The brand-to-brand marketing recipe for success

Sarah Kelly
By Sarah Kelly | 28 April 2021
Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly, APAC marketing director at Partnerize

The famous life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said: If you're not growing, you're dying.

While this statement may be very direct and potentially viewed as harsh, it carries a lot of truth because very few brands can survive by selling to the same customer base over and over.

In business, growth is a measure of success and it involves selling your brand to new audiences every day. Acquiring new customers however is one of the hardest elements of running a business.


Customer acquisition can be expensive and when executed haphazardly, it can be very inefficient. Digital advertising is one possibility but with consumer privacy in the spotlight, targeting the right audience can be tricky. Radio, Print and TV advertising can also be effective, but to have any audience recognition, you need big budgets.

As you are looking at different marketing initiatives, one that should be high on the list is partnership marketing. Essentially, partnership marketing, more specifically, brand-to-brand marketing are two brands collaborating for mutual benefit. Since each brand is getting an introduction to a new audience with both parties benefitting, the entry cost can be manageable.

However, adding this new level of complexity to your marketing mix can be a daunting task, so we’ve outlined a few tips to help get you started.

Set Clear Objectives and Goals
This is not specific to partnership marketing, but before engaging in any initiative, it is critical to establish a set of measurable goals and objectives. When setting goals, both parties should be honest and upfront about what they want to achieve. In the end, goals should be beneficial to both parties. They should also be bound by short pre-established timeframe. Very often this is dictated by the partnership terms, but sometimes, companies like to establish their goals in incremental benchmarks.

It was also very important for both parties to track against these goals to ensure you are optimising the collaboration.

Choose to work with a company your existing customers want to engage with
Brands should target potential partners that will excite your current customer base. For example, if you are an apparel company geared towards a young fashionable audience, find a partner that complements your product such as a footwear or accessory brand. One of the biggest mistakes made by marketers is aligning with a brand that confuses your current customer base and potentially alienates it, so select your brand partners carefully.

After all, you’ve worked too hard to cultivate your customers so find a partner that will engage them, not question your direction.

Align your business objectives
Before entering into a contractual agreement, consider what your potential partner brings to the table. Perhaps the partner has a great reputation and you want to align with a brand that is well respected and carries a loyal customer base. Brands that are held in high esteem by their customers have the ability to transfer credibility to your brand by association.

The right partner may not always have like-minded products; however, sometimes the right partner carries a skillset that you don’t have. For example, let’s say your current marketing team is fantastic at social engagement, but you lack expertise in thought leadership. Find a partner whose content team is top-notch and complements the resources you have in-house. Think of it as expanding your marketing team by association.

From there you need to determine if your combined skills would attract a new audience to your brand and whether the collaboration makes sense? Ask yourself, does this marketing effort create qualified leads for your business above and beyond what your existing efforts already generate?

Mutual Customer Benefit
The best partnerships not only give you insight into another firm’s list of customers and prospects, but they also benefit your audience. Offer them something you can’t but your partner can.

How is this accomplished? Endorsing a reputable brand that has the same business objectives and complementary skills will offer your clients and prospects something they need. When the need arises for them to buy those services, your customers now have a great option - your partner.

Let Technology be Your Friend
The Internet is an amazing infrastructure for every business (and every part of every business) to speak directly to consumers. While this power creates wonderful opportunities, it also creates tremendous complexity. This complexity starts with how brands best orchestrate their communications to consumers.

Digital marketing “co-budgeting” or partnership marketing enables a holistic brand to be more competitive, efficient, measurable and perform well. What’s more is that through modern attribution techniques, individual entities can report on their contribution to the overall objective. This element helps brands have a measurable impact into the relationship and prove their worth. Given the current economic climate, every ad dollar spent must be rewarded with a sale.

Brand-to-brand marketing can work and success is not just for brands with massive budgets. That doesn’t mean you can approach it without a good plan and strategy. Throughout your journey, you should be tracking and measuring the success of the program and course-correct as needed. It will be an evolving process of learning until you reach the desired goals/objectives of the brand-to-brand collaboration.

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