Co-marketing is a fantastic way to gain new contacts without having to wait for organic search to kick in ... but it's not always an easy job.
The challenging part of co-marketing all boils down to one thing: your partner. Can you find partners who launch campaigns with the same strategy and thoughtfulness you do? Oftentimes, it's a struggle.
If you're having trouble finding and evaluating co-marketing partners, keep on reading. In this post, I'll outline 10 tips for making sure you’re entering into a healthy and prosperous co-marketing partnership.
Let's get to it.
10 Tips to Finding the Right Co-Marketing Partner
1) Start with a list of brands you admire.
First, create a running list of brands and influencers in your industry that you admire from a marketing standpoint.
If you’re an online wine distributor, for example, a great potential partner to include on this list would be a popular wine accessory company. Chances are, your audience would want cool wine accessories and gifts for their family and friends, and the wine accessory company would want an audience of wine lovers to buy more accessories. It’s a win-win!
A few questions to ask yourself when you're putting this list together:
Are there potential partners in your space who have enjoyable-to-read blogs that would provide value to your audience?
Do you follow any brands on social media that make lovable content that also speaks to your buyer persona's needs?
What apps, tools, or products make your customers' lives easier?
Once you nail down a list of companies that are a fit for your buyer persona, it’s time to dig a lot deeper.
2) Consider competitive overlap.
It can be tough to assess the “coopetition” of a new partner. It’s common sense to not go after direct competitors, but there is a gray area where a partner’s products are differentiated enough to where you might want to engage in a co-marketing relationship.
My biggest pieces of advice when evaluating that gray area is to make sure you’re not fighting for the same keywords. If you’re an interior designer in Boston trying to grow outside of New England, for example, don’t co-market with another interior designer in Massachusetts as the keyword to find you would be “interior designer in Boston” or “interior designer in Massachusetts.” I’d opt to partner with somebody in the furniture or rug business that has a national footprint, as you can both drive traffic and leads to each other without cutting into each other's business.
3) Dig into social media profiles.
The first thing I do to check out a new partner is visit their company's profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
While I'm there, I don't just look at the number of followers -- I also look at engagement, replies, and the type of content their social team is posting. Why? Chances are, your co-marketing content will be promoted on social media. It’s important to know the potential reach and engagement of your partners' social accounts so you can assess how much exposure your co-branded content will get on social.
When you're looking at their social media accounts, ask yourself these questions:
Does the partner use high-quality, relevant, and aesthetically pleasing visuals to promote their campaigns?
Is the copy engaging and easy to digest?
Are people liking/favoriting and sharing posts?
Is the partner answering questions from customers and prospects?
Is the partner joining conversations related to your industry?
Try to answer all of these questions about your future partner to determine if they’re on the same page you are when it comes to social content.
Pro Tip: When you're on Twitter, check out “Tweets & Replies” as well as “Photos & Videos” to better determine what your future new partner is up to.
4) Assess the company’s overall web and content reach.
In order to assess how much traffic your new partner could drive to a landing page, I look at their overall web presence on www.alexa.com and www.similarweb.com. These sites help me get a rough idea of traffic, bounce rates, keywords, and sources people are using to find that site, as well as the next action they take after visiting.
Alexa specifically is a great tool, as it can help you dig into where visitors click from a company’s main site. If you find most of the clicks are going to a company's blog or resources pages, that’s a great sign for me as their audience likes that company’s content. If it’s going to a pricing page or something that’s not as top of the funnel, it signals that there is a hole in their marketing and conversion path -- they may not be a great co-marketing partner right now.
Another tool that works well for assessing a potential new partner’s reach is Buzzsumo. It allows you to find specific types of content that perform well in an industry, as well as uncovers thought leaders in that space. This handy tool ranks content by the number of social shares to provide you insight into what’s working on this company’s site. Here’s a great video on Buzzsumo’s capabilities and a look into how HubSpot’s own SEO guru Matthew Barby uses the tool.
To make sure you don’t start working with a partner who is on the verge of bankruptcy, Google the company and check out the first few pages to see what comes up, as well as the “News” section.
If the latest news doesn’t shed a positive light on this potential partner, perhaps you should wait until the dust settles after a few months. If it’s too damaging, you might consider crossing them off your list of partners to reach out to.
If the latest news is about their impending IPO or recent funding and growth, however, go get ‘em!
6) Sign up for their newsletters and subscribe to their blog.
Sometimes the best way to find out if this company markets their brand and content well is to subscribe to their updates. A few questions to ask yourself:
Is the content they’re promoting lovable?
How often are they sending emails?
Is there an unsubscribe link?
Are their calls-to-action to landing pages and useful content, or to assets that don’t make sense?
The importance of knowing how this future partner markets to their own database is similar to how they engage on social media. Eventually, if you co-market with them, they’re going to promote via email, social media, and their website. If you like the way they are marketing to their database in helpful newsletters, interesting blog posts, and relevant content, that’s a sign this company knows what their audiences likes and how to convert them into delighted customers and evangelists. If they’re not sending any emails or the emails themselves are irrelevant, that should be a red flag on moving forward with a co-marketing partnership.
7) If applicable, check out reviews for their product or service.
In the case of the wine distributor looking to pair up with a wine accessory company, I’d check out the Amazon reviews for those accessories or Google search “[insert company name] reviews.”
If there’s a way to dig into the customer service and support of this company’s products and services, you should absolutely find out if customers like what they are purchasing as it reflects on how the brand treats their buyers. Go the extra mile and dig into customer reviews and their experiences with any potential partner, if you can.
8) Google the person you’d be working with, if you know who they are.
Do a quick search to see if this person has experience in the industry, recommendations of their work, and a positive footprint online. I don’t judge people for not having a YouTube channel on inbound marketing that has over 1,000 subscribers and hundreds of thousands of view to their videos, but I do check out their LinkedIn to see what experience they bring to the table.
Ultimately, the person you will be working with will make or break your co-marketing campaign. I don’t discredit people or choose not to work with those who haven’t had several years of experience, but it’s nice to know whether you're working with somebody who is an industry veteran or somebody who is starting to learn the ropes.
9) Ask your network for references.
Have any connections in common on LinkedIn? Send your common contact a message and ask if this person you’re thinking of pairing up with is recommendable. If someone you trust can’t recommend this person, that’s a red flag.
The same goes for Twitter. If you’re a dog walker looking to pair up with a local dog treat company and see you have a few friends in common on Twitter, Direct Message your common friend and ask about the dog treat company owner you’re interested in working with. Can they vouch for that person? Are they hard workers, passionate about growing their business with inbound marketing, and in tune with their buyer persona and delighting customers?
Great recommendations from your network are invaluable ways to research a potential new partner you’re trusting your brand name with.
10) Have an introductory call to make sure you’re both aligned (and you get good vibes from the person).
I’m a personal believer in first impressions being lasting impressions. Having an introductory call with a future partner is a great way to get a temperature check on their energy and enthusiasm about the co-marketing partnership. A few questions to ask yourself:
Do they seem excited about the campaign?
Did they come with great questions?
Are you aligned on goals?
Does the conversation flow well?
As a best practice, always schedule a half hour call to get to know each other before agreeing to a campaign. This will give you enough time to ensure you align goals of the campaign, as well as deliverables and the timeline of those deliverables.
I try to be as natural as I can on first-time calls. This gives the potential partner a sense of my personality and lets them know I’m excited about the potential for working with them. It loosens the vibe and allows for a more relaxed conversation, which means you can really get to know each other and your goals.
At the end of this whole process, you should have a much better idea whether this person and company will be worth partnering up with -- or just a waste of time.
What other tips do you have for finding and vetting co-marketing partners?
Originally published Dec 29, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated August 29 2017