This article was first published on June 19th, 2019 and was last updated July 18th, 2022 with new information.
Today’s business environment is competitive and fast moving. So, whether you are selling ice cream cones, dongles, or t-shirts, there is another company fighting for the same customers. Especially with a digital perspective in mind, it can be challenging finding a way to stand out from other competitors within the same industry.
Partnership marketing (also known as partner marketing) is a practical option for many businesses that want to get their brand in front of the right customers. Consequently, it can be an essential marketing tool to help get a leg up on the competition. You can reach new market segments, gain new customers, and boost businesses when you learn to utilize the right partnership marketing strategy. In fact, a Forbes article calls partner marketing the best method to launch your business.
Whether you’re starting a new business, needing additional assistance, or expanding your current product lineup, this article will help expand on what is partner marketing, why it’s important, different types of partner marketing examples, the benefits and risks, and how to find the right marketing partner. Let’s dive in!
What Is Partnership Marketing?
Partnerships (or partner marketing) is the mutually beneficial collaboration between two businesses with the shared interest of developing marketing strategies to increase brand awareness and promote their products and services to the right target audience or consumer. This can either be a white label partnership (where one partner’s identity is not disclosed) or it can be a publicly known partnership.
For the “one-man show”, putting time and money toward marketing efforts is challenging. Marketing partnerships can be a great solution for small businesses that may not have the expertise or resources (bandwidth, financial, software and tools, etc.) needed for a successful marketing strategy. One of the main benefits is that it’s cost-effective and allows both businesses to leverage each other’s momentum. Businesses can save money this way versus taking this on in-house and accruing high overhead costs. It also broadens product and service offerings while enriching customer experiences.
What are the Types of Partnership Marketing Strategies?
There are many types of partnership marketing strategies that have proven to be successful for numerous brands. Here are ten different strategies below to help you better understand what’s available for your business:
- White Label Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Content Development
- Distribution Partnerships
- Retention Marketing
- Shared stores
- Charitable Partnerships
- Joint Products
- Product Placement
- Sponsor Partnerships
These partnership marketing examples can help you analyze your business’ needs and see what type of partnership marketing strategy would be the most beneficial.
White Label Marketing
White label marketing is a partnership between two businesses where the white label provider works behind-the-scenes under their partners branding, not their own. This type of partnership is typically not publicly known and the white label provider acts as an extension of their partners’ team. This type of partner marketing strategy can help offer additional products and services in your industry you otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer. This creates a no-hassle revenue stream, and products can often be white labeled to carry your brand.
Affiliate marketing partners promote your brand for monetary reward. The result is a direct alliance of brands that targets a mutual audience. An example of this is Groupon partnering with businesses to promote their services and products (and at a discounted rate typically).
A content development partnership can be creative and encompasses various strategies, such as developing podcasts, articles, videos, and visual content assets. Each company shares these resources with its target audience. Link sharing and co-creation also helps align the companies.
With distribution partnerships, you can bundle products and services. It can be in the form of discounts, coupons, in-store demonstrations, giveaways, or other types of promotions. This partnership is one of the most practiced and widespread types of partnership marketing.
Retention marketing is most often used as a technique for loyalty programs. They reward customers based on how often or how much they buy. You could also include partner discounts or products within your program and vice versa. Most retailers have an incentive program with the focus of retention marketing that rewards their top customers. Nordstrom’s Nordy Club is a shining example of this with their private events, member benefits, and shopping points that can be used for cash discounts.
Another partnership marketing strategy is teaming up with a partner for online or offline shared stores. For example, Starbucks locations opening within grocery stores, like Target, is an offline shared store. An example of an online shared store includes businesses that have stores on Etsy.
Depending on your goals and industry, consider aligning your brand with a charitable organization. Partnering with a charity could include doing exhibitions, public events, award shows, news stories, and more. Licensing and product placement are also options for organizations looking for strategic partners. Williams Sonoma partners with No Kid Hungry and has created a specific line of cooking utensils where the proceeds go to the charitable organization upon purchase.
Joint products go off of a partnership where two businesses alter or create a new existing product that creates more value for the customer. An example of this is Apple and Nike partnering to create Nike+ that’s evolved into an environment of products, apps, kits, and a training community. In recent years, this joint product partnership evolved into the Apple Watch Nike+.
You’ve likely seen product placements in every TV show or movie you’ve ever watched and never even realized it. Product placement partnership marketing includes things like a box on a shelf with a brand name, like Cheerios. Or something more direct like a mention of Tide while doing a laundry scene. Celebrity endorsements can also count as product placement partner marketing.
Sponsorship partnerships associate your brand with an event or team with the goal of overall improving your brand recognition and reputation. By liking a certain team or cause, it’s more likely that you’ll attract some of the same customers to your company. If they’re favorite sports team trusts your brand, why shouldn’t they? You see sponsorships in sports, events, local causes, and media to name a few examples. It’s a strong contender for effective marketing campaigns.
Are There Any Potential Risks of Partnership Marketing?
Note that the more in-depth the partnership collaboration, the greater the likelihood of success you can have. Unfortunately, many companies fear sharing different levels of information which leads them to sabotaging the relationship they have with their partner over time by remaining on the defensive. For a successful partnership to work, there needs to be mutual trust and communication at all times. Your business might need to lose some level (not full) of control over your brand for a marketing partnership to succeed mutually over time. This does not mean you’re letting the partner take over, but that you’re willing to let some new changes and processes happen to make new marketing strategies work.
It’s also important to note that simply joining partnership marketing will not resolve or fix all of the existing issues your business might have. Having a solid, long-lasting partnership works both ways and requires your business to have stability in place before making the decision to add partnership marketing. Investing in partnership marketing can be a smart business move, however it might not be the best move for everyone. Make sure your business takes the time to consider the benefits and risks partner marketing can have before making the right decision.
What are the Benefits of a Partner Strategy?
Increase Value Proposition
A marketing partnership is about more than promotions that connect multiple brands. Strategic partnerships can impact everything from advertising to merchandising and product packaging. Collaboration at this level can also kickstart joint distribution and sales opportunities. As a result, this joint marketing partnership combines the power of organizations, increasing the value proposition:
- Deliver new content
- Engage new audiences
- Enhance customer experience
- Broaden sales avenues
- Gain shelf space
Expand revenue channels
Partnership marketing is a huge win for improving your revenue with minimal risk. When you partner with a company that has a specific expertise, they’ve already worked out the bugs and they have a product that works. So it’s easy to start bringing in an additional revenue stream when you partner with a company that already has the background, the product, the scalable solutions, and the marketing support for your business in order to make it successful.
Increase audience reach and quality leads
Partner marketing also improves your leads and audience. Because you’re offering a new product, that helps you reach a new audience and re-target those you already connect with or serve. And many leads will self-qualify because they know they need that new service you’re offering.
Collaborate with other brands
Working with one or more businesses helps promote your brand and brings several benefits. By pooling resources, you can double your marketing budget and talent. So, this makes them more cost-effective than traditional marketing.
By collaborating with other brands, you don’t need to build a customer base from scratch. It helps you reach people interested in your products and who have proven loyalty. Marketing partnerships with products and services in the same genre provides a base that fits your brand. Partnering helps each company get an audience that wants their products and services.
How Do I Find the Right Marketing Partner?
If you want to increase sales in your niche and access new markets, finding the right marketing partner is essential. This can make or break your strategy, and ultimately, affect your business and revenue goals. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for the right partner:
Identify Your Goals and KPIs
Start by listing your goals. What do you want to accomplish in a specific timeframe? A good marketing partner can help you reach those growth goals more quickly by adding a high-revenue product in a short amount of time without raising your overhead costs.
Align the Industries
Next, think about the types of businesses that help you get there. Partnering with businesses that operate in the same (or relatively similar) industry as yours can make operations run more smoothly and capture low hanging fruit opportunities. For example, if you’re a web design and development agency looking to add another service to your offerings list, it may make the most sense to enter into a partnership within the digital marketing space first. And ultimately, this partnership must align with your goals and complement your business.
Understand your Audience
One of the biggest steps you can take is first identifying your audience. Who do you want to reach with a new product? How can you benefit from this new product? Can you reach new customers? It’s important to conduct market research to see who you attract versus who you plan to attract. It’s crucial to understand both yours and your partner’s to create a targeted and effective marketing strategy that will enhance your ROI. Where the two targets align, is where your growth can happen.
Set the Tone and Expectations
Before you even start, see how the partnership marketing strategy will work and establish expectations. What do you need to provide to your partner? Will they provide you? What are the expectations, and how will they help you accomplish them? This entire discussion involves setting up timelines, defining costs and responsibilities, and setting the expectation early to avoid conflict later. Make sure your marketing partners understand your objectives from the very beginning. That sets the entire significance of a partnership.
Look for Transparency
Above all, identify not only how you benefit, but what your partners could gain. Get unbiased feedback from neutral third parties. This helps ensure the benefits to both sides are tangible, not wishful thinking. Review the lists and approach the companies that stand to gain the most from partnering with you.
And most importantly, be transparent with your partners, and make sure they are with you as well. Look for consistent communication, reporting, documentation, etc. They should be open with you about all actions taken on behalf of your company.
It’s Not A Competition
Last but not least, it’s important to remember that a partnership marketing strategy IS NOT a competition. Two complementing businesses are working together to benefit one another, not compete against each other. For example, Red Bull racing partnered with GoPro and sponsored a record-breaking balloon jump. The GoPro recorded the entire 24-mile descent. High adventure captured in stunning clarity thrilled and engaged consumers worldwide.
It is also 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.
It’s Time to Develop a Marketing Plan!
Take the time to build a strong foundation between marketing teams. Thorough planning and communication are integral to successful partnership marketing programs. This helps boost brand recognition, scaling your business, and creating valuable relationships. Consumers love authenticity. When brands combine for content, services and products that speak to them, everyone wins.
Boostability is the leading white label SEO agency world-wide. We have over a decade of experience, dedicated SEO professionals and Partner Growth Managers assigned to each partner, and access to various software and tools necessary for a successful SEO campaign. We will work behind-the-scenes and deliver strategies under your branding. Boostability will become an extension of your team!
Interested in learning more about this type of partnership? Check out our Ultimate Guide to White Label SEO Services where we go in-depth on what to expect, how it works, what the benefits and challenges are, and much more.