An Introduction to Partnership Marketing
Marketing is perhaps one of the most consistently and quickly changing fields in business.
Just think about how many kinds of b2b marketing strategies exist today. To name a few: affiliate, agile, behavioral, content, direct, drip, inbound, local, mobile, multichannel, word-of-mouth. The list is seemingly endless and trying to keep up with the growing list of techniques can be tiresome.
It’s essential to have a laser-focus on the types of marketing that will be most beneficial for your firm and the goals you’re trying to reach. One lead generation idea that’s often overlooked by professional services firms is partnership marketing.
Partnership Marketing Defined
Let’s start at the beginning. What is partnership marketing? Simply put, it’s a strategic collaboration between two or more firms that helps each firm reach their respective business goals. Some of these goals could include:
- Increasing brand awareness and reach.
- Driving additional website traffic.
- Growing your number of conversions.
- Customer acquisition.
The Search for Partnership Perfection
Before looking for potential partners to collaborate with, nail down the goals you want to achieve from these relationships. This will help inform your search.
When you begin searching for partners, look for firms with similar target audiences and ones that offer complementary products or services. There should be no conflict of interest by working with these firms. It’s also worthwhile to find firms that have a similar set of values—this will make the actual partnership much more enjoyable for both parties.
Then, look for mutually beneficial partnership opportunities. Some possibilities include:
- Hosting a joint event, either offline or online (such as a webinar or conference).
- Exchanging content to your respective audiences.
- Conducting a research study together or sharing research findings.
- Producing a premium piece of content together, like an eBook.
- Referring prospects to one another when appropriate.
The right opportunities can vary drastically from partner to partner, so don’t expect there to be a one-size-fits-all partnership template.
Building the Relationship
Upon identification of potential partners, take the leap and reach out.
If email is your initial approach, keep it short and concise. Make both the intention of the email and the value of a partnership clear. Show that you’ve done your research. As you begin piquing interest and getting responses, focus on building relationships. Partnerships are a big investment for all parties—don’t rush into it.
Initial discussions should be focused on getting to know one another and assessing fit. If circumstances allow, phone calls or face-to-face conversations are preferable to email chains. These interactions are more personal and will better indicate what it’d be like to work together.
Keep in mind that not everyone you speak with will make a good strategic marketing partner. Fear not. At the very least, you’ve made a connection and opportunities to collaborate may arise down the road.
Setting Proper Expectations
When there is mutual interest in a partnership, it’s time to take conversations to the next level.
Not all partnerships will look alike—so, identify the specific collaboration opportunities that all firms are comfortable with and begin planning. With multiple parties involved, it’s essential to begin the planning process well in advanced of the actual event. And to avoid conflicts throughout the partnership, discuss all potential snafus upfront and set proper expectations.
Let’s illustrate with an example. If you’re conducting a joint webinar, here are some details to iron out before committing:
- Who are the presenters and who are the main points of contact at each firm?
- Which firm will host the webinar and set up the registration page?
- Who will be creating the presentation slides and what will the editing process look like?
- How will each firm promote the webinar, and when?
- What are the deadlines to keep things on track?
- Will the list of registrants be shared?
- Are there any follow-up activities that each firm will conduct?
Determining all the details from the get-go will make the partnership process run more smoothly and help ensure a positive experience for all parties involved.
Meaningful strategic partnerships are all about expectations and planning. Set out with a firm grasp on your goals. Build trusting relationships with firms that can help you reach those goals, while you help them reach theirs as well — and elevate your marketing to the next level.
To learn how to integrate partnership marketing into your content strategy, download our Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services.
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