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Effective Partnership Marketing

Partnership Marketing

On a warm fall day, about 100 cars descended on a small farm in rural Minnesota where signs along the highway promised “vintage finds.” On arrival, you could see a couple large barns, food trucks and an assortment of people wandering among artsy and antique items for sale.

The emergence of these “pop-up” retail events is a classic example of partnership marketing. Several businesses pool their marketing resources to cross-promote for the benefit of all.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work…

Partnership marketing can be done badly, leaving one partner or just a few with success while the others get a participation medal. To make a partnership marketing opportunity the best it can be, do the following:

1. Choose the right partner.

If you are a manufacturer, do not partner with another manufacturer unless your markets are complementary. Professionals, likewise, should partner with a strong referral source. You can even choose to partner with a media outlet if they offer programs in which they do all the marketing for the purposes of meeting new potential advertisers that the event attracts.

2. Align your goals.

Make sure you are on the same page with the reasons for your partnership. If your partner is only interested in your clients and you get nothing out of it, it’s worthless. Talk about the potential audience and if that audience is beneficial to both of you. Make sure each partner is guaranteed some level of success with visibility, networking or sales leads.

3. Have a hook.

Why should people spend their time attending your event or paying attention to your campaign? What’s in it for them? You could play host to an attractive guest speaker or panel. We’ve seen instances where companies partner to host a popular author for a book signing. Others may co-host a charity outing. You must provide value to gain value.

4. Choose an attractive venue.

If your office is a terrible meeting place, do not force people to go there. They won’t. Choose a comfortable location that is set up well for mingling, listening to speakers or entertainment. Talk to a meeting planner about how to maximize attendance (e.g. date and time of event).

5. Promote heavily.

In addition to advertising, use your social media and direct invites effectively. People are busy, and they usually need to see something several times before they will pay attention and/or sign up. If your partnership campaign is a series of expert videos or podcasts, for example, continuous promotion will start to reach a percentage of your target audience. One announcement is not enough. Also, make sure your invite list is large. Only a percentage will commit.

6. Position your company.

As a partner, your company should be central as sponsor or host. Create signage, use your logo strategically and have people from your company positioned as greeters, experts or both to ensure that everyone knows or gets to know your business. This is not a hard sell situation. Through advertising of the event or campaign all the way through the marketing process, your company should stand out and get people to opt in to future communications.

7. Outsource logistics.

You don’t have time to worry about food, security, the sign-up table or the technology. Put your best vendors or people on key tasks to pull off a seamless partnership event. Your job is to mingle, educate and gather new contacts. A great advantage is splitting the cost of logistics with your partner.

8. Follow up with leads.

After all the work of conducting partnership marketing, do not forget to have a follow-up plan. Whether that’s a fishbowl drawing to collect business cards or an online contact capture tool, be prepared to collect actual names and contact them later.

Christine NelsonChristine Nelson is a senior communications consultant with Ingenuity Marketing Group in St. Paul, Minn. They work with service-based firms nationally on strategies like partnership marketing and brand visibility. You can reach her at or @INGmarketing.