partner relationship — how strong is the relationship? How engaged are your partners in the marketing process? What is the audience sentiment towards the partnership? Answering these questions will help you understand the strength of your partnership.
Take all the performance data and insights you have collected and use these to optimize your partnerships moving forward.
10) Show your appreciation
Get more out of your partnerships by sharing the love. Keep things sweet and friendly by treating your partners as valued members of your brand. Time and time again, research studies have shown that people who feel appreciated are more likely to respond positively. They’ll go the extra mile and their gratitude will shine through their actions.
Find ways to amplify the voice of your partners and support them with their goals. Credit partners on your website with prominent partnership badges and backlinks. Feature partners in your newsletter or shout them out on social media.
You could even share branded swag with your partners at core gifting periods or as a thank you for joining forces. These seemingly small gestures can have a significant impact.
Wrapping up — get ready to find your perfect partner
Partnership marketing is a valuable marketing strategy for attracting new leads while nurturing your current customer base.
Partner marketing lets you get creative with your marketing efforts as you join forces with trusted partners. To get the most out of your co-marketing efforts, put our partnership marketing best practices into action. Armed with these best practices, you’ll understand how to build partnerships that drive results for your business.