Discover more from Kevan Lee
416. Co-marketing 🤲
The bedrock of an awesome partner marketing strategy (& the first place to start with your partnerships brand play)
Hi there 👋
Thank you to everyone who wrote in with words of encouragement — and validation! — for last week’s newsletter about my relationship with work.
We’re back to some more tactical content this week, but rest assured I’ll have plenty of more existential musings to share with you all over the coming months! And if there’s ever any topic you’d like me to cover in this newsletter, please drop me a note anytime — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you a great week ahead,
Say hi anytime at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you.
Why Every Company — Young & Old — Needs Co-Marketing (and How to Do It Right)
The world of partnerships is complex, confusing, and at times confounding. I’ve tried to boil the partnerships ocean in a newsletter issue before (see below), but today I want to focus on one specific aspect of partnerships: co-marketing.
My partnerships strategies typically include four different areas:
1 - Platform partners.
These are the product partnerships that create necessary usability and feature functionality within a product. Without a platform partner, some products can’t work as effectively … or can’t work at all. For instance, our platform partners at Buffer were Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Without those partnerships, you didn’t really have a Buffer 🙃
2 - Integration partners.
These are technical partnerships between two companies, usually through an API integration. Integrations extend the core functionality of a product. They’re nice-to-haves. Think of a tool like Greenhouse, an applicant tracking system, which integrates with your Calendly to make it easier to schedule interviews.
3 - Affiliate partners.
With these partnerships, the goal is revenue. You can think of a classic affiliate program where people refer customers to your product and get a kickback in exchange. This can happen at the individual level or at the company / industry level; for instance an affiliate partnership at HubSpot might include marketing agencies from around the world.
4 - Co-marketing partners.
These partnerships are goaled on awareness and lead gen. Nothing technical required. Oftentimes, marketing teams can lead these partnerships. A co-branded webinar is a classic example.
Let’s dive deeper into co-marketing.
When you’re a young company, nobody knows you.
Fortunately, people know other companies.
Co-marketing is an audience expansion strategy, whether you’re a young company looking to get your name out there or an established company looking to grow in new markets. You see this all the time in tech; companies will join up for meetups or webinars or content. You even see it in the real world with product partnerships and collabs (like Burger King & Staycoolnyc). (Yes, that’s a Whopper pocket.)
Co-marketing will typically have one of two goals:
Which goal you aim for depends on what’s most important for you as a business. And the answer can change over time. At Buffer, we did it both ways. We did brand awareness co-marketing with our events strategy, co-creating an audio conference with Wistia. We did lead-gen co-marketing with our content marketing, partnering with Mailchimp, Square, and WooCommerce on a small business marketing playbook.
How you do co-marketing
Step One: Identify potential partners
For young companies, you’ll be looking for:
Your persona’s tech stack
There’s a universe of brands you could partner up with, so it’s helpful to have some ways to rank your opportunities. As a young business, you want to co-market with brands that have more audience than you — this will help you seem bigger than you really are, and it will have the greatest impact on your audience growth.
You can judge another company’s audience size by looking at their social media following, their website traffic, or even their recent funding / PR news.
Beyond audience, make sure to consider whether your potential co-marketing partner has relevance to your persona. For instance, at Buffer, Canva makes sense because social media people use Canva to make graphics; Airbnb doesn’t make sense because there’s no relevant connection to social.
And finally, you want to make sure that the other company is a values match with your brand. The brands you partner with are a reflection of the brand you are creating, whether you know it or not.
For established companies, you’ll be looking for:
Established companies aren’t as concerned about building an audience from scratch, so the focus shifts toward strategic initiatives: new persona expansion, launching new product lines, positioning pivot, TAM growth, etc. If the company’s strategic vision is taking it on a new path, then co-marketing can be a shortcut to getting there.
You’ll also want to be aware of the brand fit with any potential co-marketing partnership. And definitely don’t partner with competitors! (duh)
Step Two: Reach out and say hello
This is my least favorite part, which is why I usually hire a partnerships person to do it. 😅
You can reach out directly to the company through their main email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can do a LinkedIn search to find a partnerships or business development person at the company.
I like this one best:
Subject: Featuring [company name]
Hi [first name]
I’m [who you are and where you work].
We are putting together [partnership idea here] and looking to partner with some amazing brands. Yours is one of the first ones we thought of!
Would you be interested in learning more?
Here is some more info on our reach, our customers, and who we've worked with in the past: [details here]
Bonus: How do you know who might be willing to partner?
Good question! One of the best indications is whether the company has a partnerships person (check LinkedIn) or a partnerships landing page (check their website). Personally, my favorite way of doing due diligence is looking at what type of activity a brand is currently engaged in — e.g., are they doing webinars with other brands, are they sponsoring events, are they co-creating content.
Step Three: Figure out something cool to do together!
Ways to co-market together
Blog posts, either as guest posts or compliations/roundups
E-books and other forms of gated content
Webinars and digital events
Joint events (in-person) like industry summits, dinners
Co-sponsored after parties and dinners at tradeshows
AMAs on social, the blog, video, etc.
Social media takeovers
Cross-promotion: I share you, you share me
Podcast swaps: I’m in your feed, you’re in mine
Podcast guest appearances
Social good initiatives
Data-backed research reports and surveys
About this newsletter …
Hi, I’m Kevan, a marketing exec based in Boise, Idaho, who specializes in startup marketing and brand-building. I previously built brands at Oyster, Buffer, and Vox. Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. Not yet subscribed? No worries. You can check out the archive, or sign up below:
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I’m lucky to count folks from great brands like these (and many more) as part of this newsletter community.