Are you considering expanding your company’s reach by forming a marketing partnership? Such a plan can be extremely effective. Some quintessential marketing partnership examples include the following:
- A fitness club handing out discount coupons to a sports apparel store
- Laptops bundled with games, apps, and anti-virus software
- An estate attorney, a financial planner, an accountant, and a financial planner joining forces to provide complementary financial and fiduciary services
- A tavern sponsoring a local sports club to draw its weekly business
Marketing partnerships are a terrific way to leverage your marketing budget and put yourself in front of new audiences and customers.
What a Marketing Partnership Is (and Is Not)
A marketing partnership typically involves two companies that have similar marketing needs and often perform complementary services who work together to create marketing and sales opportunities that benefit each. The opportunities usually arise out of a particular market sector or set of prospects. Activities include creating joint marketing communications, including direct mail, email, or ad campaigns. They may include joint sales calls or referred prospects, or even combining skills to create new services.
However, a marketing partnership is not a quick fix for lagging sales, nor a way for one partner to ride the coattails of the other. Both must contribute equally for the combined efforts to be effective and broaden each partner’s marketing reach.
Choose Partners Carefully
Because of the mutual dependence inherent in such a partnership, you should choose your marketing partner carefully. Your partner affects your reputation, your marketing potential, and your marketing reach. Therefore, be sure to choose businesses with a reputation you value and a market reach you want to emulate. By choosing well, you can brand yourself as an industry expert; choosing poorly can tarnish your reputation and limit your potential.
Likewise, be sure that your partner is willing and able to contribute the same amount of effort, and that your marketing goals are similar or complementary. You don’t want to be dragging dead weight behind you, nor working at cross purposes.
When you approach a company with a proposed partnership, you must provide real value to interest them in your joint venture. For instance, suggesting they send business your way so you can provide their clients with a service (for which their clients will presumably be grateful to them) is insufficient incentive. Your potential partners need to understand how the proposition benefits them, not just their clients. The benefits must travel on a two-way street, and you may have to make certain your partners get their benefits first if you want them to contribute fully.
The best way to encourage full buy-in is to have one or more of your clients ready to participate, purchase, or otherwise prove your proposed venture will benefit your partner. It is a sure way to capture your partner’s attention and demonstrate that you are not simply out to benefit yourself and your company.
Partner Further Up the Chain
If your business is part of a chain of purchases or life events, try to partner with companies that are “higher up the chain.” For instance, a moving company could partner with a real estate brokerage, which is a business at the front end of a chain of purchases that ends with a move to a new home. “Partnering up” gives the moving company a competitive advantage over similar providers by getting them involved in the process far earlier than they normally would.
Partner With Non-Profits
Non-profit organizations and charities continually seek ways to interest their donors. If your business’s values align with a particular non-profit’s, partner with them and let them provide you with exposure through their website, leaflets, newsletters, and other communications in exchange for a cut of the resulting reveues. For instance, a solar cell manufacturer could partner with an environmentally focused non-profit, or a medical device manufacturer could partner with the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, and all parties would benefit.
If done right, a marketing partnership is a great way to broaden your marketing reach,, leverage your marketing budget, and improve your visibility. However, it is not a quick fix, and it cannot work if both partners do not contribute equally. To have the partnership be effective, you must choose your partner carefully. Be aware that the partner’s reputation and reach affect your own, so only work with partners whose reach and reputation will burnish or improve your own. Also, make sure your goals are compatible so you don’t end up working at cross purposes.
To interest a partner, you must provide real value, not simply “soft” benefits to their customers. They need to see hard financial gains. To get a competitive advantage over businesses similar to yours, partner with companies further up the buying chain, and get involved in the process sooner than you normally would. Finally, by partnering with non-profits, you increase your reach while polishing your brand until it shines.