Reaching the right consumers used to be an art. Then it became a science. And now it’s a miracle.
What do I mean? Consider the next generation of consumers. Generally speaking, they are fully empowered and engaged in their buying decisions, typically avoid salespeople, and are numb to marketing messages. Instead, they collect recommendations from fellow consumers and then look to digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to support their research processes. This shift in consumer behavior can be explained by one stat: Almost 70% of people distrust advertising.
So how can these consumers be reached? Start with building trust. One way to do this is by partnering with businesses and individuals who already have trusted relationships with a customer or audience. With this approach, brands can reach a new, built-in set of consumers. For example, if an athleisure brand wants to reach a new customer base, they may partner with a fitness influencer who has a large following on YouTube. Or if a bank credit card company wants to encourage more purchases, they may partner with a retailer to offer cash-back incentives.
Partnership programs can open doors for businesses to organically introduce themselves into the user experience through a wide range of partnership types, including B2B partners, affiliates, influencers, media publishers and more. These partners are essentially making a warm introduction — sort of like a friend-of-a-friend endorsement — which can be accomplished automatically and at scale.
Trust In Action
Leveraging trust in partnerships already produces revenue for many forward-thinking businesses. For example, BarkBox, a client of ours, has a social responsibility partnership with pet shelters. It provides subscription boxes for shelters to give to new pet owners that include toys and treats for their new pets to enjoy. And for every new subscriber, BarkBox donates a commission fee to the pet shelter.
Partnerships are not new, but the concept of partnerships as the third channel for scalable revenue growth (next to sales and marketing) is. These are not advertisements or one-off agreements but rather strategic, enterprise-level programs. When done right, this can enhance the user experience for the partner’s customer or audience and generate revenue growth for the enterprise brand they partner with.
People, Processes And Technology
A recent study that our company commissioned from Forrester found that “companies with the most mature partnership programs are growing overall company revenue nearly 2x as fast as companies with less mature programs.” Even organizations with new partnership programs report an average revenue increase of 18%, but that doesn’t compare to their mature counterparts, which contribute 28% of overall company revenue, on average. This 10% jump represents an average of $162 million in revenue. So, what does it take to create a high-maturity partnership program?
People are at the core of every partnership. This pillar is all-encompassing — from your internal teams collaborating across departments to execute partnership strategies, to the people at the center of the initiative: the consumers. Many of these teams already exist but in silos. To connect the right people, internally and externally, the right processes must be in place.
Processes optimize partnerships. Having a strong process in place is necessary for managing the life cycle. Just as sales teams have revenue targets, partnership teams should have new partner acquisition goals and measure things like conversion rates in order to fully optimize their programs.
Technology is what fuels a partnership program. It provides the control necessary to properly manage a program, optimize results, meet goals and, most importantly, provide automation for scale. Questions to ask yourself when shopping for the technology with the right capabilities include:
• Can you identify the true impact of your different partner types?
• Are you able to adjust your payouts with features, such as participation bonuses, so your partners are paid fairly?
• Does the technology allow you to adjust your program according to your changing goals?
• Can you cultivate and facilitate relationships around the world?
• Are you protected against performance fraud?
Here’s A Secret
People, processes and technology provide a road map to developing a mature partnership program. But one other “pro tip” I’ll share: Over and beyond the financial incentives that an enterprise offers its partners, some of the most successful partnerships also involve giving something to your partner. In this case, embrace the fact that your partner is the one with the trusted first-party relationship with the customer you are trying to acquire. In forming an alliance, you should consider what you can provide them that will enhance their own relationships with their customers or audience.
Some key ways you can do this include:
• Content Or Marketing Assets: Companies can empower their partners with enablement material and provide actual marketing assets such as photos, videos or editorial content so that their partners are up and running as quickly as possible.
• Product Or Merchandise: Free products! Retailers can send products to their influencer partners to encourage them to try them and review them.
• Unique Data Assets: This could be anything from a real-time product feed from a retail, travel or entertainment company, to a card offer feed (with real-time APR updates) from a financial services firm, or other unique data assets.
• Improved User Experience: By providing deeper integrations with their partners, such as between their apps, companies can help partners achieve a stickier, more relevant user experience to keep their audience’s attention.
• Prestige: Not everyone is solely motivated by financial incentives. Many influencer and ambassador programs are building out their own personal brands and love the idea of being selectively associated with a prestigious company. Many high-performing partners get mentioned in leaderboards or newsletters or gain access to VIP events.
The partnership economy has arrived. It offers organizations an opportunity to diversify and grow revenue streams outside of the traditional sales and marketing channels by meeting audiences where they are. There’s no need for a miracle when you have a solid foundation of trust between two committed partners.