The Basics of Partnership Marketing and How Businesses Can Use It to Drive Growth

Partnership marketing and business growth strategies go hand-in-hand.

According to Hinge’s High Growth Study, businesses that excel in growth are more likely to use partnership marketing to achieve growth three times faster than their average-growth peers. It’s unsurprising considering that businesses have been forming partnerships for decades – the sponsor partnership between Wimbledon and Slazenger has lasted over a hundred years!

However, as businesses embrace ecommerce, we’re seeing various types of partnership marketing strategies emerge. With advantages spanning from increased brand awareness and wider audience access to cost-effectiveness and surging top-line revenue, it’s clear to see that partnership marketing is capable of facilitating exponential growth. 

So, what is partnership marketing and how can it help you drive business growth?

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What Is Partnership Marketing?

Partnership marketing is the strategic, mutually-beneficial collaboration of two brands. Partnerships can range from large-scale initiatives, like the joint production of an entirely new product, or smaller collaborations, like a blog post link share. 

No matter how big or small, the partnership should help both businesses reach their individual objectives, whether this is to increase conversion rate ecommerce, audience exposure, brand equity, revenue, or market share.

Types of Partnership Marketing

Regardless of your business’ size, industry, or authority, there is bound to be a partnership marketing model that will work for you. Many businesses use multiple or hybrid models to tailor the strategy to their individual goals. 

Here are some of the most common types of partnership marketing models.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where a brand partners with an established website or publisher who promotes the brand for a monetary reward. The promotion could be anything from a display ad on the affiliate’s website to a text link in their newsletter. Generally speaking, payments are commissions-based, meaning that the affiliate gains a percentage of any sale made via their link.

Affiliate marketing is currently booming in popularity, with investment on a steady incline over the past decade.

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Influencer Marketing

To avoid making common influencer campaign mistakes, you should be aware of the distinction between influencer and affiliate marketing.

While affiliate marketing targets websites and publishers, influencer marketing is when a brand recruits an influencer – somebody with a large online following – to promote their product or service on their social media platform. This could be in the form of a shout-out or dedicated social media post.

Unlike affiliates, influencers will often get paid an upfront sum plus commission-based payments for every new customer they recruit.

Content Partnership

A content partnership is where two brands work together to co-create content. This could be a blog post, podcast, video, thought-leadership paper – anything that combines the expertise of the two brands.

Guest-posting and link sharing also come under the umbrella of content partnership. Guest-posting is when the primary brand creates a piece of content that is published on the partner’s website, with internal links back to the primary brand’s website. Both brands benefit from increased exposure and brand alignment.

Distribution

A distribution partnership involves bundling or cross-marketing your partner’s products into your own distribution channels. When a customer purchases one of your products, you can promote your partner’s product alongside it with in-box discounts, coupons, or giveaways.

Distribution is powerful because it supports offline marketing too – you can slip vouchers straight into physical packaging or promote through in-store demonstrations.

Sponsorships

Sponsorship is one of the oldest types of partnership. It occurs when a brand aligns itself with a particular event or cause – for example, a sporting event, awards ceremony, or popular TV show. Not only can this result in mass exposure to an audience who are likely to deem you credible by association, but it increases your value proposition and can even open up global and international markets. 

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Charitable Partnerships

Aligning your brand with a charity is abundant in its benefits. Not only do you gain exposure to new audiences, but you establish your brand as a contributor to an important cause. This can do wonders for your public reputation.

A charitable partnership might involve a brand’s participation in fundraisers or exhibitions. It could also include public shout-outs, news stories, or raffle contributions.

Joint Products

A joint product partnership is one of the more intimate marketing strategies. It’s when two brands combine forces to create an entirely new product or an amalgamation of two existing products. While this method requires considerable resources and high-intensity collaboration, it can result in the creation of a product with significant value to the mutual target audiences.

The Apple Watch Nike is a classic example of a successful joint product partnership.

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Shared Stores

A shared stores partnership is when one business offers another business a space in its online or offline store. Traditional retailers have done this for years – department stores, coffee shops, and grocery stores are prime examples. As businesses move into the ecommerce space, popular sites like Etsy demonstrate how businesses can use online stores to access ready-made audiences too. 

How to Use Partnership Marketing to Drive Growth 

So, now that you’re familiar with some of the best partnership marketing models, let’s take a look at how to use them to drive growth.

Select the Right Partners

The best partnerships are forged by brands whose products complement each other rather than directly compete with each other. This avoids any potential conflicts of interest and ensures that you don’t accidentally give away some of your market share

Research industries within your broader sector to find businesses offering products that complement yours. A cosmetics business, for instance, might seek a partnership with a business in the hair-care or fashion industry as while they target the same market, they’re not in direct competition.

Your partner doesn’t even have to navigate the same industry as you, providing that you share some common ground. Take GoPro and Red Bull, for example, whose products exist in entirely different market spaces but still serve the same audience such as athletes, adventurers, and people who lead active lifestyles. Their shared values and buyer personas made their collaboration successful because they were able to offer both of their audiences value. 

Develop an Authentic Plan

After researching and approaching the brand that resonates with your own products or values, you should aim to collaboratively formulate a solid foundation. 

Take time to communicate with your partner, establishing your shared values, visions, goals, expectations, and ideas. What type of partnership will be most beneficial to each of your audiences? How can you create an authentic yet mutually-beneficial relationship?

Meticulous planning and effective communication are crucial to establishing a positive business relationship and maximizing your chances of business growth. A unified communications platform, equipped with video, messaging, and toll free number features, can ensure that all of your team remain accessible regardless of geographic location.

Benefits of Partnership Marketing

We’ve already touched on many of the great things that partnership marketing has to offer. When it comes to growth, here are the benefits that you should aim to capitalize on. 

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Increased Brand Credibility

Every company depends on building customer trust to grow its business. However, for those in the B2B ecommerce space, trust is a necessity if you want to so much as make a dent. If you’re a startup or small business, aligning yourself with a recognized brand often makes you credible by association. 

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Increased Brand Awareness 

Not only does partnership marketing introduce more potential customers to your brand, but it lets other businesses know who you are too. Cue more partnership opportunities coming your way!

Wider access to audiences

One of the standout benefits of partnership marketing is that it gives you access to a ready-made audience. If you’ve chosen your partner strategically, this audience will naturally find value in what your brand has to offer.

Increased customer retention

Your loyal customers are foundational to your growth success. By partnering with a brand that complements your existing products, you add value to their purchases and build customer loyalty as a result.

Potential Partnership Marketing Challenges (and how you can avoid them)

Of course, like any new business venture, partnership marketing does come with some challenges. Ineffective communication between partners is a common issue and can result in a lowered ROI, conflicts, and even a negative dissolution. Investing in a PRM partner relationship management solution can support effective communication and keep both businesses aligned throughout the partnership lifecycle with a centralized communications system.

Another challenge that threatens partner marketing is simply a lack of planning. Sometimes, brands are not equipped to deal with the influx of new customer expectations, particularly when it comes to communication preferences. 

If you plan to expose yourself to a new target market, always conduct research into that market and accommodate their preferences. This could involve establishing yourself on a new social media channel, or updating your call center training program to prepare your customer service team for different customer types.

Drive Growth With Partnership Marketing 

A partnership marketing strategy boasts many benefits, but its potential to accelerate growth always comes out on top. This is because all of the benefits accumulate to drive this end result: cost-effectiveness, increased awareness, credibility, and revenue all drive your business to increase its reach, market share, and growth potential.

With so many different options when it comes to partnership marketing, feel free to experiment with models and create a personalized strategy that works for you. 

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