Erin Delman has learned quite a bit about partnership marketing over the past 15 years. Currently, she works as Vice President, Marketing for Bond Vet. Before that, she was employed as the Senior Director of Consumer Marketing at General Assembly and worked in several other positions related to marketing and partnerships.

As part of the Partner School program, Firneo Co-Founder Michael Francis held a workshop where he interviewed Erin about her experiences in the marketing and partnerships industries. Later on, participants had a chance to get directly involved with the discussion during a Q&A session. Throughout the workshop, Erin shared valuable insights on creating a solid plan for partnership marketing.

Three Key Themes of Partnership Marketing

Throughout the interview, Erin focused on three central themes:

  1. Integration with marketing strategies. Partnerships experts should understand how partnerships fit into their company’s marketing strategy as a whole. Erin explored how partnerships can help businesses achieve their marketing goals.
  2. Measuring success with KPIs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are vital when it comes to measuring the success of partnerships. With that in mind, Erin encouraged partnerships leaders to align their own goals with their company’s KPIs for marketing.
  3. Tactical approaches to partnerships. Erin delved into the strategic steps to follow when building a robust partnership marketing program. These include setting clear goals and taking stock of assets (including those that aren’t easy to measure in dollars).

How Partnerships and Marketing Work Together

According to Erin, partnerships can benefit any organization—particularly startups or smaller companies looking to achieve quick growth without a substantial budget. As an example of how partnerships can help businesses build credibility and aid in audience acquisition, Erin talked about a hypothetical partnership between a fledgling water bottle company and well-known fitness brand Peloton.

But while partnerships can become an indispensable part of any company’s marketing efforts, Erin said businesses must clearly define their overall marketing strategy before bringing this tactic into the mix. If they don’t take the time to do this, organizations will have trouble establishing partnerships that can help them pursue their objectives.

KPIs and Partnership Success

Erin then stressed the significance of aligning a partnership program’s goals with broader marketing KPIs. Whether these performance indicators are meant to track website traffic, email sign-ups, or other measurable goals, you’ll need clear KPIs to determine the success or failure of your partnerships.

Along with this, Erin said partnerships leaders must make an effort to understand their partners’ goals. That goes for both the KPIs used by different teams within these organizations and the individual goals of the people working for their partner companies.

Know Your Worth—in More Ways Than One

Erin explored the tactical steps involved in building a robust partnership marketing program. In addition to the strategies discussed above, understanding what you have to offer beyond monetary value is a vital step in this process. Erin encouraged participants to consider the specific assets they could leverage to make their partnerships more appealing, such as expertise in specific subjects or access to a community.

Common Dynamics to Consider When Building Partnerships

Regardless of the partnership type, partnerships leaders often find themselves facing similar dynamics. Erin discussed some common issues and strategies for managing partnerships that apply to many situations. 

Are All Parties in a Partnership Equal?

In partnerships between a larger company and a smaller business, partnerships leaders at the larger organization can fall into the trap of assuming that their priorities take precedence over their partner’s goals. However, Erin noted that building clear lines of communication and pursuing mutually beneficial outcomes are still requirements for partnerships to succeed in this situation.

Techniques for Establishing Winning Partnerships

When approaching potential partners, Erin said companies should have a well-defined strategy in place. This strategy can include the following steps:

  1. Initiating contact. Once a potential partner has been identified, focus on getting them to respond. To that end, create personalized messages that highlight the value of working together and express a genuine interest in their objectives.
  2. Understanding partner goals. During conversations with potential partners, actively listen to their goals and demographics. Look for ways to align your objectives with theirs to create a mutually beneficial partnership.
  3. Defining metrics. Clear KPIs can help you measure the success of your new partnership. Establish specific actions, hold partners accountable, and maintain an ongoing dialogue to evaluate and adjust strategies.
  4. Creating agreements. Once the previous steps have been taken care of, it’s time to formalize your partnership with a written agreement. Clearly outline commitments, responsibilities, and expectations to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth collaboration.

Every Partnership Has Unique Aspects to Consider

Erin pointed to a memorable marketing partnership between General Assembly and Etsy. As part of a broader initiative meant to boost engagement with Etsy sellers, the e-commerce company created a contest where winning creators could get branding advice from GA.

Although this collaboration proved to be highly resource-intensive, it provided a creative and engaging experience for Etsy creators and showcased the brand’s commitment to supporting its community. Meanwhile, the winning creators gained valuable skills and knowledge, which helped to promote General Assembly’s services among other Etsy sellers.

How Can Partnerships Leaders Overcome Challenges?

According to Erin, people involved with partnership marketing often have trouble:

  • Getting sufficient resources. Limited resources and competing priorities may result in partnerships being deprioritized. To garner support for your partnerships program, educate internal teams on the impact these efforts can have on their own KPIs.
  • Handling tech team availability. In scenarios where your company’s tech team is stretched thin, your partnerships may face delays. Clear communication and collaboration with partners can help you mitigate these challenges and find creative solutions.
  • Balancing quality and quantity. Achieving a balance between high-volume partnerships and maintaining quality engagement can be tricky. Customize your approach based on your overall marketing strategy and goals.

Learn More About Partnership Marketing with Firneo

To maximize the effectiveness of their partnership marketing programs, partnerships leaders must consider existing marketing strategies, use KPIs to measure their results, and understand exactly what their organizations bring to the table. Though pursuing these goals can be challenging at the best of times, planning ahead and focusing on internal and external alignment can help partnerships pros overcome any obstacles in their way.

Since the partnerships industry is so complex, a single workshop isn’t enough to give incoming partnerships leaders all the information they need to thrive in this field. Instead, only a comprehensive course like Firneo’s Mastering Partnerships Strategy program will be able to provide the all-encompassing partnerships playbook you’re looking for. Get started by signing up today!

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