What Is Partner Marketing?

Illustrated puzzle pieces connecting

Partner marketing, commonly referred to as partnership marketing, is a collaboration in which two brands work together to promote one another’s products or services. These two companies are usually similar enough to attract related audiences, but different enough that each company can bring in new customers for the other. That way, both partners add to their value propositions.

Types of Partner Marketing Opportunities

Partnership marketing is actually an overarching category that can be broken down into several distinct marketing strategies. Each type of partner marketing involves a collaboration between related (but not competing) brands.

Consider the following examples:

1. Affiliate Marketing

Publishers feature links to brand partners’ sites. When a customer clicks a link and the brand makes a sale, the publisher gets paid.

2. Content Partnerships

Brands work together to create and produce content. Sometimes one brand produces the content and the other distributes it. Other times, the entire project is a collaboration.

3. Distribution Partnerships

One partner bundles another company’s products into its own distribution or agrees to cross-promote that other company’s products, often with exclusive discounts involved. In-store demonstrations are a common type of distribution partnership.

4. Loyalty Partnerships

One brand offers discounts on its products as rewards within another brand’s loyalty program. This drives sales for the promoting brand and increases customers' use of the loyalty program.

5. Joint Products

Two companies work together to create a new product that neither would be able to create on their own. This includes tech products “powered by” big-name providers like Microsoft or Google.

Companies that “white label” their products—selling or leasing them to a partner brand that distributes those products under their name—is another example of a joint product strategy. This is different from the collaborative product launch, in which companies leverage the marketing power of both brands to generate buzz.

6. Licensing

One brand sells the use of its products and brand image to another. The seller indicates which brand assets the purchaser is allowed to use, and the purchaser gains the benefit of the original brand’s marketing power and reputation.

7. Product placement

One brand highlights another in its media content. This is most famously done when a series or film uses a brand’s physical products, but conferences, white papers, and case studies can also place a partner’s products.

Influencer marketing is another increasingly popular mode of product placement. Social media influencers can leverage their following to recommend a brand or product to a wider audience, while using that brand’s market power to grow their own reach.

Benefits of Partnership Marketing

It’s a competitive market out there, but that doesn’t mean that it’s “every brand for itself.” With partnership marketing, brands can join forces with other businesses that have complementary audiences, each benefiting from one another’s reach and resources.

Here are just a few ways that partnership marketing strategies can benefit brands in any industry.

Boosting Marketing Power

Partnership marketing means that companies are no longer limited by their own marketing budgets or the number of people they employ. Each joint effort involves marketing and dollars from both organizations.

Mutual Promotion

In a partnership marketing campaign, both companies are essentially standing behind one another’s brand. The effect is similar to that of referral programs, which marketers rate as the second most promising source for quality leads. Partnership marketing communicates a brand’s trust in the other company and the quality of its products or services, and vice versa.

Reaching High-Potential Audiences

Engaging in partnership marketing eliminates many of the difficulties inherent in building an audience from scratch. An ideal partner company already has a relationship with a brand’s target audience. By speaking through that relationship, the brand can quickly gain a level of trust and interest that would be impossible with cold marketing.

Offering More Value

Partnership marketing lets both companies offer more value to their customers. For the host company, the message is, “We care about your success, so here’s a product/service we think you’ll love.” For the visiting brand, the value proposition is more along the lines of “You’re interested in X, so here’s how you can benefit from what we have to offer.”

Tips for Great Partner Marketing Plans

Partnership marketing is like any other marketing strategy. To succeed, it’s crucial to have a goal in mind and design the arrangement in pursuit of that goal. Here's how to get started:

1. Find an Ideal Match

To succeed in partnership marketing, it’s important for collaborations to be between businesses with complementary interests. That means avoiding direct competitors. Two businesses in a partnership shouldn’t be competing for the same market share.

That said, it’s equally important to avoid partnerships between companies completely unrelated to one another. In cases like these, there’s less of a chance that one company’s customers would also be interested in the other’s product.

Look for a match that’s somewhere in between.

2. Pick the Best Channels

After picking a partner, the next step is to select a partnership effort that will showcase both brands most effectively. Both companies should come out looking better and more engaging than if either were involved in the effort on their own.

One great example of how this works is the content partnership between GoPro and Red Bull, which began with the joint sponsorship of a record-breaking 24-mile freefall in 2012. Four years later, the companies had formalized a global partnership, with Red Bull sponsoring events and GoPro providing the immersive camera footage that engaged audiences.

This was a perfect company match and a great choice of media. Video content highlighted the capabilities of the GoPro camera, and the quality of GoPro’s footage increased the excitement of the event footage and boosted Red Bull’s signal.

3. Communicate with Your Partner

All relationships take work, and partnership marketing is no exception. Before signing any agreements, it’s key to talk with a potential marketing partner about both brands’ goals for the professional relationship.

Discuss each company’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs. See where one’s weaknesses meet the other’s strengths and vice versa. Offer ideas about how both companies can complement one another.

Most importantly, don’t let the conversation stop after you formalize the partnership. Gather data on each joint marketing effort to evaluate its success, and set the trajectory of the partnership accordingly.

Building Your Next Partnership

At CallRail, industry partners play a key role in marketing and publicity efforts.

There are opportunities available at nearly every level, from Bronze up to Diamond, spanning the following categories:

  • Co-marketing, including guest post backlinks, case study features, co-marketing campaigns, and joint press releases
  • Reselling and co-branded sales
  • Product beta testing and participation in feedback sessions
  • Community participation and thought leadership opportunities

CallRail has already partnered with a broad range of dynamic marketing and media agencies including SmartBug, SalesX, and SMB Team. Whether or not you've been involved in partnership marketing before, get in touch today and find out how we can work together.