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3 Crazy Simple Steps to Partnership Marketing that Pays off

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Partnership Marketing: Cross Promotion that makes sense for everyone involved

“Strategic Partnerships”.  It’s one of those terms that corporate folks throw out in the same breath as “Drinking the Kool-Aid” or *sigh* “Giving 110%”. When it’s actually used in the correct context, it’s a powerful concept. When it’s used the way MOST people use it (which is- of course-  as a way to try to impress other people who use the term “Open the Kimono”), it’s an obvious cry for attention. Let’s be one of the people who gets it right!

For example, I have spoken with other marketing companies who forge partnerships with sales coaches, and hoteliers that have strategic alliances with boat rental companies. In each partnership, they both target the same (or at least very similar) audiences, but they sell complimentary products or services that don’t compete with each other. When they partner up, they can not only bring each other very qualified leads, but also super-serve their clients by bringing them trusted partners to serve them well. It’s win-win (which is another one of those cliches, I know.)

This all might seem pretty simple and elementary, but surprisingly few companies actually take advantage of what is essentially a very easy way to slash  your promotional workload, and that’s a shame because most of the companies who do commit to “Partnership Marketing”…and who make sure that they hold up their part of the partnership, tend to have a noticeable jump in their business!

Today I want to share 3 VERY easy steps to starting your own Partnership Marketing Program in the next 2 weeks.

1. Make a list of 6 services (other than your own) that your customers are likely to need.

If you are a business coach, chances are that your clients also need accountants. If you are a restaurant that caters to tourists, obviously hotels would count. If you build and install custom cabinets, a local company that installs back splashes would make a great partner. Don’t over think this- just write down 6 services that “make sense” and won’t compete directly with you for spend. Don’t think of any more than 6 at this point or it will turn into a black hole that sucks up way too much time and energy. 6 gives you all you will need to start, and by the time we finish this process, you’re going to cut that six down anyways.

2.  “Assign” 1 business nearby for each category, preferably one that either  YOU know, or that your clients have recommended.

Chances are – assuming you aren’t a brand new start up at least- that you already know people who either own or work at companies that fit into at least a couple of your 6 categories. Are they the kinds of people/companies that you would be proud to recommend to your clients? Have your own clients ever mentioned a great experience with them? If so, put their name next to the category that fits.

If you DON’T have an “in” or at least a recommendation from a client about any of the 6 categories, then go ahead and delete that category. When it’s all said and done, we only want to build 1 or 2 partnerships at a time anyways!

I can already hear you asking “Then why did you have me come up with 6 categories? You’re wasting my time pal!”. Hold up friends, I promise you- I wasn’t wasting your time! We come up with 6 so that we have a few options and don’t just jump directly in with the first company or two that we think of. The whole point of this is to partner with businesses that could make great partners for both our companies, and for our clients- not necessarily to partner with the first business that come to mind based simply on convenience.

3.  Buy no more than 3 cups of coffee.

Hopefully you have whittled your list down to no more than 3 (and no less than 2) businesses that a.) sell to the same clients you do without competing with your business, b.) are located in the same geographic area as your business, and c.) make you feel safe in recommending them to your clients. Here’s where you make a small investment that can end up paying off in dividends: Reach out to each of those businesses (either to the owners or the head of marketing depending on how that business is structure and who you have access to) and offer to buy them a cup of coffee. To sweeten the deal and make it worth their time, tell them that you are looking for a partner that you can refer your own clients to and that you’d like to discuss. Chances are, that alone will be enough to get the appointment.

When you meet to discuss forming a mutually beneficial relationship, discuss what each business can bring to the table – not just for each other, but also for your client.  Go over in detail what each of you would get out of the relationship, and set some concrete rules as to what each company can and can not do. If all is agreed, set up a monthly (if not bi-weekly) meeting to go plan the next month’s activities and to analyze the results of the last month.

And WHY are these other businesses going to go to all the trouble to build a cross promotional relationship with you? What do they get out of the deal that will make them see things your way?

Referrals are obviously the most obvious benefit of Partnership Marketing of course, but there are other ways Partnership Marketing is so very much worth the time and effort!

  • It extends the reach of each of the businesses : even though both companies make a lot of sense for the same customer base, many of those customers may not have even realized that they could use those services. Partnership Marketing is a great way to expose clients to helpful goods and services that they may otherwise have never heard of.
  • Partnership Marketing allows the businesses involved to save marketing budget by teaming up to split costs (or even eliminate the need for certain marketing/advertising efforts).
  • Businesses who engage in Partnership Marketing have the ability to grow their own marketing efforts past what they’d be able to accomplish on their own, regardless of how much money they might be willing to invest!

“That’s great Ryan, I get it- I need to embrace Partnership Marketing- but what sorts of things can I do right now to get started? You promised me 3 things I can do to get started, but so far you’ve only given me 3 things I can do to set up the partnership- where’s the good stuff that starts driving more business?”

You like ACTIONABLE tips. I respect that.  Here’s three things you can do to start getting results:

1. Guest Post on each other’s website:

Not only is this a great way to build cross promotion between your brands, but it also helps grow each of your individual websites (more pages to index means more Google Juice) and puts valuable content on your page- very possibly content that you might not have thought of yourself!

2. “Spiff” each other’s customers:

The classic example of this is McDonald’s and their Happy Meal toys. A toy company (or a movie, or TV show, or…) partners with the fast food giant and provides a toy to include in the Happy  Meal. McDonald’s benefits when more kids have to get a Happy Meal to grab the toy (and I can already hear all the health bloggers getting ready to explode…bear with me though guys, I’m just making a point), and the company who has provided the toy for that run of Happy Meals get’s the brand recognition that they want. Now, in a TRUE strategic partnership, both parties would provide a way for their partner to “spiff” their clients by providing a little taste of your business when they serve their clients.

3. Co-Sponsor events: 

This is one that holds a near and dear place in my heart. Obviously event sponsorships tend to be pricey- especially when those sponsorships come with a table or a booth at the event. Split the cost of the booth with your new cross promotion partner and not only will you save some serious bucks, but you’ll instantly build a bridge between your two businesses in the eyes of your (potential) customers!

So if you and your business haven’t started building your own Partnership Marketing relationships yet, get moving! Besides the community you will build…besides the money you will save…besides the new leads you will receive, there are so many ways you will win when you combine your strengths to “share the wealth”, and that’s a cliche that’s just too true to be upset about!


Partnership Marketing is a great way to get some quick and consistent wins with your marketing, but as with anything that relies on multiple partners, it’s not always as simple as it can be. If you’re looking for more ways to make the most out of your marketing program (and avoiding some of the costly or time-sucking pitfalls ), why not subscribe to the RipList? 

The RipList is an occasional email chock full of ACTIONABLE marketing strategies and hacks that will help you and your company reach more target customers more often.  It’s all about things you can do yourself today! 

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About the Author Ryan Mckay