Partnership Marketing

by Dane Cobain Published Author, Freelance Writer, and Poet

Table of Contents

What is Partnership Marketing?

Partnership marketing is a collaborative effort between two or more brands to achieve a common goal. It can be as simple as working together to share customers and creating some content together or as complex as creating a joint product or service. 

Main types of Partnership Marketing

There are a number of different types of partnership marketing and they all work in slightly different ways.  Here’s a quick overview of the main ones:

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing where the business offers a commission to the source of the traffic either for leads, conversions or some other agreed goal.

Cause marketing

A cause partnership is a collaboration between a non-profit organization and a for-profit business for mutual benefit. Today’s consumers expect brands to be socially responsible and this is one way brands meet those expectations.

Co-branding

Co-branding is when two or more brands appear on a product or service. Co-branded credit cards are a common example.

Content Partnership

A content partnership is when two or more brands come together to create content together.  This could be a blog post, a podcast and e-book or, more commonly video.

Cross promotion

Is where one brand promotes another through their marketing channels and vice-versa.  It can be as simple as each brand sending out an offer to their mailing list or in a bricks and mortar business it could be handing out a discount coupon at point of sale for the partner business.

Distribution Partnership

Distribution partnership marketing is where one brand makes use of another brands sales channels to promote their own products and services.  Distribution here refers to the Place P in the 4 Ps of marketing – not necessarily a distribution business. Examples would be the Google Kit Kat campaign which featured invitations to Google Play on Kit Kat wrappers or where one company offers discounted software from other companies as a perk to their users.

Event Partnership

An event partnership is where two or more brands hire a venue to put on an event or get together to host a webinar.  All brands participating benefit from exposure to each brand’s customer lists and splitting the costs for hosting the event.  Also by having multiple brands participating together the overall value of the event is often much more interesting for the audience.

Experiential Partnership

Experiential marketing directly involves the consumer in a brand experience.  When two or more brands work together they can often create a more powerful experience for the consumer.  Refinery 29 has created a powerful experience with their 29 Rooms which consists of 29 curated rooms which attendees can interact with.  Each room is created by one of their brand partners.

Licensing Partnership

A licensing partnership is where one company licenses brand assets and IP from another.  The licensor benefits from an additional revenue stream and the licensee benefits from being able to utilize a valuable brand they don’t need to build themselves from scratch.

Loyalty Partnership

A loyalty partnership is when brands come together to create value for their loyal customers.  Airline rewards programs are some of the most well known programs with a large array of brands working together.  But there’s plenty of room for smaller programs like the Hilton and Lyft partnership.

Product placement

Also known as embedded marketing is where a product is deliberately placed in another work as a form of promotion. It’s most often discussed in relation to Hollywood movies but products can be placed in television series, theatre, music videos, video games and books.

Shared stores

Often referred to as a store-within-a-store or a concession stand.  One partner gets to enhance their in-store experience and the other partner benefits from the existing traffic and brand halo of the host.  These partnerships can be short-lived popups or long term sub-leases or revenue sharing partnerships.

Sponsorship

Also known as a paid partnership.  Over the years sponsorship had become a bit of a dirty word because it was clearly an exchange of money or products/services in exchange for being associated with a brand.  Modern sponsorship agreements are much more customized and involve a lot more partnership activities than just getting eyeballs on a brand.

The examples with large brands are there for reference only, partnership marketing is something that is available to businesses of all sizes and can be one of the more accessible forms of marketing.

How to launch a partnership marketing campaign?

Set your Goals

  • Define what you’re after, more brand awareness, more leads?
  • Setup the metrics and how you will track them

Select the type of partnership marketing that suits you

  • Start with what’s easy.  If you have a large email list, you might want to choose a cross-promotion campaign via email.  If you have a large and engaged social following then a social media competition might before you
  • Define the value you will bring to the partnership eg. I have an email list of 9000 with an open rate of 30%

Find potential partners

  • If your business is hyper-local you can probably just walk up and down the street or around the neighboring blocks to find suitable businesses to partner with
  • If your business is purely or mostly online then hop on Google or LinkedIn and search for businesses that target the same demographics that yours does and make sure that they don’t directly compete with you.
  • Come prepared and start the conversation with your basic plan, but be open to listen to their suggestions.
  • To find potential partners or campaigns to join you can use a partnership marketing platform.

Run your campaign

  • Set defined start and finish dates – even if it’s an ongoing campaign break it into regular milestones
  • Communicate with your partner throughout

Measure results

  • I would do this periodically, not just at the end so that you can course correct if needed
  • Don’t be afraid to scrap the idea and try something new if it’s not working.

For inspiration, you can view this huge list of partnership marketing examples.


Suggested mentors to help you make sense of Partnership Marketing

Jason Barbato

Growth, Inbound, Product Marketer. Advisor and Mentor. Former Best-In-Class Enterprise Growth Hacker at IBM.

Currently a SaaS and startup growth consultant and Senior Director of Growth at HYPR. Former VP of Growth at Orange Pegs, an award-winning growth agency. From 2016-2019 I developed, launched, and scaled a $40M+ growth hacking program at IBM, running 200+ experiments across the Cloud marketplace.

Nick Schwinghamer

Former Director of Growth, Operations and Partnerships

I’ve got a wide range of leadership experience across product, growth, partnerships, operations and engineering teams in companies large and small. I co-founded a company that was acquired, was an early employee at a now public company, and helped Shopify grow into a world leader.

Andreea Macoveiciuc

Content Marketing Manager @ Harver | Content Strategist @ School of Content | Front End Developer

I’m a content strategist and marketer working mostly with SaaS companies. I prefer early-stage startups and scaleups, but I’m happy to support established companies as well. Happy to guide on ABM/inbound methodologies, as well as marketing vision, strategy, or team setup.

Also an expert in:

Ari Bencuya

Entrepreneur and Start-up Mentor

Hi everyone! I’m a serial entrepreneur and start-up founder. I’ve started multiple companies and have had the fortune to sell a few. I’ve also been on the other side of the table as a partner at an incubator/accelerator. I’ve love talking about start-ups and solving problems. Let’s talk!

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