Partnership marketing is a tried-and-trusted way to increase brand awareness, boost customer retention, and generate sales. According to a 2019 study by Forrester, 77% of business decision-makers see partnership development as central to their sales and marketing strategy. With the growth of MarTech and digital channels, there are more opportunities than ever for marketing partnerships.
So what is partnership marketing, and how can you use it in your marketing strategy?
What Is Partnership Marketing?
Partnership marketing is a collaboration between a business and a third party to create marketing campaigns that benefit both parties. These collaborative efforts can include something as simple as a guest post or as complex as a joint product. The scale of the collaboration depends on the parties involved and the goals of the partnership.
Examples of partnership marketing activities can include:
- Guest posting for SEO
- Social media blasts sharing new content or upcoming events
- Email swaps promoting your respective services or content
- Co-produced and co-promoted webinars
- Live events
- Research and thought leadership collaboration
Depending on the objectives, a partnership may be a one-off initiative or a long-term collaboration.
Finding the Right Partner for Your Business
There are two critical criteria to keep in mind when considering a marketing partner:
It sounds simple, but this point shouldn’t be overlooked. You can’t partner with a company that sells similar products or services. That includes your direct competitors but also companies in different sectors that have potential cross-over into your market.
With many companies seeking to transform and create new business models digitally, you need to research any potential partners to ensure there is no risk of your partner later becoming a competitor.
Your potential partner needs to serve the same audience as your company. Collaborating with a partner that won’t get your brand in front of your target audience isn’t worth investing your time and resources.
Types of Marketing Partnerships
Here’s a rundown of the most used and most effective types of partnership marketing:
Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular types of partnership marketing. It usually involves a collaboration between a publisher and a brand. The publisher uses their platform to promote the brand’s product to their audience. The brand pays a fee when somebody purchases a product after clicking on the tracked affiliate link used by the publisher.
When both parties share a similar target audience, this type of partnership can be lucrative for the publisher and the brand.
Affiliate marketing spend in the U.S. alone is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022:
Brands can create their own affiliate marketing program or use more established affiliate networks like ShareASale, Rakuten, and CJ Affiliate.
Distribution partnerships are one of the oldest forms of partnership marketing, but they can still be super-effective.
Many brands leverage this type of partnership marketing by creating product bundles. You can include your product, or a sample, as a free giveaway included in the packaging of your partner’s product or as a buy-one-get-one-free deal. This is a great way to get your product in the hands of your target audience.
You can also cross-market your products through your partner’s distribution via in-store coupons, magazine coupons, email vouchers, and QR codes.
With the growth of social media, content marketing partnerships have exploded over the last decade. Brands can co-create content with other brands and publishers. This can take the form of industry studies and research papers, but it can also involve video content, podcasts, and other types of digital media.
Another form of content partnership is link sharing. You can work in collaboration with a brand or publisher to promote your content. This often involves the partner sharing the content on their website and promoting it on their social channels. Link sharing can increase content exposure, build credibility, and improve SEO.
Charitable Marketing Partnership
Charitable marketing partnerships are a great way to use your reach to advance a cause your company believes in. As a result, you can improve your brand reputation by promoting your values.
This type of partnership marketing can involve anything from public events, sponsorships, and exhibitions to the donation of a percentage of the profits generated by each product sale.
Today’s consumers have much more information available when making a purchasing decision. One of the most important ways to differentiate your company is through brand positioning. Charity partnerships help you do just that.
When brands share the same target audience, a joint product can be an effective way to generate buzz and drive sales.
For example, the South Korean beauty brand Etude House partnered with the confectionery company Nestle to create a KitKat eyeshadow joint product. The famed KitKat brand inspired the eyeshadow colors and packaging.
The collaboration generated a massive amount of interest on social media and was so popular it quickly sold out upon release.
Partnership marketing is not just for increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. It can also be a powerful way to drive customer retention.
You can encourage customer loyalty through the use of rewards from partner vendors, websites, and apps. This can include:
- Loyalty schemes
- Loyalty cards
- One-off rewards
- Seasonal promotions
One of the simplest ways to use a loyalty partnership marketing strategy is to create a loyalty scheme that rewards customers with exclusive discounts. Then, when a customer reaches a set milestone, they can redeem the discount with your business or with your partner.
Shared stores are one of the most established types of partnership marketing. Although this is typically for brick-and-mortar retailers, it can also be used online.
For in-store retail, you can agree on a set space in your partner’s store for your brand. When your partner has a shared target audience, this can be a great way to increase sales for your business and improve the customer experience for your partner.
For digital channels, you can add a specific page or storefront to your partner’s website.
Sponsorship is a lucrative type of partnership marketing utilized by the world’s biggest brands. You can sponsor events, athletes, teams, content, etc. It’s one of the most expensive ways to promote your brand, but it can also be highly effective.
Nike is one of the best examples of a brand that has used sponsorship to increase market share. Sponsorship has been highly effective in the basketball footwear niche.
Nike consistently outspends its competitors when it comes to sponsorship deals:
But the return on investment has been huge. Nike has been able to increase brand awareness and position the Nike brand in the minds of consumers. As a result, Nike and its subsidiary Jordan have achieved a 93% market share in the U.S. basketball shoe market.
Partnership marketing is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of strategies. The above tactics are proven ways that strategic partnerships can benefit your business and your partner.
What works for you will depend on your industry and your unique business needs. It can take time to find the right partners, but it’s a powerful way to drive growth that’s well worth the time and effort.
If you’re looking to level up your marketing strategy, schedule a consultation with the growth marketers at Ogno.