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8 Features of a Successful Co-Marketing Campaign

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Get it right, and co-marketing can be a brilliant way to grow your channel sales, build your audience and generate qualified leads. Best of all, by promoting a shared offer that benefits both you and your partner, you’ll see big results with less work as you share the load. But what’s the best way to plan and execute a co-op project? Here are 8 features of a successful co-marketing campaign to get you off to a flying start.

The partnership ‘makes sense’

The best co-marketing campaigns are undertaken by tech brands that compliment each other as a duo. Apple and IBM, Genius and Spotify; WPP and Adobe; Snapchat and Square...this list of examples goes on and on. And they all have one in common: creating a new partnership that not only benefits both businesses, but - most importantly - extends their offering to their target market.

To choose a partner, start by looking at their brand values. The more closely aligned your values, the more seamless your co-marketing efforts will be, both behind-the-scenes and in front of your audience.

Second, consider if it’s worth your time and effort entering into a partnership. If your partner is not yet established, with a very small customer base, it may not be worth your while. However, bear in mind that pitching to a more established business will be a challenge, so prepare to put in some hard work.

Third, consider knowledge share. The more you can learn from your marketing collaboration, the better - so explore ways that you can collaborate for mutual benefit. This knowledge extends to your customer base, so team up with a partner that solves one of their needs, too.

If you’re struggling to make a decision, check out this brilliant post on HubSpot to help choose your co-marketing partner with confidence.

Set expectations from the word go

The very best co-marketing campaigns set clear expectations from the get-go. Before launching into a campaign, set goals upfront. Perhaps you want to reach a new audience, drive sales, or reward current customers. Whatever your objective, the campaign needs to satisfy both parties. Explore:

  1. The number of leads you need to generate from the campaign

  2. The quality and qualification level of those leads

  3. Your ideal reach or traffic volumes

  4. Streamlined lead progression where customers have they previously got ‘stuck’

  5. Potential bias towards products or services. Is it realistic to expect all leads to show an interest on both sides in equal measure?

After identifying what a successful (or unsuccessful) campaign looks like, decide where your skills lie and assign tasks to make the most of the expertise across both businesses. Accept that there’s a shared yet minimised risk involved with working jointly on a marketing campaign, and work together to build trust.

To mitigate any difficult situations, consider what course of action you’ll take if your partner is involved in a negative PR situation during the co-marketing process. Create a clear back-out plan for both parties to use if needed, for mutual peace of mind.

This mutual benefit must extend through every aspect of the campaign. Make sure responsibilities around content creation are agreed before you get started, while ensuring that assets such as landing pages, ad copy, calls-to-action and emails are all co-branded.

Get hyper-targeted on an ideal buyer profile

To ensure real benefits and ROI, predefine your ‘ideal buyer’ profile and create a campaign that speaks to a very specific audience. If you take a ‘catch all’ approach, your lack of targeting will alienate specific customers. Instead, get hyper-targeted with your lead profiles, positioning your campaign to filter out anyone that doesn't meet the criteria from the very start.

To position yourself in front of a targeted buyer profile, start by highlighting the features of your co-branded offer that are important to your target market. Position this content in a way that stands you and your partner apart from your competitors, focusing on what you do really well and avoiding a cluttered, unclear offer.

When identifying your ideal buyer profile, don’t neglect ‘passive’ buyers - those that may not have come your way via the traditional "opted in" route, but who display all the traits of someone that may be ready to engage with your brand. For example, individuals who are newly-appointed in a role, or a company recruiting into a particular department, may have a need for your software, whereas companies that have recently relocated to new offices could show signs of scaling up and requiring more robust hardware infrastructure. Think outside the box, and target a new audience with a pressing need for your offering, even if they’re not yet conventionally ‘warm’ leads.

Don't rely on product-centric lead bait

Great co-marketing campaigns don’t rely on products to generate leads. The ‘hook’ of your campaign needs to be clear, enticing, and centred around the needs of your audience. To avoid a product-centric approach, start from scratch with your campaign content - shunning the ‘easy route’ of recycled content in favour of tailor-made assets.

This content may involve ebooks, free webinars, videos or whitepapers. Even better than that, it will be groundbreaking, informative, and highly targeted to your customer’s pain points. Remember that what becomes ubiquitous becomes "white noise" to your prospects, so apply some creativity to the format and positioning of any new "lead magnets". You may find that an eBook or white paper is just too run-of-the-mill to generate sufficient interest, and for your ideal buyers to opt in with accurate and valuable contact details being exchanged in return, you'll need to make this offer as compelling as possible - whatever the medium.

Make sure EVERYTHING is trackable

Co-marketing campaigns are designed to share effort and maximise benefits. The very best campaigns not only strive for these objectives, but track progress at every step of the way - ensuring results can be measured and shared.

Before kicking off your campaign, put in place the right levels of insights about conversions, along with a mechanism for tracking ‘assisted conversions’ and secondary conversions across your website. For example, a lead could arrive on-site as a result of a co-marketed campaign, but convert elsewhere or at a later time. Good analytics will report this, providing the right level of attribution to identify how the sale has originated.

Another great way to track your co-marketing campaign is by leads scoring. Start by agreeing a method and criteria - taking into account the number of visits, pages viewed, interactions with other communications such as email and social, forms submitted, and other indicators of intent - to give each lead a ‘rating’. With access to the right technology, vendors and partners can benefit from predictive lead scoring, providing early warning of a prospect’s readiness to convert at various stages of the purchase journey.

Know the process inside out

When it comes to marketing, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Whether a vendor is working with a marketing agency or consultant - or have their own in-house resource - the strategy will differ from one company to the next. But, by focusing on 5 key areas, it is possible to bring clarity to any marketing campaign via clear processes.

            1. The People

Every good co-marketing campaign is built on an understanding of the people involved - both the teams behind-the-scenes, and the customers themselves. Ask:

  • Does your partner have access to the required skills - whether internally or outsourced - to produce the campaign materials, including writers, designers, developers and analysts?

  • Do they know who the target buyer is, and why a buyer should choose their services and your product in tandem? Once you understand the ‘who’, you can create a process to see you through the entire campaign.

    2. The Technology

An effective digital campaign requires 4 core products in the technology stack: CMS, email automation, CRM, and analytics. Before starting the campaign, make sure they are in place, with processes to support their effective use throughout your co-marketing efforts. If you’re pressed for time, use marketing automation technology to set your campaign on autopilot.

3. The Journey

Lead nurturing is a vital part of your co-marketing campaign, and you need a plan for steering your buyers through the journey. Ask:

  • Does the partner have a process in place for nurturing leads generated as part of the campaign?

  • What qualification criteria is in place?

  • Are inappropriate lead are filtered out as early as possible? The very best co-marketing campaigns know it's not all about the numbers. Instead, they focus on the quality of leads, ensuring they are maximised from the start.

4. The Content

To make waves with your campaign, you need to create excellent content - the kind that will grab the attention of your customers and steer them through the buyer funnel. Before your campaign begins, ask:

  • Has your partner created content custom to this campaign and the target buyer in question, or are they relying on generic, product-centric assets?

  • Is the partner relying on ‘easy’ formats such as ebooks and whitepapers, or are they more trailblazing in their approach to content? By rising above the ‘white noise’ - creating more disruptive and immersive ways to generate and qualify leads - your campaign will have more profound results.

5. The Reach

Your reach - and the reach of your partner - can have a big impact on the success of your marketing campaign. Make sure you ask:

  • Does your partner have the organic reach required to generate the target volume of leads?

  • Do they have a vast yet targeted email list, or an enviable and engaged social following?

  • If they do lack the organic reach, how do they plan on promoting the campaign into a relevant “cold” audience? The bigger your partner’s influence in the online space, the easier it is to generate leads - as long as you have a targeted campaign to back it up.

Get ready to adapt

It's rare for a campaign to generate headline results from day one, so make sure you're ready to adapt. As you go along, act upon the insights you've gathered and pivot your approach accordingly. Retargeting (often referred to as remarketing) can be adopted part-way through your campaign, when a sizeable audience has been built. If the worst happens - your campaign fails - you can flag ‘warning signs’ via pre-agreed signals, ensuring that you aren’t chasing a return from a losing strategy.

Another important part of your co-marketing campaign is delivery. If circumstances change and you have problems with capacity behind-the-scenes, create a plan to ensure your product or service is always available, up-to-date, and in the best condition it can be. Remember that promising something you can’t deliver on is not only frustrating but damaging to long-term reputation.

Prove and expand

No co-marketing campaign is faultless, so when the project comes to a close it’s important to learn from the experience. Eventually you want to achieve a process that can be replicated with numerous partners - so put in the work to tweak, hone and perfect your approach each and every time.

Post-campaign, consider:

  1. Which strategic aspects worked, and which didn’t. Eliminate early failures to get faster results next time.

  2. The involvement of your partner in the marketing process. How did they contribute to your success, and how can you ensure that other partners are similarly prepared? How does this affect the criteria for your next partner?

  3. How you could have better supported your partner? Do marketing assets or partner portals need to change to see better results for all? Can this be fed back into the partner community to reduce the reliance on others?

  4. The role of third party participants, including marketing and PR agencies, business services and PPC specialists. Is there a ‘dream team’ to be used again?

Ready, set, go...

By paying close attention to the 8 features of a successful co-marketing campaign, you’ll be able to:

  • Plan carefully

  • Gain knowledge

  • Increase high-quality leads

  • Evaluate success

  • Create a blueprint for future campaigns

It’s time you reaped the rewards of co-marketing. Good luck.

Channel Sales Manager's Guide

Matt Hodkinson

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