3 Rules for Successful Partnership Marketing

My department is founded on the principle that one business can utilize the customer base of another business to market its product, and achieve mutually profitable results. The success of this kind of program is rooted in the hope that the individuals you are granted marketing access to, have a deep connection with their business.  That connection between customer and business, allows you capture their attention more effectively then generic mass marketing. A co-branded marketing piece says, “Hey, you know me, and I’ve got something for you to see.”

This type of marketing can be very sucessful, but like everything else, there are a handful of rules to understand before to go breaking them.

1) Don’t partner with a business that will treat you like a media buyer. Look for perks, discounts on access, willingness to go above and beyond… anything that will make you look special compared to anyone else they do business with.

2) Don’t partner with someone that doesn’t “fit” your brand image. Much like picking a spokesperson, you don’t want to run the risk of their actions impacting your brand perception. There a different examples of this, but most commonly you’ll see a celebrity get caught doing something that makes their sponsors cringe. And it doesn’t even have to be a one time event, the business practice itself can be a issue.  If you’re PETA, and you’re trying to increase membership, you’d better do your research before partnering with that high end retail that occasionally has the best prices on FUR COATS. What often time seems like common sense is missed when research is inadequate.

3) Not all customers are customers. Depending on who you’re partnering with, you may be dealing with customers, members, employees, fans, family, etc.  Each of these groups has a different relationship with the business you are soliciting them through. If you are marketing to customers, your product HAS to align with the type of product they are being a customer for; insurance and finance, athletics and sports drinks, electronics and video games. Alignment is key. If you’re marketing to members, spin it as an added benefit of their membership dues. If you’re marketing to employees, spin it around the pride of getting to work with their company.  Just make sure you are thinking about how the specific group interacts with their business, and aligning your program and message around that.

Although I haven’t provided any data to prove my theory, I can promise you these rules apply more often then not.  And as more businesses continue to advance into guerrilla/social/word-of-mouth marketing, partnerships and alliances will continue to expand and evolve.

What other rules have you learned from marketing a message through another business? What success stories do you have? Put your thoughts in the comments, where they belong. Don’t greedily tuck them away only for yourself.

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