Partnership marketing is a broad term for several collaborative marketing techniques, including affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, loyalty marketing, cross-promotion, joint product developments, and more!
All these techniques are incredibly effective if you have the right partners, and choose the right type of partnership marketing, for your objectives.
But which partnership marketing strategy is the right one for your brand? And how do you find the right partners to collaborate with?
How do you implement your partnership marketing strategy and manage all your partners?
It can be challenging to answer these questions, especially when there are so many different types of partnership marketing, and so many different techniques to use.
Today, we’re covering everything you need to know about partnership marketing and how to make it work for you!
In this guide, we go over what partnership marketing is, the different types of partnership marketing, the benefits, and how to find and choose the best partners.
We also review some of the best partnership marketing software and look at some real-life partnership marketing examples.
To demonstrate just how successful partner marketing can be, we have a case study provided by the award-winning experts at Acceleration Partners, a leading, global, partnership marketing agency!
Let’s get right into it!
Partnership marketing (sometimes called partner marketing) is collaboration between parties that benefits both entities and helps them achieve their business and marketing objectives. These objectives range from increased brand awareness, recognition and credibility, to lead generation, sales and business growth.
There are many types of partnership marketing (more on those below) and partnerships can be between two brands or between an individual and a brand, or even two individuals.
Some of the most well known marketing partnerships include affiliate partners who promote a brand on their own platforms in exchange for a commission on the sales or actions they generate, and influencers who promote a brand on their channel in exchange for payment or a sample product that they can unbox, test and review – creating valuable content for their channel.
The main goal or objective of partnership marketing is for two entities to join forces in a strategic marketing collaboration that benefits them both and helps them reach their respective objectives.
DEFINITION: WHAT IS PARTNERSHIP MARKETING?
Partnership marketing (sometimes called partner marketing) can be defined as a strategic marketing collaboration between parties that benefits both entities and helps them achieve their business and marketing objectives. These objectives range from increased brand awareness, recognition and credibility to content creation, lead generation, sales and business growth.
Business partnerships are usually formal, legal agreements between parties. For example, when two law firms merge or one company partners with another to provide a combined service or product. These types of partnerships involve a lot of red tape, think contracts, taxes, registrations, levels of liability etc. and are usually permanent or long-term agreements.
Partnership marketing, on the other hand, can be much less formal and may not involve any kind of legal agreements, tax complications or even an exchange of money. While we call it partnership marketing, and there are formalized types of partnership marketing, it is often a much looser agreement, or collaboration between parties.
The aim is to achieve marketing objectives that can be difficult to quantify, for example, a collaboration may lead to improved brand awareness, credibility and trust, but these benefits may not have any immediate impact on revenue.
This is why many marketing partnerships are measured in terms of actions taken or impressions, rather than a sales commission that relies on an immediate impact on sales.
In some cases, like when two influencers collaborate to jointly create new content, there is no exchange of money, no agreement and the collaboration may be a spontaneous, once-off event with no paperwork or agreement at all.
There is a range of different types of partnership marketing approaches to choose from. According to Acceleration Partners, it is vital to choose the right type of partnership (and the right partners) to be successful.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular strategies:
When you decide to give partnership marketing a go, take your time and find the right strategic partners – it will make all the difference to your experience, and the success of your partnership marketing!
According to Acceleration Partners, choosing the best strategic partners for your partnerships is essential. Look for partners that are complementary to your brand in terms of both their products/services and their values. Aim to create relationships that will last, with partners that share your business and ethical values, as well as being a good fit for your products and your audience.
Your partners will reflect on you, and you will reflect on them, so do your homework and choose them wisely!
Not everyone will make a great partner. But even if the people you connect with aren’t right choice for your partnership marketing, looking for partners can still be a productive exercise. Expanding your existing network and making new contacts that are relevant to your brand and marketing may lead to other valuable opportunities.
Now let’s take you through some of the key steps of selecting the right marketing partner:
Before you start searching for a partner, make sure that you have clearly articulated what your brand wants to achieve through your potential business partnership.
Your objectives will inform the type of partnership marketing that will be the most beneficial for you. Choosing the right type of partner and right type of partnership collaboration will make a huge difference to the results you’re able to achieve.
Once you have set up your partnership, you can assess whether the relationship is meeting these objectives and how you can improve things or change things as needed.
This common ground must include a very similar audience to your company. This is very important, as this could lead to future problems if this is not clearly defined from the start. In essence, their target audience must be in the same sector and industry as your target audience.
Additional common ground includes having similar values to your company. This will ensure that you both can build on a similar foundation.
It is also worth offering products or services that are complementary to one another.
You can find potential partners for your partnership marketing through:
Once you have selected some potential partners, research them before you reach out so that you can weed out any partners that will obviously be a poor fit. Once you have narrowed it down, find out who the right person to speak to is and reach out to them directly.
From there, focus on building a relationship that is mutually beneficial and be clear about the value you can offer them, as well as what you want in return.
Here are the next steps to follow, and what to consider when you’re choosing a partnership marketing partner, in more detail:
And, you guessed it, more research! When it comes to finding a great partner, this is when research counts a great deal. Whatever a potential partner does in the future, will reflect either positively on negatively on your brand, so this is an important decision for you to make.
Start by reading up on all the reviews you can find of the companies that spark your interest. Then be sure to ask for references. Try to get an opinion from an outside third party on what they think of the partner you are planning to approach.
And finally, ask to see their buyer persona. It will also be an advantage if you have your own to provide to potential partners.
Once you have found a company with more common ground than other companies, it is good to start identifying if there are any potential conflicts that may arise. For starters, avoid a brand that will result in direct competition to your brand.
You will also need to determine who would own particular leads? And how would the profits be shared? Make sure that all these matters are ironed out early on.
Make sure that you both clearly articulate the responsibilities for each partner and what the expected outcomes are for each of those responsibilities.
It’s no good being ‘wishy-washy’ when it comes to responsibilities, and each partner must receive an equal share. This means that both parties must input the same amount of time and resources to get their jobs done.
Partnerships of all kinds work best when there is a clear agreement between parties, that sets out who is responsible for what, timeframes, contingences for unexpected delays or roadblocks along the way, as well as what happens of either party fails to deliver what they’re responsible for, and how assets like contact lists, leads etc. will be handled when the partnership ends.
While it is good to have an equal share of responsibilities, it is not necessary to split them right down the middle.
Simply make sure that each partner is able to use their particular expertise or strengths in the relationship. Both of you will be specialists in certain areas, so make sure you focus on those strengths unique to you.
It’s important that a space is created where feedback can be provided. So ensure that you and your various stakeholders gather together on a regular basis to talk over how things are going.
It will also be good to give each stakeholder a turn to chair the meeting. Basically everyone needs to feel heard.
It’s important to identify and track your progress against your objectives as closely and accurately as possible. Decide which metrics will be measured, and how, ahead of time so that there can be no disagreement or dispute of the results down the line.
Make sure that your goals are measurable and that you define how long you will track progress, and how often you will evaluate your progress.
While it is about business, it’s also about a personal relationship. Take the time to get to know your partners – who are they, what are their likes and dislikes? Their values? What’s their pet’s name?
This might sound odd, but it’s always worth having that personal connection when it comes to business. This might just be the glue that holds it all together!
SUMMARY: HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PARTNERS FOR PARTNERSHIP MARKETING
Partnership marketing involves two entities working together so that they both benefit from the collaboration.
The purpose of marketing partnerships is to build brand awareness for both entities, increase sales/engagement and provide their target audience/s with additional value by joining forces.
Let’s take a look at a partnership marketing case study (and then some partnership marketing examples from brands you know) to see just how successful it can be:
Despite an initial rise, fitness, and lifestyle apparel brand Reebok saw a marked drop in orders during the Covid-19 pandemic. To combat this and gain new customers, Reebok turned to Acceleration Partners, a leading partnership marketing agency.
Their objectives were to:
Acceleration Partners developed a strategic two-week campaign with Cartera, a leading loyalty program provider that works strategically with banks and airlines.
Choosing Cartera and the type of partners they work with was a crucial component of the campaign, which proved to be incredibly successful.
With Cartera, Reebok was able to join forces with a major U.S. airline. The carefully targeted campaign included a limited-time bonus, where qualifying purchases of at least $100 with Reebok gave consumers 500 bonus points, which were applied as bonus miles for the airline.
Promoting the campaign included homepage placements on the airline’s homepage and a newsletter from Cartera announcing the Reebok bonus offer to all airline loyalty members.
While the campaign targeted just one airline, it created a halo effect that resulted in a 38% increase in revenue from other programs on Cartera.
Acceleration Partner’s approach revolved around strategically identifying a valuable media placement opportunity, precise audience targeting, and choosing the best loyalty affiliate partner for the campaign.
Each of these elements was carefully considered, and the solutions strategically selected, which lead to impressive results from just a two-week campaign:
These results took Reebok back to, and surpassed their pre-pandemic order volume and revenue.
As you can see from the case study above, partnership marketing done right can rapid drive growth and provide a significant bump in revenue, as well as set you up for long-term success with dynamic on-going partnerships.
The best marketing partnerships are between brands that share an audience in terms of their audience’s values and desires, as well as demographics.
Here are some partnership marketing examples from popular brands you know (and maybe love) that really leveraged their shared audiences’ values and passions:
The marketing partnership between BMW and Louis Vuitton is a great example of brand giants coming together for a joint purpose. Both of their types of customers travel frequently and strive for exclusivity, luxury and comfort, so what better way to target their audience than co-branding their retail products?
These two created a four-piece luggage collection, retailing for $20 000, which was designed to fit perfectly into the trunk of the BMW i8. This is a great example of an innovative marketing partnership that leveraged their shared audiences values and desires to cross-promote their core product offerings to a shared audience.
I bet most of you have heard of Airbnb, but not as many will know about the social network aggregator, Flipboard. In this partnership marketing example, these two got together to create new content and in turn promoted each other to each of their (overlapping) audiences.
Thanks to their collaboration with Airbnb, Flipboard was able to greatly increase their number of users and Airbnb was able to generate valuable brand awareness, engagement and marketing content.
Over the years the Swedish retailer H&M have been known to collaborate with a number of different luxury fashion designers. Perhaps the best example is when they partnered with the Balmain clothing collection in 2015.
This collaborative clothing collection was launched onto the H&M website and their brick and mortar stores, which had queues that could be seen far and wide.
Every year H&M collaborates with these types of designer brands, allowing their customers to pay for designer clothing items at a fraction of the price. Now that’s a win win partnership!
By collaborating with a highly desirable designer/brand, H&M was able drive a massive sales by using the desirability of Balmain products from consumers who would not normally be able to afford or access such a high-end brand.
Balmain benefitted from a huge amount of awareness and buzz around their brand that reached H&M’s huge audience of people who value high-fashion brands.
Back in 2012, when the novelty of GoPro was a really big deal, they partnered with Red Bull to support Australian skydiving legend, Felix Baumgartner. Here the two brands collaborated to capture his record-breaking jump from a 24 mile high balloon.
This turned out to be quite the enthralling take, captured on GoPro, and both brands received a great deal of exposure through this partnership.
These partnership marketing examples demonstrate how brands can join forces and generate huge value in terms of brand awareness, engagement, anticipation/buzz, content marketing, user generated content AND sales!
There are many significant benefits to partnership marketing and here are some of them:
Partnering with another brand that has a presence in a particular region, area or niche, will enable you to reach a new market, that you wouldn’t have been able to reach before.
This opens up new opportunities for growth and greater productivity for your brand.
You can also sit back and enjoy the benefits of a customer base that will more easily trust your brand, due to the trust they already have for your partner.
You will be marketing to an audience that will already be interested in the kinds of things you offer. This can maximize your marketing efforts, with the least amount of input.
By working with a marketing partner, you will be exposing yourself and your team to some different and new outlooks on marketing.
Perhaps there are a few gaps that you might have missed that need improvement? Or maybe there’s something completely out of the ordinary that you hadn’t thought of before?
The great advantage of partner marketing is that each partner can use it as an opportunity to learn from each other and to gather wisdom from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the industry is moving closer to a pay-per-performance model, and away from a pay-per-ad and impression model.
So in the case of partnership marketing, it will now be easier to measure your ROI based on how a particular post performs, as opposed to measuring social media metrics, such as likes, shares and comments etc. This will be more relevant to the affiliate partnership marketing strategy.
For some partner strategies a swap can also be included, which can save costs and benefit both partners.
Partnership marketing also requires less financial risk on your part, as only a small fee or commission will be required. This will be more relevant to the affiliate type of partnership marketing.
It is comforting from time to time to know that you are not alone in the marketing game!
When you succeed, your partner succeeds with you and this just highlights how mutually beneficial this type of marketing relationship is.
The true benefit comes when you find a partner who is open and communicates clearly with you from the start.
Through cross-promotion, you are more likely to be noticed when a customer makes a purchase from your partner and stumbles across your brand at the same time.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!
For example, when driving with Uber you can tune into Spotify and listen to songs through them while driving. And when booking flights, you might also notice a hotel ad popping up and recommendation a stay with them near your destination.
The opportunities are endless!
When partnering with a trusted brand, you will be adding greater value to your existing brand.
Whether it’s through developing new content, making necessary improvements or doing a content swap, customers are more likely to take notice and to become more attracted to your brand.
It can only be beneficial when you open up new avenues of interest and strive to enrich your brand even more than before.
Partnerships open up the opportunity of brand association.
For smaller brands, partnering with a larger brand means they will be able to reach a much wider audience. On the flip side, a larger brand can benefit by reaching a more specific, niche audience, by partnering with a smaller brand.
It’s through these types of partnerships, that customers might begin to associate better with your brand, if they see you partnering with a unique or more popular brand.
Partnership marketing is a great way for two complementary products/services to join forces and provide an innovative new solution. By drawing on each other’s strengths they can provide a more comprehensive product/service, or package, which often leads to the development of an entirely new solution.
We have talked a lot about the more indirect benefits of partnership marketing but biggest benefit (like all other forms of marketing) is increased revenue and growth.
Strategically harnessing the power of partnerships and collaborations allows you to reach more people in your target audience, generate leads, and close sales. All while giving you all the less direct benefits, like brand awareness and improved trust, AND costing you very little!
SUMMARY: THE BENEFITS OF PARTNERSHIP MARKETING ARE:
What is partnership management software?
Partnership management software is used to track sales and affiliates through a variety of channels, as well as streamline communication between partners. It also allows you to see an overview of your partners and their performance so you can continually optimize your marketing and improve your partnerships.
Essentially, it gives you everything you need for simple and effective partnership relationship management (PRM), which includes all the activities and strategies used to manage your partners and your partnership marketing as a whole.
Partnership management platforms, on the other hand, are online platforms and marketplaces where you can search and connect with potential partners. These are especially useful for finding affiliates and influencers to partner with.
There are a huge number of partnership management software tools out there!
It can be daunting and time consuming to sift through all the options to find the best ones, which is precisely why we have selected three of the best partnership marketing software to review here:
Tapfiliate is a customizable, cloud-based Affiliate Tracking Software that allows you to develop and track your affiliate marketing campaigns. You can successfully automate a number of tasks, such as tracking, managing commissions and marketing across different levels.
You will also be happy to know that Tapfiliate can be integrated with over 30 different e-commerce and digital marketing platforms. It is also very easy to implement for those who are not familiar with management software.
Pricing: Starting at 69$/month up to 499$/month
P2P Score: 4.7/5
Post Affiliate Pro is one of the pioneers in affiliate software, used by many e-commerce websites and online stores. This great software allows you to easily manage and engage with your affiliate partners. You can also monitor a number of tasks, such as commission payouts, affiliate automation and different online payment options.
In addition, you will have access to over 170 major Content Management Systems (CMS), such as Stripe and PayPal, with WordPress and Shopify also included.
Pricing: Starting at 97$/month up to 477$/month
P2P Score: 4.7/5
LeadDyno is a user-friendly affiliate management platform that provides great support for running successful affiliate marketing campaigns. The system is easily integrated with third-party websites and platforms, which is a huge plus when needing a smooth workflow.
Other huge attractions include email automation, conversion tracking, payout management and detailed reporting functions.
Pricing: Starting at 49$/month up to 79$/month
P2P Score: 4.5/5
Partnership marketing includes a large number of different marketing channels and strategies. Done right, it can lead to massive growth and increased revenue for your business, as well as improved brand awareness, recognition, trust and credibility.
Finding the right partners, and choosing the right type of partnership marketing for your objectives is critical for success.
Start by finding a partner with the same brand positioning – such as having a similar type of audience and then check whether their values match up to yours.
Then reach out and start the conversation with brands that stand out to you the most. If nothing comes of it today or tomorrow, either way, you would have met some other brands in a similar industry, and you would have made some great, new connections.
Using an agency can help you get off on the right foot and establish your partnership marketing strategies and programs.
Agencies are not always an option, but if you’re looking for experts to help you with partner marketing, check out Acceleration Partners – a specialist, innovative and an award-winning partner marketing agency, that always gets it right.
Ready to find your ideal marketing partners? Check out our expert marketing guides on affiliate marketing, loyalty marketing, influencer marketing and more!
Partnership marketing is a collaborative relationship that is formed between two or more parties, in which they help each other to reach their unique marketing and business objectives. Take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to set up a successful partnership marketing strategy for your business.
There are many types of partnership marketing strategies, but the common types include affiliate marketing, distribution partnership, influencer marketing, sponsorships, and cross promotion. For a complete understanding on how each of these function, go and check out our full partnership marketing article.
The best tools to help manage and monitor a partnership marketing program, are Tapfiliate, Post Affiliate Pro and LeadDyno. If you're interested in seeing what makes these so great and how to effectively use them, go and see our complete partnership marketing article.
There are many examples of partnership marketing that we see and participate in every day, such as influencer marketing, content marketing, and loyalty marketing. One well-known partnership marketing example is when BMW and Louis Vuitton collaborated to create and promote an LV luggage set that was designed to fit perfectly into the trunk of a popular BMW model. Check out the full guide for more examples of partnership marketing and a detailed partnership marketing case study.
Partnership marketing platforms are online platforms and marketplaces where you can search, find and connect with potential partners for your partnership marketing. They are most frequently used to find affiliates and influencers. Check out the full guide to learn more and find out what the difference is between a partnership marketing platform and partnership marketing software.
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