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Partnership marketing strategy
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What is Partnership Marketing, and How Can it Help With Lead Generation?

Find out how to establish and nurture a successful marketing partnership to generate more leads. Discover examples of common co-branding partnerships.

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  • Lead generation relies on connecting with potential customers through marketing. But in increasingly saturated markets, cutting through the noise is harder than ever.

    Partnership marketing offers a solution. Teaming up with another brand allows you to pool resources and work together to boost brand awareness and growth.

    But you need to do it right to avoid wasting time and resources on the wrong partner. Or damaging your reputation.

    We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to partnership marketing, let's dive in!

    What is partnership marketing?

    Partnership marketing definition

    With partnership marketing, two brands join forces to run campaigns. They typically share resources and benefit from each others’ strengths. This enhances their ability to boost brand awareness, drive lead generation and sales, and reach new markets.

    However, for a brand partnership strategy to deliver results, both players must obtain value beyond what they achieve alone. Partner marketing strategies can also be risky: if it doesn’t work, you both lose out.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of marketing partnerships?

    Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of partnership marketing.

    Advantages of partnership marketing

    Increase exposure and reach

    A joint partnership marketing plan allows you to tap into another company’s network, email lists, social media promotion, and search authority. This brings your product to a new audience, and doubles lead generation opportunities.

    For smaller or local businesses, it’s a great way to gain much-needed visibility in their target market or expand into new ones.

    For new businesses, partnering with an established brand with a loyal customer base offers exposure to a pre-qualified audience. It also lends credibility, as the partner has already established trust with your potential customers.

    “You're leveraging both databases – your own and the partners’ – so you're able to access leads and customers that you wouldn't access in a normal timeframe,” says Pauline Mura, Senior Marketing Partnership Manager at Livestorm.

    Share costs and workload

    Partnering effectively doubles your marketing budget for specific campaigns. It also gives you access to multidisciplinary talent – and fresh perspectives – without having to hire or contract out. So it’s a smart choice for teams with limited resources looking to scale.

    Add value

    If you have an established customer base, partnership marketing allows you to create unique value propositions and introduce them to complementary products. Combining resources, skills, and offerings can lead to new innovative solutions, better, faster services, and even industry disruption.

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    Disadvantages of partnership marketing

    Straying off course

    Of course, there are also a few risks. For a start, you may get sidetracked from your own objectives, and there's a danger of losing control over communications, or feeling pushed into decisions. “You have to share deadlines,” says Pauline, “and some priorities may be pushed, because you're working with someone with someone else. That also means that goals or the direction can be shifted, because you have to find an agreement. And sometimes you might have to change the topic a little bit to adapt to your partner.”

    Disagreement or conflict

    Other risks include partners not performing agreed tasks on schedule, or keeping up their end of the bargain. Ultimately, you can control your business processes and resources, but not theirs. If a campaign fails, partners may blame each other and become rivals, which can damage both reputations.

    There’s also a high chance of disagreements about strategy or other topics. Profit sharing is a particularly sensitive topic, especially if one partner brings more to the table than the other. Also, conflicts of interest, which can occur when goals and objectives are not clearly defined at the start. And if you split from a partner who is a competitor, you could end up losing customers to them, or face increased channel competition. If you invested too heavily in the partnership, you could also find you’ve become too reliant on co-branding, or left with products or services that don’t work well independently.

    Damaging trust

    You can also damage trust with your customer base by endorsing a partner that falls short of expectations. “If you haven't done your work in advance to make sure the partner is trustworthy in terms of brand, or if there's a PR crisis or something related to their image, then your brand is tarnished because you have that link with them,” explains Pauline. And, of course, you’re taking a leap of faith by sharing customer data and trade secrets, even with watertight event partnership agreements.

    And, finally, you can have too much of a good thing: If leads start flooding in before you’re ready to handle them, you risk keeping potential customers waiting.

    What are the different types of partnership marketing?

    Here are a few B2B partnership marketing examples.

    Co-hosted events

    This is a simple yet effective partner marketing strategy. Leveraging each others’ databases and teaming up on social media event marketing can double attendances and engagement without doubling costs.

    Co-hosted events

    Panel discussions, online conferences, or webinar topics:

    • Establish you as industry experts
    • Allow you to reach and engage new audiences anywhere in the world
    • Educate your respective customer bases about each other in a way that delivers value.

    If you’re using webinar software like Livestorm, it’s easy to promote your virtual event with attractive co-branded landing pages and registration forms and collect attendee information for lead generation.

    Affiliate marketing

    This common form of partnership marketing involves partnering with a website, influencer, or brand who promotes your product to their audience. For example, by including backlinks to your site within their social media, website, email marketing, promotion, or ads.

    Publishers are usually paid a commission for each sale they help generate.

    For affiliations to work well, the partners should be in similar industries with overlapping audiences.

    Distribution partnership

    This popular partnership often takes the form of bundling – uniting your products or services and promoting them on each other’s platforms – and relies heavily on established customer trust.

    As well as bundling physical products, distribution partnerships may involve placing a QR code on a partner’s product or distributing coupons.

    Distribution partnership

    Joint products

    With joint product partnerships, two brands co-develop a product – either from scratch or by incorporating components from one partner to enhance the other’s product. This can fuel considerable growth by opening new markets and creating new revenue streams.

    Licensing

    Licensing involves one partner obtaining rights to build and/or distribute another’s products through its own network. This might involve using their brand image, logos, values, and mission statements.

    Licensing is essentially buying an established brand and selling it as your own, but with more room for collaboration: The developer brand has a role in manufacturing, marketing, sales, and customer service.

    Product placement

    A tried and tested form of marketing, product placement allows you to get your product in front of another brand’s audience. For example, speaking at a partner’s event and supplying branded merch. Or having an influencer feature you on their Instagram.

    Content Marketing

    Content marketing is key to lead generation, but it’s a lot of work. Teaming up with a partner shares the load and doubles the SEO payoff. It’s a great choice for brands that have good promotion channels but struggle to produce content.

    Co-creation can include guest blogging, collaborating on lead magnets, or one partner producing co-promoted content that links to the other.

    Marketing Manager Mindset Report 2022 by Livestorm and Mention

    Sponsorship

    Sponsorship involves paying for the right to align your brand with your partner’s values by splashing it across their outlets, usually during specific events or initiatives.

    What are good co-branding partnership examples?

    Here are a few of our favorite examples of good co-branding strategies.

    Co-hosted events

    In 2022, with Guru, we co-hosted [Internal Communication Strategies for a Hybrid Work Environment](https://app.livestorm.co/livestorm/internal-communications-strategies-for-a-hybrid-environment/?utm_source=livestorm&utm_medium=website_action&utm_campaign=2022_webinar_en_internal_comm&utm_content=contentlib) to discuss the best internal communication strategies for mixed teams to ensure employee engagement, inclusivity, and cross-team collaboration, among other topics. 

    Affiliate marketing

    Affiliate marketing is hugely popular in tech. A good example is the Semrush affiliate program, where publishers get paid commissions for trials, sign-ups, or sales.   

    Distribution

    Distribution is also popular with SaaS vendors. Like Microsoft’s partnership with OSIsoft data management systems to offer both companies’ products behind a single interface.

    Joint products

    Marketing platform HubSpot has integrated services with FreshBooks accounting software to allow brands to serve their clients across both platforms at different stages of the sales cycle.

    Licensing

    If you’ve ever needed high-quality images for marketing campaigns, you’ll have come across the Getty Images platform, which enables professional photographers to sell photos in exchange for royalties.

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    How to build a successful partnership marketing strategy

    Follow these steps to build a successful partnership marketing strategy:

    Establish your goals

    Start by establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals that directly tie into your business needs. These will dictate the type of partners you can work with and the format of your campaigns.

    Establish your comarketing goals

    Goals might include:

    • Growing brand awareness with a new audience
    • Opening new markets
    • Sharing lead generation
    • Creating new revenue streams
    • Aligning with bigger players in your space
    • Sharing content creation in exchange for promotion

    Choose the right partnership type

    Not all marketing partnerships are suitable for every business, so it’s important to pick the right one. For example, influencer product placement is unlikely to help you sell into a highly specialized niche.

    Select the best partnership type

    Select your partner

    Look for a partner who can help you achieve your goals quickly and efficiently. Think about the skills, experience, and audience or customer base you want to tap into.

    Select the right partner for co-marketing

    You need, says Pauline Mura, to think about “What types of brands you go after and what's your criteria? For example, company size. You want to be approximately aligned in terms of lead gen, and the audience is going to be the biggest focus. Do you have overlapping audiences? Can you find a topic that works and brings value to both of you? Is it going to be a win-win situation?”

    We’ll go into this in more depth in the next section.

    Jointly develop strategy, value, and messages

    Start by setting mutual objectives and a shared vision. This will make the collaboration more effective, and alignment shines through in your messaging.

    man co-building  a marketing partnership

    Think about:

    • How you’ll target your audience/s
    • Your “better together” story: What unique, added value does your joint offering bring?
    • Which promotion methods and channels to use

    Decide on responsibilities

    Establish deliverables, responsibilities, and timelines, and what resources each will contribute. Who will handle branding, and what are the assets and deliverables you need in terms of promotion?

    Split responsabilities with the partner

    You also need to figure out lead sharing. So, who will follow up with new sign-ups or inbound leads to make sure a) that they don’t go cold or, b) you duplicate communications and risk overwhelming or annoying them.

    Careful planning and organization at this stage helps campaigns run smoothly later and ensures each party holds up its end of the bargain.

    Determine how to track results

    Establish which metrics you need to track to measure campaign performance, know whether you’re hitting targets, and how each partner is performing.

    Track the right KPIs

    Remember, you’ll need to know which leads or revenue are attributable to which partner, channel, or co-branded campaigns, for profit sharing or paying commissions. This is especially important in distribution partnerships.

    Put it in writing

    Agree on Ts & Cs, including data sharing, budget, payment terms, and more Stipulate what happens if there are missed deadlines, delays, compliance failures, or disputes over profit-sharing. Transparent rules now help establish trust later.

    Sign a co-marketing agreement

    Choose tools and tech stack

    Smooth collaboration with your co-branding partner requires a solid tech stack.

    For example:

    • An all-in-one video engagement solution like Livestorm to co-host events
    • A customer relationship management platform, like Salesforce
    • Document and asset sharing solutions like Google Docs
    • Collaboration and communications tools like Slack, MailChimp, etc.
    • Dedicated partner management software like PartnerStack that generates custom tracking URLs
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    Choose the best event partnership platform

    Host engaging partnership events with Livestorm

    How to find and keep a strategic marketing partner?

    To find your perfect partner, you need to understand how you can effectively work together to deliver value to your audience and generate leads.

    1 - Define your target audience

    Find out through research what your audience values. Then, figure out how your partnership will impact the buyer experience and deliver value.

    The best partners share your target audience but don’t compete with your products or services, or have client lists that overlap too much.

    One place to look for partners is an association whose members are your target audience.

    2 - Identify your ideal partner

    To avoid channel conflicts, remember, each deal can only be closed once. So think about how to avoid conflicts between partners, and between partners and direct sales.

    One approach is to look for companies offering complementary products or operating in parallel clusters. So, if you sell software, team up with a company selling hardware. This allows you to reach a wider range of customers and offer a complete solution, without competing.

    Think about the partner maturity stage too, to avoid issues caused by the level of executive buy-in and unequal resources and commitment.

    3 - Make a candidate list

    To do this:

    • Make a wish list of brands you and your colleagues admire.
    • Scour Google, social media, forums, and industry news to find top companies in your space or parallel spaces.
    • Join affiliate marketing networks.
    • Participate in networking events.

    4 - Check partners out

    When researching potential marketing partners, ask yourself:

    Do you have a similar audience?

    Check out their websites, etc. to find overlap with your buyer personas.

    Do they have good brand reputation?

    Use Google News and ask around to make sure they don’t have any negative press.

    Do your products compete?

    If so, while you may share the same audience, it makes no sense to generate leads for a competitor. Remember, the partnership won’t last forever.

    Are you aligned?

    Do you share values and goals? Do they align with your strategy, and sell products appropriate for your target market? The partnership has to make sense to customers, as well as you. If it’s a stretch to find synchronicity, you’re probably not right for each other.

    Do they have strong outreach?

    Subscribe to their blog, mailing list, and social media. Do they communicate regularly? What are their follower numbers? How engaged is their audience? Use a tool like similarweb.com to check out their traffic.

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    5 - How to keep a partner

    Once you start working together, it’s important to

    • Set clear expectations, especially around dates
    • Communicate clearly and often
    • Have regular check-ins
    • Be transparent about what’s working and what’s not, and open to jointly finding solutions
    • Treat them as you want to be treated
    • Build connections and a relationship
    • Reward partners in line with your agreement and on time
    • Provide any support they need, and access to shared resources and materials
    • Update them about changes or developments, like new strategies, assets, etc.

    Sealing the deal

    In our attention-starved economy, collaboration is a great way to build your brand and reach new markets. By pooling ideas, skills, and resources, brands can grow their reputation and reach more effectively than flying solo.

    Approaching any new partnership from a perspective of “How can we help each other and bring value to our customers?” rather than “What can we get out of this?” is the key to success.

    To get off to the right start, invest in a solid tech stack that facilitates collaboration and engagement, including a virtual event platform like Livestorm that allows you to engage new audiences all over the world through high-quality, on-brand events.

    Frequently asked questions about partnership marketing

    Are partnerships part of marketing?

    Partnerships are not necessarily part of marketing, but a marketing partnership can be extremely valuable to help two brands achieve what they cannot alone.

    Why does partnership marketing pay off?

    Partnership marketing pays off because it allows two companies to pool resources, skills, and ideas to extend their reach and open new markets.

    How do you promote a partnership?

    You can promote a partnership through social media blasts, building follow links on relevant blog posts, or email swaps promoting your respective products. Other methods include co-hosting events, or jointly publishing and promoting resources.

    How to find marketing partnership opportunities?

    You can find partnership marketing opportunities by looking for a partner whose audience overlaps with yours but whose products don’t directly compete.

    How do you establish a marketing partnership?

    You can establish a marketing partnership by seeking the right partner to help achieve your goals, and who is aligned with your strategy and values. Then, establish your shared vision, divide responsibilities, and draw up an agreement.

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