One of the best ways to get your message out quickly to highly targeted prospects is to work with partners. These are companies that aren’t competitors but serve the same target market.
If you’re a software company and you don’t offer services, doing joint webinars with services providers makes sense. If you’re a growth agency like us, looking for mid-market companies with aggressive growth goals and then working with the business coaches for those companies would make sense.
In almost every industry and for almost every company, noncompetitive partners represent excellent opportunities to do joint marketing programs.
However, picking or finding a partner isn’t the biggest challenge. What comes next requires some specific skills and expertise.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that you can use to create a series of partner-oriented marketing activities in 2022 that will drive leads, increase sales opportunities and help you hit your revenue goals.
Step 1 – Selecting Partner Marketing Opportunities
We’re a strategy before tactics agency, which simply means we like to have a plan before we run off and start execution. We preach this to our clients and we practice it every day.
In this case, it means you should have some idea of what you want to do with your partners before you start looking for them, working with them and executing programs.
There are a variety of ways to co-market with partners:
You can do events – Joint marketing events typically include webinars. These don’t have to be traditional presentation-type events. For example, they can be ask-me-anything sessions where you share the questions with your partner.
You can do research – You can jointly do research and jointly publish the results. By leveraging each other’s databases, you can extend the quality of the research and share the findings with both companies’ customers and prospects.
You can share content – You can each bring a piece of content to the table and jointly market both to each other’s databases. As long as the content appeals equally to both audiences, it’s a great way to get introductions to an entirely new set of potential prospects.
You can co-host – You can co-host a new podcast or webcast series. By co-hosting you jointly market the program and drive target prospects to attend, watch or listen to the show. Again, you, your company and your message are being introduced to a new set of people who already trust your partner co-host, so it’s like getting a built-in referral on a massive scale.
You can share a sponsorship – Some of the events you’d like to attend come with hefty price tags for sponsorship. But you could share that expense by sharing the sponsorship. Now two companies share the price and share the benefits of the sponsorship through joint marketing, but you still get the full benefit of access to the event’s audience.
All of these types of programs give you the opportunity to get access to their audience and for them to get access to yours.
Our recommendation is to start small by trying one or two of these ideas and seeing if the metrics play out. We’ll cover how to measure these types of programs later, but if the numbers come in well, consider expanding the tactics and do more with the partners that produce solid results.
Step 2 – Picking A Partner
This might be easier than you think. Do you have any companies that regularly refer business to you? That’s always a good place to start. That means they respect you enough to be interested in some joint marketing and they’re not threatened by you (or else they wouldn’t be referring business to you).
But not every company has a steady stream of referrals from outside companies. If you have to go looking for a potential marketing partner, here’s what you want to look for:
Noncompeting but with the same target audience – It won’t be hard to find companies that don’t directly compete with you, but you also need companies that work with your target customers. The closer you can align this, the better.
If they work with companies that can’t afford your services, it’s not a good fit. If they work with companies that are so big you couldn’t service them, it’s not a good fit. If they work with companies in a specific vertical and you don’t have enough experience to service them, it’s not a good fit.
Yes, I know…finding companies that are a good fit can be challenging.
This is important. These activities take time and sometimes money. If the fit is off, you’re wasting your time and your money. Sometimes this takes a little creativity by thinking out of the box and looking differently at potential partners.
Large list size, social following and audience – You want them to have a large list of customers or prospects. Their email database (which will be the people they market to) needs to be substantial. Hopefully, you’re also bringing a substantial database to the table.
In addition to the size of the database, take a look at their social following. If they have large audiences on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or YouTube, that might also signal to you that this could be a viable partner.
Assuming the co-marketing will include social in addition to email (and it should), this audience could introduce you to a lot of new potential customers.
Remember, their email database and the social following should include your perfect target prospects. Numbers are important, but alignment and targeting are more important.
Ability to execute – This is important and one that sometimes gets ignored. You’re going to need them to do an equal amount of work when it comes to marketing your program. If they don’t have someone to handle this, it’s not going to get done. If they don’t have the tools to handle this, it’s not going to get done. If they don’t have someone to champion and lead this work on their end, it’s not going to get done.
You won’t see the lift from their part of the marketing. The effort won’t produce the results you’re looking for. Even if you hand them a marketing kit “in a box,” my experience has been it won’t get done if they don’t have the people, the time and the commitment to get it done.
Long-term focused, multiple events – We mentioned some of the different types of joint marketing programs available to you. When you’re looking at partners, it’s better to think long-term.
What types of programs can you do with your partners? Are they open to doing multiple programs a year? Are they interested in other more creative programs besides joint webinars or events?
There should be alignment. You might have a great partner that ONLY wants to do webinars, and that’s fine. You might have another partner that is more open to doing different types of programs over the course of the year. Just know what you can and can’t do so you can plan accordingly.
Referral opportunities – Besides creating great content and highly desirable events, your partner marketing should lead to business. If you can get some direct referrals from your partner, that’s going to be better, faster and more lucrative than even leads generated as a result of your joint marketing programs.
Again, I wouldn’t rule out partners that won’t provide direct referrals, but it’s worth talking about early and gauging their interest in that level of partnership.
Step 3 – Planning Your Programs
Once you pick your partner or partners, you can start planning your programs. Because of all the parties involved, partner marketing usually takes 50% longer than marketing you do on your own.
Pick a launch date and work backward.
If you want to do an event in January, pick a date and work backward, planning out each and every step required to get that event live. Do this reverse engineering with your partner and make sure they can commit to the dates.
After reviewing the schedule, it might become obvious that January is too aggressive and you should shoot for February. Agree on the schedule, agree on the steps and agree on the assignments. If you do all of that, you should have agreed on the overall plan.
In addition, schedule regular huddles between the two primary people responsible for the program. They can be less frequent in the beginning, but as you get near the program launch date, the huddles should become more frequent, even daily as you get close.
This is going to ensure both companies are working closely together and that the program has no issues.
When it comes to marketing the program, consider as many channels as possible. You’ll want to cross-promote it with every tool in the tool kit.
Of course, email marketing might carry a heavy lift, but social media, influencer, website promotions, blog articles and even leveraging sales reps or service reps to share the program with prospects and customers can be helpful.
Looking at all of the different channels available will help you come up with specific marketing tasks required to leverage the channels and give you the detailed task list of what’s required to launch the marketing campaigns.
For example, if you’re going to leverage the blog, you’ll need blog articles on relevant topics and CTAs for the related articles. This means design, copy and maybe some interactive resources.
The more detailed you are for each of the channels and the campaigns assigned to those channels, the better your joint marketing program will perform.
Remember, you need twice as much of everything – marketing assets for your company and marketing assets for your partner company. It probably makes sense for you to work closely on the copy and the design across both companies to make sure it’s similar enough to tell the same compelling story.
Step 5 – Following Up On Your Program
Once the program is over, the hard work isn’t done. Now you have to follow up and take advantage of the new people you were introduced to, the new visitors to your website and the new contacts in your database.
You don’t want to attack these people. They don’t know you yet. Even though they know your partner, they’re still wary of you.
Consider emailing them a follow-up note. If you did an event, not everyone who registered attended. This is a good opportunity to deliver a recording of the event for those who missed it. Be helpful, not pushy or salesy.
If they converted on research or shared content, perhaps send a short survey asking them about their challenges in a particular area may give you additional insight on how you might be helpful.
You could also suggest additional content based on the content you jointly promoted.
The key here is to attempt to move them along their buyer journey and get them to signal intent to you based on your follow-up communication.
I wouldn’t make this an endless string of communications. We like to run post-program follow-up in a series of three. If after three touches they’re not engaged, then move on. I’d continue to include them in any general marketing communication but end the designed program follow-up and let them know it’s ending.
If your offers are solid and they’re actually interested in what you do, they’ll find you and schedule more time to talk with you and your team.
Step 6 – Measuring The Success Of Your Events
This is big. What gets measured gets done, and you shouldn’t be doing any marketing that isn’t measurable.
There are a couple of different ways to look at metrics for partner marketing programs. I think they’re all relevant, and depending on your perspective, you can mix and match or carve out specifics to report back to your leadership on the success of your partner activities.
Let’s go back to our goals for doing partner marketing in the beginning:
- You want to introduce your company to new people – people who fit your targeting criteria and match your best customers.
- You want to get those people engaged and aware of your company, your products, your services and your story.
- You want to get those people to reach out and request additional information so you learn more about them.
- You want to generate sales opportunities from this group of new people.
- You want to convert those sales opportunities into new customers and new revenue.
- You want to create a program that is scalable, repeatable and predictable for the delivery of new sales opportunities, new customers and new revenue.
If those goals are true, the metrics should be aligned with those goals.
To report back on the first goal, I’d measure the total audience for overall partner marketing initiatives and for individual partner marketing efforts. This would include database size numbers and overall audience numbers.
Goal 1 – Email database of 10,000 and social audience of 5,000; total new audience introduced to your company would be 15,000. I’d report on a quarterly basis the total new audience introduced to your company.
Goal 2 – This number would be the number of new people who attended your webinar, opened your emails, watched your videos, listened to your podcast, subscribed to future episodes or downloaded your co-sponsored content. I’d report on this right after your program launches and then again after any follow-up marketing runs its course.
Goal 3 – This is the number of new people who came back to your website or online assets as a result of your partner program. This might be harder to track, but because you have the names of the people from goal 2, you should be able to attribute their activity to your partner’s marketing program. I recommend reporting on this month after the partner marketing activity has wrapped up.
Goal 4 – This is easy to track. All new sales opportunities are attributed to the partner marketing initiatives. This should be reported weekly. If partner marketing is an ongoing initiative with multiple activities over time, I recommend reporting on cumulative sales opportunities generated and attribute sales opportunities to specific partner marketing activities, too.
Goal 5 – This is also easy. As these opportunities close, apply a similar attribution reporting model to the number of new customers and the revenue associated with these new customers on a cumulative and activity-specific basis.
Goal 6 – This too should be straightforward. If the partner marketing activities can scale, then month over month you should see these metrics increasing based on various joint marketing campaigns that are running.
It should be very clear if these initiatives are paying off or falling flat. If you want to mitigate the risk, start small with a single partner and measure the success of that one effort. Don’t kill the entire program if that one effort doesn’t work out but do adjust what you think caused it to underperform and give it at least two other attempts.
If after three tries it’s not working, then I’d consider the effort exhausted and move on to other options.
I’d also be honest with your own abilities to execute. If you’ve never done programs like this before, it might take a few tries before you get it right. Give your company an opportunity to learn, grow and expand its capabilities.
Partner marketing initiatives are important ways to grow your database, generate leads and create new highly targeted sales opportunities for your sales team. Take the time to learn how to make it work and you’ll be rewarded.
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