Navigating marketing partnerships

I recently had the privilege to speak at “The Futurist CMO Conference” that recently happened at Gurgaon, India. The topic I spoke on was ‘Channels 2.0 – how digital marketing can help OEMs’, well this blog post is to provide general pointers i made on marketing partnerships in that presentation. I am leaving out the digital parts for another time :).

I guess we all know the importance of partnerships, especially in the area of marketing. Carlos Slim Helu the Mexican business magnate recently said – “In this new wave of technology, you can’t do it all yourself, you have to form alliances.” and he is spot on. We all need alliances and partnerships to achieve our business and marketing goals. The key to is finding the right ones and navigating successfully through it, the latter sometimes being more difficult than the former,  especially when you are dealing with large size organizations that may have different goals and a totally different culture.

Starting Early – Campaign Influence levels

One of things that I personally found challenging is that many marketers view alliances with a narrow goal of covering their gaps in their marketing budget.  Most of the times the search for a partner starts after the activity is completely thought through and then they realize that they are short of budget. Most marketing efforts that arise from partnerships of convenience like stretching the marketing dollar will mostly appear patchy and disjointed. Therefore it’s extremely important that partners decide to work at the early stages of conceptualization and ideation rather than down the line when the only thing left to do is add one more brand logo. Starting early also increases the level of influence you can have in the campaign idea and it works as a Win-Win for both parties.

What role does your partner play in your purchase funnel?

Depending on what industry your product or service belongs you would know best which part of the purchase funnel of opinion forming, research, consideration & purchase does your marketing efforts pay off on. On areas which you can’t play in or not that relevant you can let partners in. For example you maybe an ingredient brand and hence working with partners during the consideration and purchase phase of the funnel would be of great importance.

Driving change with partners

Sometimes driving change within partners in your ecosystem maybe challenging, for example convincing your partners to work on more digital marketing projects vs. traditional marketing.  A certain degree of education and evangelizing is sometimes needed within your partner’s organization.  Nothing works better than research insights and data here. Working sessions where you discuss latest sociological trends in your market can go a long way in opening up minds to new ideas and new ways of marketing your products.

I would summarize the key lessons from driving partnerships as

–          Change needs a certain degree of evangelism

–          Start early in order to be clear about audience, target, objective and messaging.

–          Set mutually agreeable success metrics.

–          Be sure to involve stakeholders –Finance & Legal

–          Behave as a brand Equal

–          Target your weakness and look for a value exchange

–          Your Partner can be anybody even your consumer