As we dive into 2019, there’s no question that the MarTech industry will continue to grow. The Moore Stephens 2018 MarTech Report values the global Marketing Technology market at an estimated $100 billion. And the same report predicts that enterprises will continue to increase budget allocation to MarTech. So it’s safe to say that the ROI is seen, appreciated and valued. But the real question is: Which portion of the industry will see — and drive — the most growth? Without a doubt, it’s partnerships.
The dawn of digital partnerships started with the affiliate model: think cashback and coupon codes. However, today the affiliate marketing space is simply one type of partnership available for brands to leverage. Rather than being one and the same, affiliates live under the larger umbrella of an entirely new category called partnerships.
This umbrella consists of any technique in which a brand joins forces with another business or individual who has an existing relationship with their target customer, and ultimately, creates an indirect sales and marketing effort to refer them. For enterprises to fully realize the value, it will require a mindset shift. This is a far broader concept than previously understood that unifies a growing array of new partnership types, beyond traditional affiliates, having expanded to include any kind of mutually beneficial relationship, such as influencers and B2B partnerships.
The types of emerging partnerships that enterprises are establishing today is virtually limitless. A global event ticketing platform has native software integration partnerships with streaming music services. A marketplace of hospitality services has partnerships with airlines. A fashion-forward sportswear brand partners with YouTube influencers. A major direct-to-consumer mattress brand has partnerships with chiropractors. A direct-to-consumer pet product business has partnerships with animal shelters, veterinary clinics, dog walkers and pet hotels that refer new subscribers for their subscription boxes.
Given its breadth, partnerships have emerged as a new stream of revenue growth, and the technology that automates these relationships is no longer MarTech, but “ParTech.”
For the longest time, businesses relied on either high-touch efforts by the direct sales department or highly-scaled outreach by the marketing department. When these processes were streamlined by technology that provided intelligent, automated multi-touch campaigns, business development, along with the departments that drive it, was transformed. But as these growth-driving tactics have matured, opportunities to gain true competitive advantage have diminished.
Partnerships represent an opportunity for enterprise revenue growth. Partnerships allow enterprises to take advantage of fellow audiences, brand equity, and physical or virtual space. Furthermore, this arena invites businesses to reach new audiences that match their target market, breaking plateaus.
Maximizing the Process
A recent report from the World Trade Organization found that upward of 75 percent of revenue comes from indirect, third-party channels. That’s incredible! Partnerships, once seen as an offshoot or hybrid of sales and marketing, are driving massive revenue growth for businesses around the world and this growth will require enterprises to determine the best strategy to manage an evolving ecosystem of partners of every size.
The key to getting the most out of this channel will be managing lifecycles: Mapping the value and growth potential of each individual partnership in an effort to continuously optimize output. Consider the stages of a partnership: Discovering; recruiting; onboarding; engaging and activating; and growing and optimizing.
It also involves incentivizing partners to take actions that bring in new customers, re-engage old customers and increase the frequency of repeat customers; ensuring partners are up-to-date on the latest positioning, collateral, and releases; and continuously communicating new ideas to keep the relationship lively.
Partnerships can be high-touch relationships that are time intensive to maintain and no doubt can scale easier by using automated solutions to truly accelerate results.
Revenue growth through partnerships will become the new normal for enterprises formerly relying solely on marketing, sales and business development. And 2019 will see expansion beyond traditional affiliates into new types of value-added influencers and brand-to-brand partnerships. As this new strategy continues to drive a significant source of newfound revenue, the industry will increasingly regard partnerships as one of the most important channels in which to dedicate investment of people, process and technology.