Successful partnerships require consistent diligence on the part of all partners, especially from the partners’ marketing teams. For increasing customer awareness, driving brand development and gaining new sales, strategic partnership marketing plans will help every partnership create the highest value possible.This guide provides steps for creating a marketing plan that drive success in marketing partnerships or strategic alliances.

Setup

One of the first things you should do when setting up your marketing efforts for a partnership is negotiate your terms. Be sure to include what your company is open to, what your company is not open to and where “extras” might lie. Additionally, tentatively bring up timelines for launch and production needs - these will remain fluid, but it’s always good to start off with a tentative structure to revolve your discussions around.Then figure out your combined product/service and get a description to paper. What does the combined product look like? Is it a new product, offer or service? Is it an existing product that’s getting a facelift? Is anything getting co-branded? Now is the time to determine exactly what it is you’re marketing.Last, identify strategic opportunities for the partnership. Where can you capitalize on brand and audience enhancement? Where is there potential for increased email/blog/newsletter lists, etc… Take stock of your current resources and that of your partner, and identify the gamut of strategic opportunities you want to move forward with.

Audience

First you need to determine your intended audience. All marketing messaging will need to be geared towards these specific recipients. You might even want to consider having multiple audience segments, which will allow you to send more customized, targeted messaging.Additionally, take stock of your partner’s audience. Do they align with your own? If not, identify how they are different. Your partner will have unique insights into their audience and the type of messaging and delivery channels they respond to best. Put all of this into consideration when you determine how you want to approach a new, heterogeneous audience.

Outlets

Now that you have determined your audience, it’s time to develop your messaging. For the purpose of this guide, I won’t tell you what to put in your messaging - that’s always unique to you and your partner. Just remember that co-branding matters!On to distribution. Once you have crafted your amazing co-branded messages, you’ll need to determine where they are distributed. Take advantage of unique channels that your partner uses, and work with your partner to get their messages out through your own channels. This can take the form of:
  • Co-branded, single subject newsletter blasts
  • Social media mentions, re-posts and announcements
  • Co-authored press releases
  • Unique events or specialized marketing initiatives
  • General company news distribution
These are just some starting ideas. I always recommend a meeting between both teams to discuss any new or unique outlets: you never know what the other may be thinking, and brainstorming sessions have always worked well for me.

Goals

Establishing a partnership’s marketing goals is unique from determining a marketing department’s or even a marketing project’s goals. Here it becomes more tricky as you have not one, but two or more distinct companies to consider, and specific goals and metrics may differ from company to company.Things to look out for:
  • What is important to each company
  • Each company’s typical metrics
  • Finding a good combination of proper metrics that help you to gain a good understanding of the progress of your marketing initiatives

Marketing Launch

This is one of the more particular steps. Always start your partnership marketing by setting up a calendar of activities, or, at the very least, get a bullet list of the activities that need to be accomplished up to and during your marketing launch. Be sure to outline what you are going to do and what you aim to achieve, and provide an overview of the messaging that applies to each applicable step.It is also very important to outline who is responsible for each activity. Doing this allows you to measure the progress and performance of your team. It simultaneously allows you to assess your resources - do you have the manpower your need? Do you need to hire?Having bullet lists of activities and calendars helps to map out timelines and workloads and allows everyone to see how their work interacts with everyone else’s responsibilities.

Measurement

The last step - you’re almost there! Now it’s time to go back to your goals. As you review the goals you initially set out to accomplish, as yourself this: Have they been met? Exceeded? And, most importantly: why?Hopefully this guide has given you a practical guideline to getting your partnership off the ground. Every partnership is different, and certainly many of these steps will be customized to bring the most value to you and your partnership.