Marketing partnerships can greatly enhance your marketing efforts if you are patient and give your partners real value.
I received an interesting e-mail recently from a gentleman in the UK asking if marketing partnerships really work. His issue is he has approached a number of potential partners, many have expressed interest, yet none has done anything. Just so happens I ran across a similar question on MarketingProfs.com.
There seems to be quite a bit of interest right now in marketing partnerships. It is about time. I have helped many clients set up and implement very successful partnerships, but the process is long-term. Partnerships do not generally produce significant results quickly.
What a Marketing Partnership Is
A marketing partnership involves two or more professionals, companies or salespeople who have common prospects, similar marketing needs, and possibly complementary products or services. 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.
Marketing activities may involve:
· creating joint marketing materials
· joint direct mail, e-mail or advertising campaigns
· joint sales calls
· referring of prospects
· possibly even combining products, services, talents and assets to create new products and services
An example of a potential marketing partnership would be a realtor, mortgage loan officer, title company escrow officer, home inspector and appraiser—or some combination thereof. By working together they can expand their individual marketing efforts several fold, reach more prospects, refer back and forth, and, since each function is required in the typical real estate transaction, coordinate services to provide a quicker, smoother, and possibly more cost efficient closing.
Another would be a potential partnership between an accountant, estate attorney, financial planner, and insurance agent. By combining forces, these professionals can, at least in theory, coordinate and help guide an individual’s affairs without the potential of conflict, jealousy, or competition. And, again, each individual professional benefits from wider exposure, more referrals, and marketing that is more efficient.
Virtually every professional and company have 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.
Although some marketing partnerships may be elaborate, formal legal entities, most, especially with smaller companies and individual practitioners, are informal devices to enhance each partner’s marketing reach—and to expand their capabilities in conjunction with other partners to meet prospect needs they might not otherwise be able to meet individually. It is a venture where each partner assumes responsibility for marketing the partnership. Partners who expect to ride the backs of the other partners will quickly find themselves without partners.
When considering a partnership, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Your Partners Help Define Your Reputation and Position
When you enter a marketing partnership, your sphere of influence, marketing potential and reputation are directly impacted by who you choose as partners. Each partner’s reputation “rubs off” on the other partners. In addition, your marketing reach is enhanced—or limited—by each of your partner’s marketing reach.
Consequently, care should be taken when deciding whom to approach as a partner. As the initiator of the partnership, you have the advantage of being able to approach those entities with whom you are interested in joining forces. Since the ball is in your court, select only potential partners who have the reputation you want for yourself and the market reach you desire.
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 damage a reputation just as quickly.
Partners Want Real Value from the Partnership
When you initiate a marketing partnership, the professionals and companies you approach will want to see results before they become enthused. You will 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.
So approaching them with the idea that they can refer a customer with a need to you and thus provide a “service” to their customer will not cut it. The partnership must offer them bottom-line dollars. Even then, they will not be full participants until they have experienced some benefit and see that it will work. That means you must be prepared to give before you receive.
Your Commitment is Key
As the initiator of the partnership; you not only have the luxury of approaching those potential partners you believe will enhance your status, reputation and business potential, but you must assume responsibility for its success. You will have to do the vast majority of work, at least at first. You will be dealing with people who may like the concept and want it to work, but they will be skeptical. You will have to carry the ball and show them that you are committed to the partnership—and, again, that it will produce results.
The quickest way to achieve full buy-in of partners is to have a customer or two ready to go as soon as your partner prospects agree to the partnership. Nothing gets the attention of a new partner like immediate business--and it demonstrates that you are serious in your commitment to them and not simply looking to mooch off their business. Many, if not most, marketing partnerships fail to live up to their promise because the initiator 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. Nevertheless, 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.