Whether you are selling one hundred percent online, have a brick and mortar location, or primarily sell services, it is essential to have a robust marketing campaign if you expect to win over prospects and successfully grow your business. To get a leg up, it takes beating the competition at their own game, and sometimes even working with them to get the job done. A robust marketing campaign can be very expensive to manage on your own. To reach new market segments, boost business, and drive growth, it can be helpful to build partnerships into your marketing plan.  Partnership marketing involves collaborating with other businesses with the aim of creating a mutually beneficial marketing campaign that helps everyone involved meet their business objectives.

Why Partnership Marketing Benefits Small Business

If you’re a small business owner, you’re at a disadvantage in many respects, often having to work twice as hard to prove yourself in a sometimes-volatile market. Even if you know how best to market your company, you may not always have resources to make it happen right away. Partnership marketing is a way to strategically build your business without doing all the leg work yourself. Collaborations with other businesses also builds rapport with them. Growing your company is expensive, but partnership marketing is a cost-effective approach any small business can take on with the right plan.

Pros of Partnership Marketing

Not only can collaboration fuel success, but it can also create strategic partnerships that can build your business in other ways. Rather than putting your business in direct competition with other businesses, it helps highlight the important role of working together. It puts you in position to help them down the road as well.

Here are a few of the benefits that might help you decide to jump on the partnership marketing bandwagon:

  • Expands the breadth of your target audience
  • Increases exposure
  • Broadens scope of strategy
  • Creates variety in marketing
  • Saves money
  • Identifies new market segments and customers

Partnership marketing programs can develop into cross-company collaborations, which strengthen both businesses. Leveraging partnership marketing in the right way can be the key to pushing your business into new growth sectors more easily.

Best Practices for Partnership Marketing for Small Business

As a small business owner, the hardest part of partnership marketing is identifying the types of marketing that work best for you and your partners. Partnerships are unique in that the end goal must benefit both businesses. Some of the best collaborations are those that build mutual dependence on one another to meet a common goal, such as:

  • Direct affiliate marketing to target a mutual audience (like Groupon)
  • Retention marketing through loyalty programs, including product and service discounts that marketing partners can offer
  • Bundling products and services with distribution partners (coupon, demos, giveaways, etc.)
  • Partnering with a company that offers products in an industry unique to your business that can be labeled to carry your brand
  • Aligning with charitable organizations to develop licensing and product placement

Business partnerships increase visibility and build each brand so customers can develop loyalty to them. With a small business, you need a loyal following to build a referral pipeline and develop strategies for growth at a price you can afford.

Inbound Versus Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing draws prospects to you, whereas outbound marketing (think PPC) is designed to push opportunities out to your prospects. In the long run, inbound works much better than outbound because your prospects come to know, like, and trust you. As you convert prospects into paying customers, their referrals become far more valuable than ‘feeding the meter’ with push marketing tactics that don’t offer this value add.

Some of the best inbound techniques include:

Email Marketing

Marketing products and services to customers via email helps build your reach towards target markets. Email has a 40+ % return on investment for capturing leads. Customers can be drawn into learning about your business and your partner through compelling content that both adds value to the customer and introduces both businesses to them. The more people know about the partnership businesses you work with, the more responsive they are likely to be.

Social Media

You can drum up so much business online through engagement with your audiences in the right marketing campaign. Sure, you have to build it first, which takes time, but it’s a built-in sales funnel once you do. Social media allows you to answer questions, learn about specials, and find out about new goings-on. Cross-posting, sharing, and developing a partnership is easier when using Twitter and LinkedIn to share material from a partner company.

Guest Blogging

One of the easiest ways to develop a partnership marketing scheme is to build it into your blog. Inbound marketing, like blogging, increases visibility. Small business owners can write on their partners’ blogs and find customers they might not otherwise discover. For instance, freelance writers can direct their copy toward prospects interested in graphic design or marketing by writing about driving visibility or creating a better website.

Identifying Strategic Marketing Partnerships

When you look at building a strategic partnership, develop a list of potential brands and companies that align with your strategic growth plan. Look for companies who share the same value proposition and are in a similar stage of growth. Select ones that makes sense to your customers and theirs. Be sure to find common ground between your brands. Everyone must win for it to work. Key things to consider:

  • Find brands of equal value to yours that will also benefit from a relationship
  • Find a way for each of you to match each other and grow
  • The consumer must understand the connection right away for it to work

Don’t get stuck in partnerships that don’t mutually benefit everyone involved. The more time you spend vetting possible partnerships, the better off you’ll be.