What in the Heck Is Co-Marketing?

    by Amanda Sibley

    Date

    March 1, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    comarketing

    Marketing is constantly evolving, which means marketers have to learn a lot of new strategies, tactics, and terminology (ahem, buzzwords) all the time. One of those words you've probably heard is "co-marketing," which ... really ... isn't all that new. It just doesn't get talked about a lot.

    But why is that? Not sure. Maybe because it's kind of a weird territory in which marketers act more like networkers and salespeople than email marketers, content creators, and data analysts. Regardless, co-marketing is just a form of relationship marketing. And I think it'd be helpful for other relationship marketers to get a breakdown of what the heck co-marketing really is, and have accessible inroads to get started with it -- even if you don't have connections with industry big-guns.

    Co-Marketing vs. Co-Branding

    Companies have been co-branding for years. Nike partnered up with Apple to create the ultimate work-out and music experience. Hershey's partnered with Betty Crocker to create the chocolateiest brownie ever. These two companies combined their products together to create an even more valuable product.

    Co-marketing is slightly different -- it's the opportunity for two brands to work together on promotional efforts with a co-branded offer. In a co-marketing partnership, both companies promote a piece of content or a product, and share results of that promotion with each other. 

    Why would any brand take part in co-marketing? First of all, your marketing efforts are doubled! Think about all the benefits you get from promoting a piece of content or a new product. Now think about all the benefits you would get if two companies promoted it. And through co-marketing, you're able to reach a brand new audience, one you may not have been able to connect and engage with on your own. 

    Take this example into consideration. You're a dog trainer in the Boston. You often create informative dog training videos and promote them to people online in the hopes they'll start following you on social media, subscribe to your blog, that type of thing. (Hey, a big reach is important for generating future leads!) You know of a company, also in Boston, that sells dog treats, and think it would be interesting if you made a video together, talking about dog training, and potentially rewarding dogs with the dog treats from the second company. You both get together and create a video, talking about your dog training company as well as the awesome dog treats. Both companies promote this video to their channels, both of which have different audiences. After, you notice a bump in your social reach because a whole new audience has gained access to your brand from these videos and their promotion from your co-marketing partner ... and that partner sees the same success. Pretty awesome, right?

    Forms of Co-Marketing

    Co-marketing can take many forms, some bigger and more resource-intensive than others. Here are some of the more popular forms it can take. Choose which ones are right for you -- even if it seems small, a small co-marketing venture that proves fruitful can soon turn into a big one.

    Blog Article

    Two brands can co-write a blog article for either or both blogs. Similar to guest blogging, but with increased and agreed upon promotion from each company to boost its success.

    Ebook

    Writing an ebook for co-marketing can take longer than writing a short piece of content like a blog article, but can be well worth the time investment. The shelf life of most ebooks is longer than a blog post, and can be promoted in a number of ways. A co-written ebook can be promoted by both brands -- and if it's evergreen content, for a long time -- creating more value for both sides.

    Infographic

    If the topic you're working on together would work well in an infographic, this could be a great option to create an easily shareable form of content. HubSpot recently worked with Salesforce.com and Desk.com on an infographic about SMB growth in 2013, for instance. This is particularly handy if your co-marketing partner has more design skills than you. Maybe you do the copy, they do the design, and you both play to your strengths. Know what I mean? Two heads, and whatnot.

    Video

    Does your company, or a company you know, create great short videos? If so, this could be another excellent way to create an interesting piece of content with co-marketing partners. Create a short video that explains or discusses a topic that's of interest to your audience as well as your co-marketing partner's audience. Short videos can be promoted in many places -- from YouTube channels, to Facebook, to your respective blogs. 

    Webinar

    A webinar is a co-branding presentation that's conducted online to a live audience. Webinars are often most successful when explaining a topic that a large audience can relate to or has questions on. HubSpot recently held a webinar with SEOmoz on The State of Internet Marketing and SEO in 2012. This webinar attracted attendees through the marketing efforts of both HubSpot and SEOmoz, and it helped people learn about SEO from two industry experts.

    Event Sponsorship

    Sponsoring a dinner, party, or event at a conference can help attract more contacts than if only one company promoted it. HubSpot has co-sponsored a variety of events from local marketing events to charity benefits.

    How to Get Started With Co-Marketing

    Alright, you know what co-marketing is, and you have some ideas about what kind of activities you might do with a co-marketing partner. How do you get started? By finding partners, of course!

    And finding the right partners is important. Try to find companies that are complementary to your brand, not competitors (duh). But it's more than just that ... you want to find brands that are somewhat related. Even though Coca-Cola has a huge following, it wouldn't make sense for HubSpot to do co-marketing with them, because it would be hard to find a topic to discuss that caters to both our marketing software audience, and Coca-Cola's soda drinking audience. I mean ... unless you can think of some tie-in for us. If so, let me know if you're looking for work. And if you have an intro to the people at Coca-Cola.

    So sit back and think about companies who are experts at what they do. For example, we recently had a co-marketing engagement with LinkedIn, because they're experts at professional networking online. And it just so happens, our audience is very interested in that topic -- particularly the B2B segment of our target audience. (Note: think about co-marketing partner selection like you think of your marketing; partners that are targeted to a particular segment are excellent!)

    Once you've brainstormed a list of companies you'd like to work with, reach out to them and discuss a potential partnership. Start by building relationships with people. If the CMO of a company you want to work with is at an event, set up a meeting to talk, grab some coffee, or set up a phone call for later. If they don't seem interested, don't get too discouraged. When talking to people, show them the value of the partnership you're proposing. No company will put forth effort on a co-marketing campaign if they don't see any value in it ... but you bet your buttons they'll get involved if the value of their participation is clear.

    Once you've built a relationship, you can begin to discuss specifics. What type of content do you want to create? What's the topic of the content that will be beneficial to both companies' audiences? Who will create the first draft, or will it be created together? Smooth out the small details to make sure there's no confusion or miscommunications about the campaigns. The easier it is to work together, the more likely it is the engagement will be a long-term one.

    Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your first co-marketing partnership:

    • Start planning well in advance. Working with another brand means going through two approval processes, and combining two different brands and style guides. It takes more time than you think.
    • Agree on a topic that compliments both brands. You may have to compromise a bit on this. Just be sure both parties walk away feeling, even if you've compromised a tad, the power of the co-marketing venture makes up for any topic compromise.
    • Agree on your methods of promotion and set a numbers-based goal. And do it before promotion starts. If you agree on what success looks like before you begin, it's less likely you'll finish your engagement on an unhappy note. While promoting, it's also important you stay in communication about your progress. If you're under-performing, it's better to talk about it ahead of time and not surprise your partner with bad news at the end of a campaign

    Want to check out some of HubSpot's Co-marketing campaigns to get an idea of how this all shakes out? Most of our webinars are Co-marketing partnerships! But take the route that makes the most sense for you, and whatever you do, keep building those relationships!

    Have you ever done any co-marketing? What results did you see? What would you do differently next time?

    Image credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis

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