The sixth in our series of ‘Essential business tips’ covers affinity or partnership marketing. Building an audience can be expensive, time-consuming and hard work, but by partnering with another organisation or brand you may be able to reach your target audiences faster and more cost-effectively. You could also broaden your reach and gain powerful endorsement for your brand, product or service. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Tip 1 - Target established businesses with access to your potential customers
Look outside your industry for examples of successful partnerships you can replicate.
- Ryan Leighton, CEO, Leightons Group
Partnership marketing is the process of finding and working with strategic partners who already have access to your target audience. Usually this involves brands, products or services that are not competing with your business, but have a complementary nature.
In 2015, marketing industry bible The Drum reported on the launch of the UK’s first partnership panel. You can find out more about the panel and join its LinkedIn group here. One of the founder members, Mediator, commissioned a White Paper to look at the role of partnership marketing.
- Both brands can reach a bigger and broader audience
- Adding value to your consumer proposition
- Enhancing your brand perception – tapping into the brand values of your chosen partner(s)
Let’s look at a recent high-profile example.
Red Bull (energy drink) and GoPro (action cameras) recently cemented a very successful partnership with an even closer affiliation. Red Bull’s well-established connection to the world of extreme sports is a perfect match for GoPro’s point-of-view imaging technology. The two brands reflect each other’s energy and values. Both firms’ founders are confident about the partnership. Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull said it would amplify the collective international reach of both brands, while Nicolas Woodman of GoPro claimed the match was ‘as good as it gets.’
Tip 2 - Research your target market
If you are operating on a limited budget, partnerships should be the first thing on your marketing to-do list.
- Xaver Matt, Managing Director, Netleadz & Angel Investor
It’s important to pick the right brand to partner with. Ask yourself:
- Are their services or products relevant to your target audience?
- Are their values and ethics aligned with yours?
- What can your brand bring to theirs?
The best collaborations aren’t always the most obvious ones, so don’t hesitate to expand your thinking. Research the content, products and services that your target audiences consume. Sometimes buying choices and brand associations are surprising.
One marketing professional, Christina Richardson, turned her hand to helping start-up brands through her business, Brand Gathering. Brand Gathering puts brands together so that they can flex their collective marketing muscle-power. If you’re a start-up this could be a good way to find like-minded partners.
Once you know who you want to approach, find out more about their marketing activity. Before you get in touch, work up some ideas about how your two brands could collaborate and what the benefits would be.
There are several ways of making contact – you could follow your target brand on social media, liking their posts and posting about your brand on their page. Once there’s a dialogue, send a private message to open discussions. Alternatively, find out who handles their public relations or marketing, and approach them.
Tip 3 - Start with simple initiatives to kick-start your partnerships
Simple APIs are a great way to hook new partners and gain instant access to their audiences.
- Nick Lyons, CEO, Kaptur Software
Social media is a great way to put a toe in the water when it comes to collaboration. If the other brand is in agreement, you could create a Facebook or Twitter campaign to assess interest, or collaborate on a series of blogs that you jointly promote. Once you have established a good relationship, you can move onto more ambitious joint marketing campaigns.
It’s important to be clear on your objectives when discussing opportunities with new brand partners. Sometimes, for example, an established brand will want to tap into the vibe of a new and edgy brand, attracting younger customers or challenging audience perceptions. On the other hand, a less well-known brand may want to associate itself with the heritage and ‘story’ of a more established brand in order to reach a customer demographic that values tradition. Or two brands, like Uber and Spotify, that are very similar in terms of audience size and demographic may unite to strengthen their message and become more valuable to existing customers.
Tip 4 - Use data and insights to maximise benefits
Partnering with Zoopla increased our audiences tenfold overnight, gaining us vital user data to refine our proposition.
- Barry Bridger, CEO, Propertydetective.com
Never underestimate the power of data. The more you know about your brand’s performance, reach, reputation and audiences, the more successful your future marketing will be. The right collaborations will gain you valuable insights into all these areas that you can feed into your development pipeline and use to hone your marketing strategy.
Once you have agreed the metrics by which you will assess your co-marketing campaign, you can gather and drill down into the data, comparing the success of joint activity with solo campaigns.
If either of you find your objectives were not met by the first campaign, now’s the time to understand why and decide whether there’s an opportunity to take a different approach next time based on your new knowledge.
With the right collaborations and the right objectives and methodology, partnership marketing can expand your brand’s reach while helping your budget go much further.
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