If you work in the digital space, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the term “partnership marketing.” It’s part of the great sphere of things that fall under the digital marketing umbrella. When it involves the right partners, the right tools, or the right agency, partnership marketing can be a huge boost to your business, helping you get a leg up on your competition.
Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case, and delve into some of the details on various forms of marketing partnerships.
What is partner marketing?
The definition of partnership is a mutually beneficial agreement between two parties. Officially, partner (or partnership) marketing is an agreement between two businesses working to develop marketing strategies to increase brand awareness and work to sell products and services to a specific target audience.
Partner marketing can be publicly known, as in cases where initiatives are “co-branded,” where the logos of both brands can be seen on project assets. Alternatively, partnerships can be “white labeled,” meaning the partner’s identity is not known or disclosed.
But why does it matter? Partner marketing can be beneficial because it means you’re putting your money and trust in a company that specializes in a service that will end up benefiting your business.
Marketing partnerships work well for businesses that might not have the expertise, experience, or resources like bandwidth and software tools, to perform a successful marketing strategy. In this sense, marketing partnerships make for cost-effective solutions for your business that save you money in the long run.
How does partner marketing help your agency?
Partner marketing can help your business in so many ways. As we’ll get into in each of the examples below, there are multiple ways to take advantage of these partnerships. Partner marketing gives you access to a host of new audiences that you otherwise would not have been able to access. It also boosts your own marketing power with new high value options for your business.
Partnering allows both you and your partners to provide more value to your customers. It quickly and easily ups your value proposition without adding overhead costs associated with developing a new product. And generally you’re able to rely on your partner’s already existing success to provide your business lift with minimal effort.
Types of partnerships in marketing
While it could take all day to list out all the different types of partner marketing strategies, we want to highlight some of the most popular and tell them how you can apply them to help grow your business.
White label marketing
White label marketing means you provide a marketing service to another company who then resells it to their customers. White label marketing, which is what Boostability offers, means you can be the white label product provider of SEO. But it works both ways. A company can be a white label reseller, meaning you don’t provide the product or service, but you sell it to your customers as though it’s your own.
Being the white label provider means you have a proven product or service that you’re ready to sell to customers. This type of partnership is usually not known beyond the two partners in the agreement. The provider acts as an extension of the team and usually provides product support, training, and sometimes sales support.
If you are on the reseller side of a white label partnership, you’re able to offer new products and services that you likely wouldn’t be able to offer in any other way. It saves you time and money by removing overhead costs, removing the need to train new employees, and saves money because you don’t need to buy and maintain different software programs. When you add a white labeled product to your offering, you’re adding an easy revenue stream, and these products can carry your brand to your customers because they’re built with your success in mind.
You see joint product partner marketing, also known as co-branded products, with a lot of bigger brands. This happens when two businesses create or edit a current product to provide more value to the end user.
One example is Pillsbury Brownies, which teamed up with Nestle chocolate to make even better brownies. Both companies benefit from the brand exposure and enhanced products that make them look good to the end consumer.
In the software space, vcita has teamed up with partners to create co-branded versions of vcita’s small business management platform, which partners then resell to their customers as a way to diversify their service offerings and enhance retention.
If you want to consider this type of partnership, you need to find a company that offers products which complement yours, come up with an idea of how to enhance your product, then combine resources to make it happen.
Another popular type of marketing partnership happens when an affiliate marketer promotes your brand for money.
This isn’t advertising in that you aren’t paying affiliates per exposure. A more effective analogy might be to think of platforms like Rakuten or Groupon, where people can shop for deals. Usually these kinds of partnerships indicate some sort of discount, and a fee then paid back to the affiliate marketer.
In marketing, many companies also set up affiliate lead partnerships. Perhaps a lead isn’t the right fit for one business, but the lead better fits the target audience for their affiliate partner. In this case, the two share leads back and forth and often share the commission or rev share if the lead closes.
In a distribution partnership, you start to use another brand or company’s distribution channels to promote your own products. Or, it allows you to make products available for purchase through another company’s sales channels.
Basically this allows you to use relationships already built and leverage them to promote your products. Distribution marketing allows for bundling, cross promotions, reselling as a distributor, wholesaler, or retailer, or reselling your products through these already established distribution partnerships.
This is another highly popular form of partner marketing.
Product placement and sponsorships
You’ve seen product placements in every TV show and movie you’ve ever watched. But you’ve likely never even noticed. While characters shop in an electronics store or buy chips in a vending machine, they might talk about or stand next to a product with its logo prominently displayed.
Celebrity endorsements fall into this same category. Sponsorships are similar, where you pay to associate your brand with an event or a team where you hope to increase brand awareness and reputation.
These kinds of partnerships place associations between your brand and the TV show or the sports team. You hope that when someone likes this team, they’ll also like your brand just because you like them too. While it may seem obvious, this kind of partner marketing is extremely effective.
How to find the right partner
Identify your goals
Before you ever enter into a partnership, you need to identify your growth goals that are prompting you to consider this step in your business. What do you hope to accomplish? What will a partnership bring that you can’t accomplish on your own right now? Do you have a timeline for what you want to accomplish?
A good partner will help you achieve these growth goals that you’ve identified for yourself. But you need to understand your own goals before you ever sign on for a partnership.
Understand your audience
You also need to understand who you’re trying to reach with your product or partnership. How will they benefit from this new product offering?
You need to deeply understand your own audience, your new potential audience, and the audience of your partner to create effective marketing plans and strategies that will improve your investment.
Set expectations early and often
Before you ever forge any agreements, you should understand fully how the marketing partnership will work, what you need to bring to the table, and what they bring in return. What kinds of expectations for the product and how do you need to help accomplish that growth goal? You need to set proper timelines and define the costs and responsibilities around the product.
Then set expectations early to avoid conflicts that come when both parties don’t understand what they’re supposed to bring to the partnership. And make sure you revisit these expectations with regular check ins and monthly updates. With partnerships, it’s important to stay in regular communication.
Reporting is just as important as communication and expectations. It’s crucial to be transparent and honest with your partners and expect the same from them. Both you and your partners need to be open and honest about all actions taken on behalf of your company.
Whether it’s through a product, a dashboard, a CRM, or other reporting tools, make sure you fully understand and regularly check on what your partners are doing, how the product performs, and how it relates back to your business and your profitability goals.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, it takes time to build a strong partner marketing plan. But the effort can be well worth the investment because it can be a valuable asset for your business and can make a real difference to your bottom line. If you’re considering growth goals for your business that include new products and services, you should consider partner marketing as an option.