When you first started your business, you probably weighed the pros and cons of doing so with a partner. In fact, one Forbes article calls partner marketing the best method to launch your business.


What Is Partnership Marketing?

Partnership marketing is a business relationship between two or more companies that combine resources to co-market their products. This allows them to leverage each other’s momentum. They can also broaden their product and service offerings while enriching the customer experience.

Some partnerships last for only the length of temporary promotions. These are often beneficial to both parties. Still, true partnerships last much longer for several promotions and involve a more strategic collaboration. This may affect the following areas of a company:

  • Advertising content and strategy
  • Packaging and merchandising
  • Product development
  • Product offers
  • Marketing mix

Some companies go as far as to make a new jointly owned subsidiary. This formalizes the partnership and makes collaborating easier. Still, this isn’t the right approach for everyone.


Are There Any Potential Risks?

Note that the more in-depth the collaboration, the greater the likelihood of success. Unfortunately, many companies fear the level of information sharing that would lead to this type of collaborative effort. They end up sabotaging the relationship with their partner over time by remaining on the defensive.

One example of this is Samsung and Apple. Samsung makes appliances and smart devices that range from refrigerators to cellphones. Apple focuses primarily on the portable devices niche. The two compete fiercely, often pitting their phone users against each other. People who prefer the iPhone often boast about its higher quality to match the higher price point.

The irony is that Samsung makes most of Apple’s key components and has been its largest supplier for years. Yet, Apple has sued Samsung in several courts across the globe for various infringement claims. This is why two competitors should never collaborate.


What About the Benefits?

For every bad partner marketing story, there are probably dozens of others that worked well. In fact, some blew everyone’s expectations right out of the water. Consider, for instance, how Taco Bell created the most successful fast-food menu item of the early 2010s: the Doritos Locos Tacos.

As the name suggests, Taco Bell partnered with Doritos to launch the new addition to its menu in 2012. Customers bought more than 1 billion units in the first year alone. The demand grew to the point where the fast-food company had to hire 15,000 more workers to keep up.

It’s also worth noting that this is part of a larger partnership with Doritos’ parent company: Pepsi. Unlike many other fast-food restaurant joints you may come across, Taco Bell sells Pepsi-branded sodas. This includes not just the regular Pepsi-Cola, but also Mountain Dew. Put simply, the Doritos-inspired taco was a small part of a much bigger picture.

This may seem like a one-off success story, but there are many others like it. Check out some additional perks that other brands experienced by working together:

  • Companies that partner up are typically able to tap into each other’s customer base through shared exposure.
  • Pooling resources helps companies reduce expenditure on marketing budgets.
  • The savings help companies to afford giveaways that customers love.
  • It may help companies with positioning if they choose wisely.
  • The added diversity may increase creativity.


How To Identify the Right Partner

As the Apple and Samsung partnership illustrates, some businesses should never work together. It goes without saying that competitors make a bad match. Yet, isn’t every business a competitor with each other?

There is some truth to this, but if managers maintain this approach to doing business, they may operate in isolation and miss out on key opportunities. So, how do you find the right partners that can provide those key opportunities?

Get To Know Your Customers

Your customers are not always who you think they are. It’s important to conduct market research to see who you attract versus who you plan to attract. Note that attracting a different audience than intended is not altogether a bad thing. When choosing a partner, decide if you want to work with a company serving the same demographic you already attract or the one you want to tap into.

Find Your Niche Neighbors

It is possible to serve the same niche without competing with each other. Businesses in this area share the same target market but may provide customers with complementing products or services. For example, a company that makes motorbikes and another that makes biker gear are niche neighbors. One can leverage the other to boost sales without competing for sales.

Consider Your Reputation

Sometimes, it’s your company that might get approached by other brands. It may seem tempting to say yes and get the ball rolling, especially when this partner offers perks you might not have dreamed up yourself. However, apply the brakes and consider how their values align with yours. How will your association with the brand affect your own? Evaluate this early on to avoid back-pedaling later on.

Start Off With Small Collabs

Don’t dive headfirst into a partnership. Consider carefully what each company brings to the table and what one will offer the other. Then, put that into practice on a small scale. Social media cross-promotion is often a good starting point. Then, you may move up to product placement. After this, you might consider more involved collaborative efforts.


How To Score Fortune 100 Partners

When striking up a partnership, it’s important that both brands bring something to the table that the other one wants. At first glance, it may seem like big companies may only wish to work together, but this is not always true. Many small companies have scored successful partnerships with Fortune 100s. If you have your eyes set on a specific household brand name, consider the following.

Find an In-House Champion

Do you have an old friend from college who works with the company? It might be worth it to call them up and see if they can put in a good word for you. Even if the person is a lower-level worker, they can become an advocate on your behalf in the organization. Forbes also recommends trying to strike up a relationship with the business development manager or product specialist.

Showcase Ability To Scale Up

When smaller companies approach larger ones, there is one main fear you need to help them overcome. They may worry about how you plan to scale up when customer demand increases after they partner with you. Can you keep customers happy or will you run out of inventory or ingredients and make the bigger company look bad? Show them that you have what it takes to follow through.

Continue To Follow Up

Sometimes big companies take a long time to get around to your emails. This is not always intentional. Generally speaking, the bigger the company, the longer the chains of command. The person may need to follow-up with their own division managers or superiors to get the answers and approvals you need. Checking in every so often reminds them that you’re still waiting while showing them that you’re serious.

Send Them Gifts

Do you have a product or service that the key decision-makers may enjoy? Do you believe experiencing your product or service for themselves may help move things along faster? Send them free samples. You may also consider sending more personal gifts that better suit their interests. Take a look at their Instagram or Twitter pages to see how they spend their free time.


How Boostability Can Help

At Boostability, we understand firsthand what it’s like to pair up with other businesses. In fact, we serve hundreds of partners of our own through our white label SEO services. Whether you’re looking for your own SEO partner or want a digital marketing agency to manage your collaborative strategies, we can help! Learn more about our white label SEO partner program and get connected with one of our digital marketing experts for for details and answers.



Nic Padilla is an experienced senior leader on the partner growth management team. He joined Boostability in 2012, and is passionate about helping our partners drive growth initiatives to help their SEO clients succeed. Nic has worked in the SEO industry for nearly 15 years. He enjoys soccer and cheering on his Denver teams, the Broncos and the Nuggets.