More than ever, there is a significant amount of interest in partnerships within the marketing space. However, many feel that these partnerships will garner immediate results—which leads to unreasonable expectations, dissatisfaction, and potentially the failure of the partnership.
Businesses can set up and implement very successful partnerships, but the process is long-term and the vision should be as well. Quick results should be viewed as a bonus, not the norm.
What is a Marketing Partnership?
A marketing partnership typically brings together companies with common prospects, industry focuses, and complimentary services. Bringing these complimentary services together tend to service the needs of clients for both companies involved in the partnership.
Think of peanut butter and jelly—complimentary, not necessarily competing. Both work alone, but both are better together. These entities join forces for mutual marketing and sales, usually within a specific market sector or for specific prospects. This does not mean they lose their individual identity. More than likely, each will continue to market and sell outside the partnership.
Examples of joint marketing activities may include:
- Creating joint marketing materials
- Joint direct mail, email or advertising campaigns
- Joint sales calls
- Referring of prospects
- Potentially combining services, talents, and assets to create new services
An example of a potential marketing partnership would be a web design company with clients looking for the integration of video into their websites. Finding a good video partner augments their service offering, and meets the needs of their clients. In theory, by combining forces, these professionals can coordinate and help provide an end-to-end solution without the potential of conflict, jealousy, or competition. And, again, each benefits from wider exposure and more referrals.
Virtually, every company has opportunities to create marketing partnerships. Although the most visible partnerships involve large, publicly traded companies, partnerships offer tremendous potential for even the smallest of companies or single practitioners.
What a Marketing Partnership is Not
A marketing partnership is neither a quick fix for sales problems, nor a way to eliminate the burden of marketing and sales.
In a partnership, both parties must assume responsibility for marketing the joint venture. A partner who expects to ride on the back of the other partner will quickly find himself alone. Likewise, if one of the parties holds on too tightly to their own clients, prospects, or market space, I don’t think they’re truly invested in the partnership.
How to Start a Grand Partnership
When considering a partnership, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s your reputation—make sure you own it
Find partners with similar missions and vision. Too often, the technology, or market share, or bottom line dollars are too attractive to pass up. However, if you get in partnership with someone who will not represent you well, or one you can’t trust, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the long run. Each partner’s reputation “rubs off” on the other.
Careful selection of partners can rapidly establish a relatively new company or professional as an expert or serious player within their local industry. Likewise, poorly selected partners can just as quickly damage a reputation.
- Provide value to your partners
Partnerships are a two-way street. It’s not all about you, your needs, and your clients. Being able to provide true value to your partner, their clients, and their prospects will greatly improve the likelihood of making the partnership successful. Many times, you’ll have to sell them on the idea that the partnership will produce real benefit for them, not just for you. In addition, they will not want a new free “soft” service to provide their customers. They will want a real profit benefit.
Be prepared to give before you receive.
- Consider the long haul
If you’re the initiator, be committed. You may need to assume responsibility for its success. You may need to initially do much of the heavy lifting needed. You will be dealing with people who may like the concept and want it to work, but they will be skeptical, or uneducated on the value proposition, or simply not versed in your area of expertise.
Not everyone is a visionary who can see the value of this partnership. You see it—now “sell” it to your partners. And immediate success always helps with vision.
Many, if not most, marketing partnerships fail to live up to their promise because the initiating partner forms the partnership with unrealistic expectations. If you are looking for a quick fix to sales problems, an easy way to get business, or are looking for a one-way referral connection, a marketing partnership is not the answer.
If you are committed to building a long-term partnership that can vastly increase the prospecting and marketing capabilities for all concerned—and eventually the sales pipeline—a well-constructed marketing partnership can work wonders. Having vision, and realistic expectations, along with a plan for succeeding will greatly improve your partnership’s chances.