ELEVATING B2B PARTNER MARKETING IN
MODERN TECH COMPANIES
Microsoft, Google, Apple, Atlassian all have one thing in common - they achieved rocketship scale through their integration, service and developer partner ecosystems.
Despite the huge impact Partnerships teams have in tech companies it is still rare to see a Partnerships or BD leader on the executive leadership team.
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B2B Partner Marketing
Partner marketing is a fast-growing business development strategy. B2B partner marketing occurs when one B2B company partners with another to market and sell its products. B2B partner marketing strategies fall into six broad categories: affiliate/referral, content, distribution, licensing, dealership, technical, and co-marketing. In affiliate or referral marketing strategies, one company may link to another company's Web site, sending customers there or establish another type of referral or sales-marketing partnership. In content partnerships, companies collaborate on developing content that is then shared with each of their respective audiences.
Distribution partner marketing integrates one company's products into another's distribution channels; VAR and reseller programs fit into this category. Licensing occurs when one company gives another permission to manufacture its product or use its process for a fee. In dealership arrangements, companies become licensed sellers of a product. Companies integrate their tools, apps, or software with products customers are already using in technical partnerships. In co-marketing strategies, two companies market together as partners. Companies might also go together to sponsor events or to support charities.
Keys to successful B2B partner marketing programs include developing the right strategy, finding the partners that can best complement your business, developing the right performance indicators and tracking, and communicating effectively with partners to provide them with the right messaging. Another success factor is being able to ensure visibility in all channels. Companies that hope to expand internationally will try to develop transferable and scalable strategies to easily take on new partners in each geographic region they enter.
B2B companies start partnership marketing programs for several reasons. These include:
to meet demands from potential partners or resellers
to grow their customer base and revenue
to tap into the experience of other executives with marketing experience
to compete with competitor's programs
Some companies hire professionals to help negotiate partnership agreements or marketing agencies to plan and carry out campaigns. Other companies create positions, such as Chief
Partnerships Officer, that is responsible for developing and executing their partnership strategy.
B2B Partner Programs
A successful B2B partnership strategy begins with companies first determining their goals for the partnership then seeking partners that will help further their goals. Just as with any partnership, the key is to create a win/win for both partners. For example, suppose a company's goal is to develop an end-to-end solution for its customers. In that case, the company chooses those partners whose services or products augment their own, then integrates. As the B2b partnership develops, the two companies might exchange integration documents so that they can each support joint customers.
Suppose a company's goal is to increase sales. The company might seek partner companies that have the same target audience but a different customer base. This offers the potential for sales increases for both partners.
Most companies lack the resources to develop hundreds of partnerships. Carefully selecting a few ideal partners takes time but can pay off smartly. Ideal partners will share similar brand ideologies while providing something new to each other -- whether it's a new distribution channel or complementary service. A potential partner's brand reputation should be carefully considered because a partner's poor reputation can affect the other's. A long-term relationship is dependent upon each partner receiving an equal return from the other.
Once partners are found, education begins. The simpler the onboarding process, the better. Partners continue to communicate, manage, and nurture the relationship. For example, if the strategy is to develop a resellers network, the company makes sure to involve the resellers early in product modifications and product launches.
Finally, B2B strategic partnerships should be re-evaluated periodically to see if they are meeting each other's needs and goals and how they can be further developed. Flexibility is important in B2B partnerships, just as it is in other types of relationships.
Brand Partnership Strategy
A brand partnership strategy helps build trust and add value to each of the brands. The launch of the partnership also often creates a buzz that generates public relations opportunities for each brand. To make the strategy work, the brands must develop a cohesive marketing campaign that makes sense to their target audience. A partnership strategy framework would include a co-branding strategy that aligns with each brand's overall branding strategy.
B2B partnership models might include shared technology partnerships and OEM partnerships. For example, MediaTek, which makes a 5G modem, and the chip-maker Intel partnered in 2019 to create a 5G solution for commercial and consumer laptops. Dell and HP included this solution in their laptops. In all cases, the brands co-marketed, and each brand's good reputation added value and reinforced trust in the other's brand.
Another example is TheMuse, FitReserve, and several brick-and-mortar companies. At first glance, one might decide that a job search engine and a fitness company have nothing in common. However, TheMuse wanted to re-enforce a key message that TheMuse wants its users to have a better life -- including a healthier, fit one. All the companies partnered in a give-away. Participants might win fitness classes from FitReserve, job search coaching from TheMuse, or several products from other firms such as a spa week or interior design services.
A partnership marketing strategy can include affiliate and referral marketing, distribution, dealer, or other types of co-marketing. Benefits of partnership marketing include:
increasing a product or service's perceived value, and ultimately its price
opening up new places to offer the product
serving customers with a different profile
allowing each company to capitalize on the brand equity of the other
broadening the scope of the marketing strategy
extending a marketing budget while increasing exposure
A partner marketing strategy includes the company's plan for how it will use the "to," "through," and "with" modes. "To" modes are campaigns aimed to provide information about the brand for partners to use internally. "Through" modes are typically financed by the company and run through the partner's channels; "with" campaigns are joint campaigns run by both the company and its partners. The strategy also includes determining the content and channels that will be used, how the campaign will be funded, executed, and measured, and how leads will be generated and nurtured.
In the SaaS industry, referral partnerships are common. For example, a partner will generate and pass leads to a SaaS company in return for commission payments. Shopify is one example of a company that develops and supports referral partnerships. Companies who want referral partners make joining easy and offer substantial commissions, such as 20 percent to 30 percent. They also provide regular content and referral links to partners.
Strategic Partnership Examples
About half of all strategic partnerships fail. Strategic partnerships are those that are intended to create value for both parties, and both parties share the work, risks, and rewards. Several business partnership examples illustrate the importance of creating value for both parties. One example is a partnership between IBM and Apple. In that corporate partnership strategy, IBM's corporate services were combined into Apple's mobile products. This allowed clients to manage field operations while analyzing data in real-time.
Another example is HubSpot's partnership program, which is split in three parts by function: inbound marketing agency partners, technology integration partners, and sales partners.
A third example is the tax preparation company H&R Block and Acorns, a micro-investment company, which partnered to increase in-store tax filings. The companies have jointly undertaken several initiatives, including outreach to families who might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Dell has also formed technology partnerships with several companies, including Intel, Microsoft, and SAP, to provide end-to-end solutions.
Starling Bank, a fintech company in the United Kingdom, wanted to expand its market reach. The company partnered with Moneybox, an app that helps people save money by rounding up purchases. Starling Bank customers can link their accounts to Moneybox to invest the money in their savings accounts.
Digital Marketing Partnerships
More than 4 billion people use the Internet and 2 billion shop online. Brands must have an online presence to succeed. Companies can form several types of marketing partnerships online, ranging from content partnerships to e-commerce partnerships.
In content partnerships, companies go together to produce content that appears on digital platforms. Content includes Webinars, videos, blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and Infographics.
With e-commerce partnerships, one company will assist its sales partners with digital sales tactics such as emails, placing pay-per-click advertisements on social media, or providing all of their digital marketing materials.
Here are a few marketing partnerships examples:
Sprout Social, a social media management platform, and Moz, a search engine optimization solution provider, partnered to offer a Webinar to their common target audience. The partnership boosted the reach of the Webinar beyond what any one company could have done.
TripAdvisor and Deliveroo which allowed TripAdvisor users to order from their favorite restaurants through Deliveroo
Samsung, which provides e-commerce assistance such as marketing materials to its sales partners through an online portal.
A partnership marketing agency can help a B2B company to develop its partner program framework, including strategic, sales, and digital marketing partnerships. Companies also can develop these programs by hiring a trained partnership executive or training a current manager.