How to Build a Partner Marketing Strategy
Partner marketing, also referred to as partnership marketing, involves two brands collaborating to promote each other’s products and services. It’s a great way for brands that have complementary interests to find support and benefit from each other's reach and resources.
When we think of partner marketing, it often elicits images of famous collaborations like Doritos and Taco Bell (Doritos Locos Tacos) or Nike and Apple, but brands of all sizes and industries can benefit from joint marketing efforts.
The partner marketing category encompasses a few distinct strategies, some examples include:
- Affiliate marketing: A type of performance-based marketing in which publishers feature links to brand partners’ sites. The publisher gets paid when a customer clicks a link and the brand makes a sale.
- Content partnerships: Brands collaborate to create and produce content that could be written, audio, or visual. One company may produce the content while the other distributes it.
- Loyalty partnerships: Offering discounts on one brand’s products and services as rewards within another brand’s loyalty program.
- Product placements: One brand highlights another in its media content. Most people know this as a brand’s physical products being displayed in a series or film (i.e., Nike in Back to the Future or Coke in Stranger Things 3), but conferences, whitepapers, and case studies can also place a partner’s products. Influencer marketing has also emerged as a popular mode of product placement.
The Benefits of Working With a Partner
In a competitive market, it’s easy to have an “every brand for itself” mentality, but right now especially, we could all use some additional support. The main benefits of engaging in a partnership include amplifying marketing power, cross-promotion, reaching high potential audiences, and offering more value for customers.
Joint efforts involve contributions from each partner's marketing dollars, allowing them to boost marketing power beyond the limitations of their own budget, time, and other resources. Because both partners are essentially standing behind each other's brand, the effect of cross-promotion is similar to that of a referral program — another powerful strategy for driving quality leads.
Furthermore, collaborative marketing eliminates the difficult task of building an audience from scratch. Because the partner company already has a relationship with a brand’s target audience, a primary benefit of the partnership is quickly gaining a level of trust and interest with the target audience that would be impossible with cold marketing. Customers will learn about the benefits of a relevant product or service from a brand they already know and trust.
3 Steps to Building a Successful Marketing Partnership
Similar to other marketing strategies, partner marketing requires careful and thoughtful planning in order to be successful. This process has three key steps:
- Find an ideal match: Your ideal match won’t be a direct competitor vying for the same market share, but they also can’t be a completely unrelated company. It’s about finding the sweet spot where your partner’s interests and audience complement your own.
- Pick the best channels: Next, identify a partnership effort that will showcase both brands most effectively. Think back to the different strategies within partner marketing — content partnerships, loyalty partnerships, product placements, etc. — and decide which one will play to each partner’s creative strengths.
- Establish shared goals: Before executing a partner marketing strategy, you need to establish goals for the professional relationship. This is a time to discuss each brand's strengths, weaknesses, and needs to see where you can benefit each other most. Continue the conversation throughout the partnership by assessing the success of your joint effort, and evaluating opportunities for future collaboration.
To illustrate these concepts, we can take a page from the content partnership between GoPro and Red Bull. This example demonstrates not only a perfect company match, but a strong choice of media with Red Bull sponsoring events and GoPro providing the immersive camera footage that engages audiences. While many of us won’t be executing partner marketing efforts to this large of a scale, brands can follow a similar path to success by building collaborations that demonstrate the best of what both parties have to offer.
Kate McGaughey is the Senior Integrated Marketing Manager at CallRail. Kate is a results-oriented, creative marketing professional with a passion for bringing customers together around brands that prioritize building customer-centric solutions and experiences. Her background includes developing data-driven strategies and managing a high-performing team to execute programs that drive brand awareness and lead generation across multiple verticals.