Is your brand active in partner marketing? By partner marketing, I mean creating mutually beneficial relationships between your brand and other businesses — like publishers, communities and brands. In these relationships, your brand pays for traffic and sales driven by your partners. The partnership is a fast-growing marketing sector. That growth is coming from both first-timer marketers creating their first partner marketing strategies as well as veteran partner marketing teams exploring new types of alliances to drive even faster growth.
Whatever your stage in employing performance partnerships for your business, it is important to seek the right partners for your brand. As with any relationship, the characteristics that make an ideal partner can be challenging to articulate. To help you identify great partners for your business, consider these five qualities when evaluating partner fit.
Scale And Incrementality
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is the extent to which a partner can deliver scale. Can it drive sufficient traffic and sales to warrant your time and attention? Creating and managing a partnership requires investment on your part — make sure that the partner can deliver sufficient sales to warrant that investment.
Beyond the sheer size of the company or its audience, consider potential incremental reach. Evaluate to what extent a partner can reach and attract new customers and customer segments. Perhaps a potential partner can open up new communities for you. Imagine, for example, that you’ve always wanted to be able to appeal to millennials but haven’t yet cracked the case. A potential partner that appeals to this massive and growing audience might be just the tool you need to drive significant incremental sales. That’s a partnership worth exploring.
Great partners often have great alignment in whom they target. For example, if both your brand and its partners are geared toward working mothers or college students, it makes sense for one brand to drive its consumers to the other. That’s when audience alignment truly becomes a benefit to all parties — including prospective buyers, who may find that the partnership helps them find products they need more easily.
When I talk about audience alignment for partners, I don’t mean strictly demographic groups or audience segments. It’s more about making sure you are thinking about who needs both products.
Look for brands that share consistent values with your own. Consumers these days are drawn to brands that work toward more than financial profit, and that drives loyalty. Many brands are driven to stand for something beyond their concrete offerings.
For partners, shared values can be extremely beneficial, as they afford consumers the opportunity to double down on their support for a cause. Other considerations for values alignment include company reputation, international business practices and attitudes toward technology and innovation. Similarly, a great partner can help you play catch up with the desired trait. For example, a car company that partners with a technology company may help crystallize consumer perceptions of its own tech credibility.
Relatability Of Categories
Similar to the concept of audience alignment, brands should seek partners in categories that are relatable to their own. The partnership is collaborative, and you want to attract collaborators that can drive strong sales for you. The combined value proposition of partnership is greater when the two companies offer related benefits.
Relatability doesn’t mean brands have to be in the same category or vertical to partner. But there needs to be some commonality between them. To use an extreme example, a partnership between an educational publisher and a parent-teacher organization likely has a great deal more relevance than a partnership with a sports team.
Pricing Strategy Sync
While it’s not necessary that products or services from partners be comparably priced, partnerships often work best when each company’s pricing strategy is similar. Brands and communities that appeal to bargain shoppers, for example, are likely to appeal to similar buyers. On a similar note, luxury brand partnerships also frequently perform well.
Imagine, for example, a status luggage company partnering with a frequent-flier program to make special offers to their platinum-status travellers. Since both offerings are about delivering a better travel experience, there’s good alignment. By contrast, an airline that lives and breathes heavily discounted family travel would likely not be a great partner for that luxury luggage. It’s all about fit.
Once you’ve evaluated and identified a great potential partner, you need to put a program in place that’s mutually beneficial. The value you deliver to that partner comes in part from the revenue they earn cross-selling your goods. But it’s also about paying off the relationship in brand value and in being committed enough to the pairing to allow it to grow. You want to ensure that the marriage is as good as the courtship. And as with a good marriage, if you’re going to be successful, that value exchange needs to be a two-way street.