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  • Leslie Horna

How to Select a Marketing Partner

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Six steps to identifying the right collaborator for your next campaign

Peanut butter and jelly, Bert and Ernie, and birthdays and cake. These are among life’s greatest pairings. They all have something in common: they go really well together. Enjoyment is maximized when these things are offered in one experience versus individually.

Partnership marketing is when an organization teams up with another organization in a campaign or program to cross-promote each organization’s offerings. Partnering institutions may be similar in size or scope, or all together unique. Typically these partnerships come about because both organizations share the same values or goals. There are many ways this type of strategic alliance can be mutually beneficial:

- Revenue growth

- Increase market share

- Expand brand awareness

- Deeper stakeholder insights

- Strengthen brand loyalty

- Amplify messaging

- Double the marketing resources

Once you determine that co-marketing is a strategy your company wishes to employ, it’s time to select a partner. Co-marketing relationships should leverage each organization’s assets to craft a partnership where both parties actively contribute, process, and expectations are defined and agreed upon, as well as addressing the challenge or objective that initiated the collaboration. It’s important that each organization be prepared and interested in dedicating the necessary time and resources to make this an effective partnership.

To help you select the right partner for your partnership program or campaign, consider these questions:

1. What are each company’s core values and how do they align?

Core values are attributes that define the company’s identity, mission, vision, and culture. Values educate current and prospective customers, vendors, partners, and employees about the company’s ethics, social causes the company may support, and attitudes to technology and innovation. These principals guide the work of the company and how the company goes about its work so choosing a partner that shares your ideals, literally or in sentiment, can lead to a long and prosperous partnership.

Business meeting with laptops and presentation materials as they discuss company values.

2. What resources are available from each company?

Collaboration isn’t successful unless each party is involved in the outcome, basically, each company has to have skin in the game. Before selecting a partner, determine the resources (budget, staff, tools, technologies) each organization is able to bring to the relationship. Sometimes organizations have high hopes for achievement but lack the appropriate staffing or tools to realize their vision. Set yourself up for success and establish clear goals, objectives, and expectations for each partner’s role in the relationship from the start.

3. How does this partnership add value for the customer?

Solving a customer’s problem or streamlining the experience can strengthen your company’s bond with your customers. This is where audience analysis is key. Know the preferences, habits, perceptions, and characteristics of your current and prospective customers so you can provide opportunities that your audience finds attractive. Choose a partner that compliments rather than competes with your company’s value proposition. Complimentary companies don't mean, find an organization that uses the same vendors, tactics, and resources as you; on the contrary, select a partner who brings new ideas, relationships, and approaches to the project.

4. What is each company's price point?

As you evaluate potential partners, consider how each company’s consumer pricing structure compares to one another. Select a partner whose company sells goods or services at a price point comparable to your company’s offerings. If you are a travel company that targets budget-conscious families, co-marketing with a luxury luggage company won’t deliver the results you’re seeking.

Man looking at charts that indicate partnership marketing can help companies scale.

5. Can this partnership help your company scale?

Inventory and analyze the assets available to the partnership from both parties. To help your company attract new audiences and pinpoint opportunistic audiences, you’ll want to look at your prospective partner’s email communications, social media interactions, website traffic, program/event participation, and other such metrics that indicate how robust and engaged consumers are with an organization. Successful reciprocal partnerships balance the time and attention contributed to positive increases in traffic, sales, and exposure.

6. How will your company’s most loyal customers respond to the partnership?

Disrupting the industry with an unlikely pairing can often lead to new and exciting opportunities for your company. However, take the time to consider how your employees and customers will react to the partnership, especially if it could be perceived as controversial. Controversy can help break down barriers to reaching your goals, though it can wreak havoc on your company culture, reputation, and bottom line if not managed. Take the time to map out potential outcomes and how each company in the partnership plans to respond.

The most successful partnerships are built on mutual respect, appreciation, and where all parties successfully deliver on what was promised. Ask yourself these six questions when considering partnership marketing as part of your next campaign.

Drawing on decades of experience, C. Change Consulting helps brands in the corporate, nonprofit, foundation, and government sectors with marketing and communications strategy, research, planning, and execution. If you want to develop a partnership program or need help identifying collaborators, please reach out for complimentary services.

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